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        General Assembly
26 February 2009


Tenth session
Agenda item 3



Written statement* submitted by Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI),
a non-governmental organization in special consultative status

The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.

[13 February 2009]


Conscientious objection to military service

Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI), an international NGO which upholds the right of conscientious objection to all forms of military service, whether armed, unarmed, or through the payment of taxes which are used for military expenditure, draws the attention of the Council to the reports of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.


Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief


It is unfortunate that the issue of conscientious objection to military service does not feature in the Special Rapporteur’s report on her mission to Israel (A/HRC/10/8/Add.2). in Israel. In October 2007, the Supreme Court had, in the case of Jonathan Ben-Artzi, who had undergone repeated terms of imprisonment over an eight-year period, persuaded the military prosecutor to cease pressing further charges; there followed a relative lull in the persecution of conscientious objectors, during which the Special Rapporteur visited.

However in August 2008 a new round of imprisonments began following the publication of a letter in which a group of male and female final year high school students - the Shministim - indicated their refusal to serve in the army of occupation in the Palestinian Territories. Since then nine conscientious objectors have been sentenced to a total of 22 terms of imprisonment in Israeli military detention facilities; Raz Bar-David Varon received her fifth sentence (21 days) on 11 th February.

In the working group on the UPR, in reply to a question on the treatment of conscientious objectors, Israel stated, “Israel’s Supreme Court has addressed the issue in a number of cases, and in particular the difficulty of balancing conflicting considerations, in particular the needs to respect the conscience of the individual objector and the nature of army service in Israel as a general duty imposed on all members of society. The Court has affirmed that where conscientious objection can be proved and is distinguished from political motivations or civil (dis?)obedience exemption from army service must be granted to men and women alike.”1

It might be observed that it is not accurate to describe army service in Israel as “a general duty imposed on all members of society”. It is in principle obligatory only for Jewish and Druze men and Jewish women; it is voluntary for Christian Israelis; Arab Israelis are excluded from military service. Moreover “ultra-orthodox” Jewish male religious students studying in yeshiva religious schools benefit from automatic exemption. The obligation is thus discriminatory.

Although the explicit acknowledgment of the need to respect the conscience of the individual objector is welcome, there is at present no clear, independent and transparent mechanism for assessing claims of conscientious objection in Israel. CPTI calls upon Israel to bring in legislation consistent with the established international standards, as set out in Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1998/77 and further elaborated in the jurisprudence of the Human Rights Committee, in order to give practical effect to the Supreme Court’s opinion. CPTI further calls upon the Israeli government to acknowledge the objections not just of absolute pacifists, but also of potential conscripts who would be prepared to serve in the defence of Israel’s own territory but have deep reservations of a religious, moral or ethical nature about the occupation of the Palestinian territories, and to put into place measures which would allow such persons to serve their country while not violating their consciences.


1UN Webcast of the UPR Working Group, 4th December 2008, afternoon ( Closing comments and answers by Israel, (Mr. Malkiel Blass, Deputy Attorney General, Legal Counselling) (4’49” -).

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