If your religious beliefs stop you from joining military service, one of the toughest challenges you would face is to whether adhere to those principles or follow your government order to join the military. In South Korea, for instance, courts have sentenced over 18,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in prison since 1950 for refusing to serve in the military. As of July 2016, 496 Jehovah’s Witnesses were imprisoned as conscientious objectors in South Korea, 55 in Eritrea, 14 in Singapore, 1 in Nagorno-Karabakh, and 1 in Turkmenistan. (For more information as to why Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to serve for military service, click on this link.)

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 18, paragraphs 1 and 2 states:
“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”

“No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.”

The European Convention on Human Rights, Article 9, paragraph 1 states:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18 states:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Some countries have changed their policies regarding the penalizing of conscientious objectors and have complied with these international laws. One of these is Armenia which has released all of its imprisoned conscientious objectors in 2013 and adopted alternative civilian service for them. But will other countries follow?

 

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