New Report about Conscientious Objection

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)

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 Legislation Factsheet – This factsheet explains the international human rights standards that govern conscientious objection. Many states struggle with balancing national security concerns and human rights. Nevertheless, governments must ensure the right to object to military service based on genuinely-held religious beliefs as an integral part of the absolute right to hold beliefs. The report outlines human rights standards for laws on conscientious objection, including the process to obtain this status. When compliant with these principles, civilian alternatives to military service can facilitate the contribution of conscientious objectors to the public good, while respecting their beliefs and rights. In countries without provisions for conscientious objection to mandatory military service, individuals often face imprisonment or discrimination. In this factsheet, USCIRF calls on states to ensure their laws comprehensively protect conscientious objectors and to release all individuals currently detained for this reason.

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.

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)

Image Source