A man in the Republic of Cyprus has won an appeal against an army decision after military officers failed to prove they had acted impartially in his request for alternate military service due to religious convictions.
According to local media, a Jehovah witness in Paphos filed an appeal against the military recruitment office after officers there rejected his request to serve his mandatory service at a non-military location.
The young conscript then took his case to a special committee within the National Guard, which examined his request and concluded that the man did not provide proof of his religious conviction that would justify his refusal to enlist as an army combatant.
After the defence minister rejected the man’s request in late June 2017, the young Jehovah witness hired a lawyer who took the case an appeals court arguing his client did not get a fair shake.
It also emerged that members on the special committee had failed to document the hearing properly, with no minutes recorded as to what the young man had told the officers
The appeals court also heard from the lawyer that the young man, who was underage at the time, was neither provided with any legal representation nor was he told that he had the right to an attorney during his hearing.
It also emerged that members on the special committee had failed to document the hearing properly, with no minutes recorded as to what the young man had told the army officers.
The appeal judge concluded that the young man’s arguments during the hearing “could not have been evaluated properly” as they were not documented nor was it clear whether and how his position was taken into consideration.
Local media also reported that the judge sided with the man’s attorney, who argued the decision was based on legal and factual errors, casting doubt over the administrative procedure.
The minister’s decision to reject the man’s request to be assigned to a non-combatant service has been rendered null and void.
There are over 2000 active Jehovah witnesses in Cyprus according to online sources. The Christian denomination is opposed to war, with members generally not joining any military forces in any country.
Last year the European Court of Human Rights addressed a similar case when it ruled against Azerbaijan, a Council of Europe member, for failing to offer alternatives to conscientious objectors.
The Republic of Cyprus, like Azerbaijan, has mandatory military service where all abled young men are required to serve in the armed forces.