EGMR: Forthcoming judgment on Thursday 15 September 2016 – Papavasilakis v. Greece (no. 66899/14)

The applicant, Leonidas Papavasilakis, is a Greek national who was born in 1988 and lives in Ikaria (Greece). The case concerns the authorities’ refusal to grant Mr Papavasilakis conscientious objector status and to allow him to carry out alternative civilian work instead of his military service.

In January 2013 Mr Papavasilakis requested authorisation to carry out alternative civilian work because he was a conscientious objector. He appeared before the army’s Special Board to explain the reasons for his request, referring in particular to the religious education he had received from his mother, a Jehovah’s witness, and the position he had adopted in life, rejecting any connection with war, violence or destruction in all its forms. The Special Board, made up of three of its members, unanimously rejected the request. On the same grounds as those given by the Board, the Minister of Defence rejected Mr Papavasilakis’ request in July 2013. He appealed against that decision to the Supreme Administrative Court, challenging in particular the composition of the Special Board on the day it took its decision, on account of the absence of two of its members, university professors who had not been replaced. The Supreme Administrative Court dismissed his case in 2014 and he was ordered to pay a fine, with default interest, for insubordination. He appealed against the fine and the matter is still pending before the Mytilene Administrative Court, but the authorities have already seized a sum from his bank account.

Relying on Article 6 (right to a fair hearing), Mr Papavasilakis complains that the Supreme Administrative Court did not examine fairly his complaint that there had been a violation of Article 9 of the Convention on the ground that the Special Board was composed of a majority of servicemen. Relying on Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion), he alleges that his request was not examined properly or impartially, as the absence of two board members had resulted, in his view, in an erroneous interpretation of his beliefs and the denial of his requested status. Under Article 9 taken together with Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association), he alleges that the rejection of his request for conscientious objector status constitutes a breach of his negative freedom not to become a follower of a particular religion or a member of an anti-militarist organisation.

Press release ECHR 275 (2016) 09/09/2016

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