The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the FIDH and the OMCT is very concerned at the sentence of one year imprisonment pronounced against five Israeli conscientious objectors (COs) on 4 January 2004 by the Military Court in Jaffa.
Noam Bahat, Adam Maor, Haggai Matar, Shinri Tsameret and Matan Kaminer, who are among more than 300 high school seniors, who refuse to serve in military forces involved in the occupation of Palestinian Territories are considered as “selective conscientious objectors”, as they do not refuse to enlist in the army whatever, but refuse to join an army of occupation. They have already been detained over a year for refusing to serve in the army.
On December 16, 2003, the five were convicted of refusing to obey an order. On January 4, 2004, the court sentenced them to one year imprisonment. It further recommended that the army consider their discharge after this period of time. However, the Israelian Defence Forces (IDF) has the possibility to demand they be mobilized or face additional jail time after their sentence is completed.
On 12 November 2003, conscientious objector Jonathan Ben Artzi was convicted by the Military Court in Jaffa for disobeying an order by refusing to serve in the Army. Nevertheless, the Court recognized him as being a pacifist and recommended that he appears once again before the Military Conscientious Committee.
Jonathan Ben Artzi is still detained awaiting for the final verdict of the Court.The Observatory considers that these sentences violate the right to freedom on conscience, thought and religion enshrined in article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Israel is a party.
On April 16, 2003, the Observatory, considering their detention to be arbitrary, brought the cases of conscientious objectors in Israel before the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.The use of military courts to try COs is also source of concern.
Recommendations by human rights experts of the Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights indicate that civil courts should deal with similar cases to ensure impartiality and independence of justice towards those people willing to exercise their freedom of conscience and opinion.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders demands that: the conscientious objectors that are currently arbitrarily detained and judged before the military court be released; the Israeli legislation as well as the military authorities recognize the right to conscientious objection as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as contained in article 18 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights by establishing an independent and impartial committee in charge of examining the cases; a true alternative civil service which is not of a punitive nature be established; Israel conform with the provisions of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.