Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the a new legislation factsheet about conscientious objection, which is the right to refuse military service based on religious beliefs.
Conscientious objection to military service is frequently connected to freedom of religion or belief, as many conscientious objectors are motivated by deeply-held religious beliefs. To protect the rights of these individuals, some states maintain laws that exempt them from compulsory military service. Often, objectors are required to participate in an alternative national service.
Although the right to conscientious objection is recognized under international human rights law, a number of governments do not have provisions for conscientious objection to military service. When this right is not recognized in states with mandatory military service, conscientious objectors may face prison time for their beliefs.
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF condemned the treatment of conscientious objectors in Eritrea, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan.
In October 2019, USCIRF launched its FoRB Victims List, a database that collects information on states and entities that USCIRF has recommended for designation as “countries of particular concern,” “entities of particular concern,” or countries on the “Special Watch List.” This database includes several victims that are imprisoned for conscientious objection, including Bahtiyar Atahanov and Jovidon Bobojonov, whose cases are highlighted in the factsheet.