Sunday, September 04, 2005

UNPRECEDENTED PRISON TERM

Mr. Boris Sotiriadis, a conscientious objector on religious grounds has been sentenced to an unprecedented three and a half years in jail. Amnesty International urges the Greek authorities to stop immediately the prosecutions of all conscientious objectors and to bring the provisions for conscientious objection in line with European and international standards and recommendations as well as in line with the recommendations of the Greek Ombudsman and the Greek National Commission for Human Rights. READ THE FULL STORY HERE

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At 9/04/2005 02:32:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 9/04/2005 04:25:00 PM, Blogger Thanos said...

First of all, stupid 'bots suck and I make it a point never to visit any sites they advertise.

Anyway, on to the story. The issue here is a very fine one. This is a country of few people, surrounded by potential enemies. This is not Switzerland. So there is a need to maintain an army, an army of conscripts, which means civilians, people like you and me. Not professional soldiers. If everyone starts citing some bullshit reason to get out of it (because it IS an inconvenience, you have to be away from your loved ones, your job, your leisure for a year) then no one will serve. And we can't have an army without soldiers. It would be nice if we didn't need an army, but we do.

What was the quote? "Greece continues to treat conscientious objectors as criminals, imprisoning them for exercising their human right to conscientious objection," They are criminals in a very real sense. They put their own interest above the interest of the country. They proclaim themselves better and smarter than everyone else (they don't need to serve their country, see).

Do they deserve three years in prison? No. Prison term does no one any good. They should do double the time (two years, instead of the one year military service) away from their cozy city home, helping some poor agricultural community near the borders, staffing hospitals, sweeping floors on an island health center. At least get some use out of them. This way at least the bums who have no religious reason at all, but just want to avoid the hassle will think twice about copping out. And the people with real religious objections will have an outlet, to serve their country, be useful, without being in the army.

 
At 9/04/2005 04:47:00 PM, Blogger melusina said...

Well, I am always wary of Jehovah's Witnesses after many dealings with them in America. Their American leg was extremely cultish. Now, from what I understand of the religious faith of the Russian and Greek Orthodoxy, I find it very hard to believe that someone would actually convert, and not use it as simply a way to get out of military service. ALL of these people who have been imprisoned in Greece seem to be JWs, I find that very suspicious. In my opinion, a person from any religion could make a good defense to be a conscientious objector. Obviously, the real truth can only be known by the person and God.

What Thanos suggested is a sound solution - don't imprison these people, but put them to work in a non-militaristic duty in a much needed area. In my time in Greece I have seen many areas that are in dire need of people to fulfill some of these services, and that would be a much better use for these objectors. Not to mention, it would, in a sense, fulfill their obligation to their country without compromising their religious beliefs.

 
At 9/04/2005 06:11:00 PM, Blogger deviousdiva said...

I disagree with the Thanos's statement that conscientious objectors "are criminals in a very real sense. They put their own interest above the interest of the country. They proclaim themselves better and smarter than everyone else (they don't need to serve their country, see)."

A true definition is
Persons who, by reason of religious, ethical, or moral belief, are conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form.

This particular case is about a Jehovah Witness but I do know other religions (eg The Society of Friends or Quakers) who also object to participating in war in any form.

Whatever one thinks of Jehovah Witness, we must respect their right to belong to it that religion.

I agree there should be an alternative community service but that there is no reason for it to be longer than a military one.

 
At 9/04/2005 06:14:00 PM, Blogger EllasDevil said...

I'm sure Thano's suggestion works well in Greece and other countries where you have to do military service. You can go work in a hospital as an orderly or something if you don't want to do army.

The problem in this case appears to stem from: "When the Greek army summoned him to report for military service, he refused to serve citing religious conscientious objection and asked to serve alternative civilian service instead. However, Greek law does not permit this for those who have already served in the armed forces."... so maybe if he'd not already done army before, they'd have allowed him to do civilian service.

The military court rejected the defence's argument that Boris Sotiriadis had a "conflict of legal duties" between the army and his religion. I too agree this arguement should be rejected, Greece is not at war so it's not as if he was being sent to a battleground (albeit, if they stationed him in Kallithea, it'd be the next best thing) so really his religious beliefs wouldn't have been compromised. But if Greece was at war then I'd expect him to (as Thano quite rightly says) put the interests of his country before his own.

 
At 9/05/2005 01:32:00 PM, Blogger deviousdiva said...

"The organization has written to the Greek authorities stating that the right to conscientious objection is a legitimate exercise of the fundamental rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, enshrined in international human rights treaties to which Greece is a party."

This is a difficult case because he HAD served in AN army before becoming a Jehovah Witness and under Greek law serving alternative cilvilian service is not permitted for those who have already served in the armed forces.

However... he is NOW a
Jehovah Witness and pleads CO on religious grounds

 
At 9/09/2005 09:14:00 PM, Blogger The SeaWitch said...

"...then I'd expect him to (as Thano quite rightly says) put the interests of his country before his own."
JW conscientious objectors don't believe they're putting their own personal interests above their country's because they believe it to be in mankind's best interests as dictated to them by God. I understand that they answer to a higher power but as far as I'm concerned, they could, at the very least, fulfill their obligations in a non-militaristic way such as Thanos suggested such as working in a military hospital rather than being punished with a prison sentence especially since Greece is a member of both the EU and NATO. The chances of Greece defending itself or initiating a war with anyone is next to nil.

 
At 9/14/2005 02:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As HellasDevil rightly pointed out, the anomaly in this case is that Greek law does recognize the right to conscientious objection, but it does not extend that right to those who have served in the army in the past, whether that be in Greece or another country. In other words, it fails to recognize that people's convictions can and do change, as a result of life's experiences, religious conversion, etc.

It is difficult to see that the point of this particular piece of legislation is. I mean, what would be lost by allowing Boris to go and do civilian service along with the 400 or so other conscientious objectors in Greece? And how come other Greek courts have recently acquitted people in identical circumstances?

Incidentally, Greek law also denies conscientious objector status to anyone who has ever held a hunting license, apparently on the principle that if you use a gun to kill animals then you should have no qualms against learning to use it against fellow humans - probably the only Greek law that equates animal life with human life!

I have personally known Mr. Sotiriadis and his family for about ten years and I am certain that he would never do military service, regardless of the penalty imposed by the authorities. I once asked him what if he understood the consequences of being a conscientious objector. He told me that he did and that he would still rather die than take up arms.

This in itself is nothing new. In 1949, two Jehovah's Witnesses, Yannis Tsoukaris in Larisa and Yorgos Orfanidis in Nafplio were executed for the same reason. There have been numerous examples since then in the fifties and sixties, as well as during the dictatorship.

In view of this, Melusina's comments seem ill-informed and out of place, to say the least. When he/she implies that people become Jehovah's Witnesses simply to avoid military service, Melusina fails to recognize the hardship undergone in the past by Greek citizens who are Jehovah's Witnesses, who have been imprisoned for lengthy periods (some 10 years or more), denied medical treatment, tortured, even killed. Even now, civilian service in Greece is not the easy way out, typically lasting twice as long as the corresponding military service. So it's hardly likely that anyone would choose being a Witness as an easy option.

When the civilian service law was brought in back in 1997, its opponents predicted a mass increase in the number of conscientious objectors. Nothing of the kind happened. The numbers of those doing civilian service are roughly comparable to the number of conscientious objectors imprisoned pre-1997.

In general, Jehovah's Witnesses are happy to perform civilian service when required to do so by the authorities.

Whether an army of conscripts in an age of advanced military technology is really the solution to Greece's defence needs, or whether compulsory military service should be abandoned, as it has been in France, Spain and Italy, is a question for the authorities to decide.

One final point: Is everyone who serves in the armed forced "putting their country's interests before their own," whereas those who refuse to do so are "criminals"? That in itself is a highly debatable proposition. Numerous atrocities have been performed by people of many different nationalities who put military orders before conscience. Those who were judged to be criminals by the Nuremberg trials were not the conscientious objectors but rather those who followed orders rather than doing what was right.

 

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