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Part 1 Freedom of Religion or Belief, 1.3.11 Conscientious Objection

From: Freedom of Religion or Belief: An International Law Commentary

Heiner Bielefeldt, Nazila Ghanea, Michael Wiener

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 16 July 2024

Religion — Freedom of association — Freedom of expression — Conscientious objection — Human rights remedies — Refugees

This chapter addresses issues concerning conscientious objection, notably the refusal by individuals to perform compulsory military service based on their genuinely held religious or other beliefs that forbid the use of lethal force. Throughout the past five decades, various international and regional human rights mechanisms have significantly changed their interpretation with regard to the existence and normative basis of a right to conscientious objection to military service. This chapter also discusses the question of who can claim conscientious objection; procedural issues; the problem of repeated trials and punishment of conscientious objectors; the nature and length of alternative service; refugee status claims based on persecution arising from conscientious objection; and conscientious objection in disputed territories. In addition, there are several issues of interpretation related to ‘selective’ objection against participating in certain wars and ‘total’ objection even against alternative civilian service. In addition to conscientious objection to military service, also other issues may give rise to objections, for example against the obligation to pay taxes for military expenditures; against carrying out abortions; against a duty to join a hunting association; against singing the national anthem or saluting the flag; and conscientious objection in the employment sphere.

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