70 Greek NGOs call for reform of law on conscientious objectors

Agence France-Presse/April 29, 1999

ATHENS - A human rights group including 70 Greek non-governmental organisations (NGOs) called Thursday for a review of the Greek law on conscientious objectors, after the imprisonment of two objectors.

In a statement published Thursday, the forum, entitled "All Equal, All Different", called for the alternative national service established in Greece a year ago "to be reduced so as to not be of a punitive character."

Conscientious objectors, who used to be imprisoned before the creation of the alternative civil service, usually serve about double the time that they would ordinarily spend in the military.

The forum also called for a further reduction for former objectors over the age of 30, based on measures taken for Greeks of this age who avoided conscription staying abroad. These people are allowed to serve only a few months but must pay a fine.

The forum launched the appeal after a 36-year-old Greek father of one was sentenced to four years in prison in mid-April. He had asked for a reduction in his civil service, but was instead tried and jailed while awaiting a ruling.

In a second case, a 39-year-old Jehovah's Witness father of two was detained for refusing to show up in Crete, where he had been called to do his two-year civil service.

He would have served only three months in the military, according to the forum.

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