What Will It Take For the Israeli Military to Stop Imprisoning Natan Blanc?

By Nehal Amer, Social Media Specialist, Middle East Coordination Group

5/30/2013 UPDATE: Success! What does it take for the Israeli military to stop imprisoning Natan Blanc? It takes Amnesty International and other activists making their concerns known and taking action.

Natan Blanc’s father received a call from his son telling him that he had been informed that he would be released at the end of his current prison term. The decision apparently follows a decision by the Unsuitability (or Compatibility) Committee which – according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) – is designed to deal with people with behavioral problems who are deemed unsuitable for army service. It is not a committee which explores whether someone is a genuine conscientious objector or not. In practice, it seems to work as a mechanism for the IDF to rid itself of the problem of conscientious objectors who have been repeatedly imprisoned by declaring their ‘unsuitability’ based on poor mental health or discipline problems.

Natan is expected to be set free June 6th.  Thank you for taking action.  No further action is required at this time.


10 Absurd and Unjust Arrests of 2012

Check out our list of 10 absurd arrests and sentences of the year. You might be surprised to learn what can get you thrown in jail in a few places around the world, and how harsh the sentences are once you’re there.

belarus teddy bears fly over minsk

Bears being dropped. Photo via Studio Total

1. Posting photos of teddy bears.

Anton Suryapin of Belarus spent more than a month in detention after posting photos of teddy bears being dropped from an airplane. The bears were part of a stunt by a Swedish advertising company calling for freedom of expression in Belarus. Anton is charged of “organizing illegal migration” simply because he was the first upload photos of the teddy bears, and still faces a prison sentence of up to seven years.

2. Tweeting.

After allegedly “publicly insulting the King” on Twitter, a Bahraini man had his six-month prison sentence upheld on appeal, while three others are serving four-month prison sentences. Article 214 of Bahrain’s penal code makes it a crime to offend the King.

3. Opposing the death penalty.


Prison (again) for a Man of Peace in Turkey

Halil Savda (Photo Vedat Yıldız )

Halil Savda is in prison again.  On February 24, he was arrested in the town of Doğubeyazit, in Eastern Turkey, and sentenced to serve a hundred-day prison sentence.  His crime was to merely speak publicly in support of conscientious objectors.  This, according to Turkish law, constitutes “alienating the public from military service” and is a crime under Article 318 of the Turkish Penal Code.

This is not the first time that Halil has been imprisoned for his beliefs (a video on him, produced by Amnesty last year, is available here).   Over a five year period, he was imprisoned, often under harsh conditions, for a total of seventeen months for refusing to serve in the military (Turkey, along with Azerbaijan, is one of only two countries within the Council of Europe that does not respect the rights of conscientious objectors).


Crackdown in Turkey Continues

In recent weeks, we have been detailing Turkey’s crackdown on Kurdish activism and the round up of thousands of individuals on terrorism charges. Those arrested, including human rights activists, journalists, and politicians, have seldom been accused of actual violence; rather, under Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code, they have been accused of “being members of an illegal organization.”

Moreover, the Turkish government need not even demonstrate their guilt to deny them their freedom.  Extensive pre-trial detentions ensure that most will be imprisoned for lengthy periods regardless of the outcome of any eventual trial.  As Amnesty has previously noted:


The High Cost Of Following Your Conscience In Turkey

Halil Savda a conscientious objector in Turkey. (Photo Vedat Yıldız )

Halil Savda is going to prison again.  This time for 100 days following his conviction for ‘alienating the public from military service.’

Halil is a conscientious objector and a human rights defender who has faced continued harassment by the Turkish government.  His current sentence shines a light on the lack of freedom of expression in Turkey.

Since 2004, Halil Savda has been arrested on multiple occasions and jailed three times for refusing to perform military service as a conscientious objector, serving a total of seventeen months in military prisons.  Despite the fact that  conscientious objection is generally recognized as a right according to international human rights standards, Turkey is one of very few countries that makes no military exemption for conscientious objectors.

In 2008, in an effort to save face, the military declared Halil Savda “unfit for military service.”  Halil, however, continued to speak out in support of other conscientious objectors, resulting in his current conviction for ‘alienating the people from the institution of military service’—a criminal offence under Article 318 of the Turkish Penal Code.

Article 318 violates Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), both of which provide for the right to freedom of expression.  Turkey, as a signatory to these articles, is responsible under international law to abide by these requirements.

Until Turkey’s Article 318 is repealed, and Turkey recognizes the right to conscientious objection, Halil Savda and other anti-war Turkish citizens will continue to be imprisoned for their beliefs.  To quote Halil:

“It is a shame that in Turkey, conscientious objectors and those who support them are prosecuted for refusing to kill. There cannot be a more humane stance in the world than refusing to participate in wars. Yet Article 318 is a massive barrier to even expressing this opinion, making the call for peace and solidarity with other conscientious objectors a crime.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.