ECtHR Finds Greece Violated Rights of Conscientious Objector

Country: Greece

Date of incident: September 15, 2016

Category: Government Restrictions

Attack against: Faith

Area of case: Governmental



The case concerned the authorities’ refusal to grant a Jehovah's Witness the status of conscientious objector and to allow him to do alternative civilian work instead of military service. The Court held that this was a violation of Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

From the Court's Press Release:

In [the September 15, 2016] Chamber judgment in the case of Papavasilakis v. Greece (application no. 66899/14) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights


The case concerned the authorities’ refusal to grant Mr Papavasilakis the status of conscientious objector and to allow him to do alternative civilian work instead of military service.

The Court found in particular that the Greek authorities had failed in their duty to ensure that the interviewing of conscientious objectors by the Special Board took place in conditions that guaranteed procedural efficiency and the equal representation required by domestic law. Mr Papavasilakis had been interviewed by a Board made up primarily of servicemen, two of the civilian members of the Board being absent but not replaced; that the Minister of Defence’s final decision, on the basis of a draft ministerial decision following the Board’s proposal, did not afford the requisite safeguards of impartiality and independence; that the scrutiny of the Supreme Administrative Court concerned only the lawfulness of the decision, not the merits, and was based on the assessments of the Special Board.



Read the full judgment here (in French only).