Alternative Service: Greek Military Court Historic Decision (JWs)

by blondie 7 Replies latest jw friends

  • blondie

    Greece: Historic decision by military court

    Monday, 4 April 2005, 12:47 pm
    Press Release: Amnesty International

    Greece: Historic decision by military court gives the right to former conscript to apply for alternative civilian service

    Amnesty International welcomes today's historic decision of the Military Court in Athens which ruled unanimously that religious conscientious objector and former conscript Sergey Gutarov should be released and allowed to apply for alternative civilian service due to a "conflict of duties" (duty to the army and duty to his religion).

    "We certainly welcome the decision in the case of Sergey Gutarov. However, we ask all conscientious objectors, including the ideological ones, to be treated without discrimination", Olga Demetriou, Amnesty International's researcher on Greece said.

    "It is high time Greece complied with European and international standards and recommendations and put an end to all prosecutions, imprisonments and violations of the human rights of conscientious objectors".

    Sergey Gutarov had served his military service in the Russian army. Later, he became a Jehovah's Witness, so when the Greek army called him to report for military service he asked to serve alternative civilian service instead -- this is not allowed under Greek law 2510/97 for those who have already served in the armed forces. Sergey Gutarov was arrested on Thursday 31 March 2005, charged with insubordination for failing to report for military service and was held in pre-trial detention. Amnesty International considered him to be a prisoner of conscience and called for his immediate and unconditional release.

    Amnesty International believes that every person has the right to refuse to perform military service on the grounds of conscience or profound personal conviction, without suffering any legal or physical penalty. Anyone imprisoned for exercising this right is considered to be a prisoner of conscience, provided that the person has not rejected an alternative non-military service that is not punitive or discriminatory in length or substance.

    Background information

    Amnesty International's concerns are detailed in a report Greece: To be in the army or choosing not to be: the continuous harassment of conscientious objectors (AI Index EUR 25/003/2003,

    The organization urges the Greek authorities to amend Law 2510/97 in order to ensure that:

    - alternative civilian service is not of discriminatory and punitive length; - alternative civilian service falls under entirely civilian authority (including the examination of applications for conscientious objectors); - conscientious objectors have the right to claim conscientious objector status at any time, both up to and after entering the armed forces; - the right to perform alternative civilian service can never be derogated from, including in time of war; - conscientious objectors who carry out trade unionist activities or participate in a strike during their alternative service do not have their right to alternative civilian service or unarmed military service revoked; - conscientious objectors who have legal proceedings pending against them will have their full civil and personal rights recovered, including that of travel outside the country, the right to a passport and identity card, and the right to vote.

    Similar concerns have also been raised by the Greek Ombudsman and the Greek National Commission for Human Rights.

  • blondie

    It's a good thing the WTS changed their stand on alternative service in 1996.


    w96 5/1 pp. 19-20 Paying Back Caesar?s Things to Caesar ***




    However, there are lands where the State, while not allowing exemption for ministers of religion, nevertheless acknowledges that some individuals may object to military service. Many of these lands make provision for such conscientious individuals not to be forced into military service. In some places a required civilian service, such as useful work in the community, is regarded as nonmilitary national service. Could a dedicated Christian undertake such service? Here again, a dedicated, baptized Christian would have to make his own decision on the basis of his Bible-trained conscience.


    It seems that compulsory service was practiced in Bible times. One history book states: "In addition to the taxes and dues exacted from the inhabitants of Judea, there was also a corvée [unpaid labor exacted by public authorities]. This was an ancient institution in the East, which the Hellenistic and Roman authorities continued to maintain. . . . The New Testament, too, cites examples of corvée in Judea, showing how widespread it was. In accordance with this custom, the soldiers pressed Simon of Cyrene into carrying Jesus? cross [torture stake] (Matthew 5:41; 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26)."


    Similarly, citizens in some countries today are required by the State or by local authorities to participate in various forms of community service. Sometimes this is for a specific task, such as digging wells or building roads; sometimes it is on a regular basis, such as weekly participation in cleaning up roads, schools, or hospitals. Where such civilian service is for the good of the community and is not connected with false religion or is not in some other way objectionable to the consciences of Jehovah?s Witnesses, they have often complied. (1 Peter 2:13-15) This has usually resulted in an excellent witness and has sometimes silenced those who falsely accuse the Witnesses of being antigovernment.?Compare Matthew 10:18.


    What, though, if the State requires a Christian for a period of time to perform civilian service that is a part of national service under a civilian administration? Here again, Christians must make their own decision based on an informed conscience. "We shall all stand before the judgment seat of God." (Romans 14:10) Christians faced with a requirement of Caesar should prayerfully study the matter and meditate on it. It may also be wise to talk the matter over with mature Christians in the congregation. After this a personal decision must be made.?Proverbs 2:1-5; Philippians 4:5.


    While engaged in such research, Christians would consider a number of Bible principles. Paul said that we must "be obedient to governments and authorities as rulers, . . . be ready for every good work . . . be reasonable, exhibiting all mildness toward all men." (Titus 3:1, 2) At the same time, Christians would do well to examine the proposed civilian work. If they accept it, will they be able to maintain Christian neutrality? (Micah 4:3, 5; John 17:16) Would it involve them with some false religion? (Revelation 18:4, 20, 21) Would performing it prevent or unreasonably limit them from fulfilling their Christian responsibilities? (Matthew 24:14; Hebrews 10:24, 25) On the other hand, would they be able to continue to make spiritual progress, perhaps even sharing in the full-time ministry while performing the required service??Hebrews 6:11, 12.


    What if the Christian?s honest answers to such questions lead him to conclude that the national civilian service is a "good work" that he can perform in obedience to the authorities? That is his decision before Jehovah. Appointed elders and others should fully respect the conscience of the brother and continue to regard him as a Christian in good standing. If, however, a Christian feels that he cannot perform this civilian service, his position should also be respected. He too remains in good standing and should receive loving support.?1 Corinthians 10:29; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Peter 3:16.


    As Christians we will not cease to render "to him who calls for honor, such honor." (Romans 13:7) We will respect good order and seek to be peaceful, law-abiding citizens. (Psalm 34:14) We may even pray "concerning kings and all those who are in high station" when these men are called upon to make decisions that affect our Christian life and work. As a result of our paying back Caesar?s things to Caesar, we hope that "we may go on leading a calm and quiet life with full godly devotion and seriousness." (1 Timothy 2:1, 2) Above all, we will continue to preach the good news of the Kingdom as mankind?s only hope, conscientiously paying back God?s things to God.


    *** g74 12/8 p. 23 The Netherlands Frees Imprisoned Witnesses ***


    Begin to Listen

    On March 26, 1971, three representatives of Jehovah?s witnesses met with a forum representing the ministries of Defense and Justice. The discussion lasted two and a half hours.

    One of the first points of discussion presented by the forum was this: "That you wish no part in performing military service is clear and needs no further explanation. But what really is your objection to civil, alternative service?"

    The Witnesses explained that it is not that they are opposed to civil service as such, but, rather, it is a matter of strict neutrality. Therefore, any work that is merely a substitute for military service would be unacceptable to Jehovah?s witnesses.

    Other questions narrowed the issue down still further. "When a person objects to military service," the government?s agents declared, "he passes from military jurisdiction on to civil jurisdiction and from that moment has nothing at all to do with the military. Why, then, is the accepting of such civil service still so objectionable?"

    Willingly accepting such work is objectionable to the Christian because of what God?s law says about the matter: "You were bought with a price; stop becoming slaves of men." (1 Cor. 7:23) Civilian servitude as a substitute for military service would be just as objectionable to the Christian. In effect, he would thereby become a part of the world instead of keeping separate as Jesus commanded.?John 15:19; 17:14-16.

  • AlmostAtheist
    Here again, a dedicated, baptized Christian would have to make his own decision on the basis of his Bible-trained conscience.

    The next 5 or 6 paragraphs after this statement go on to explain what that decision should be. "It's up to you, it's your decision. Now, here's what you should decide..."

    I've heard people say, "I'm not sure what the Society is telling us to do here," showing that they are in the mindset of preferring to be given clear direction. That sounds like weakness, but I think it's more fear. They've been trained to believe that God will be angered by them doing any little thing that isn't completely in line with "present truth", so they fear doing anything to raise his ire. And of course there's always DF'ing, but I think most are motivated by a fear of displeasing their view of "god", than by a fear of being DF'd.


  • avishai
    It's a good thing the WTS changed their stand on alternative service in 1996.

    Yeah, a little late for all the guy's with felony records, broken relationships, and years spent in jail, huh? I'd be a little pissed off, if I were them.

  • ithinkisee

    The 96 "pro" civilian service article states:

    On the other hand, would they be able to continue to make spiritual progress, perhaps even sharing in the full-time ministry while performing the required service?-

    Hahaha. As if you'll be able to go out in field service while sitting in prison. Oh please ...

    While I was at Bethel, the Society would BRAG about the fact that brothers in Europe just accepted it as REALITY that they go to prison when they come of age ... they just accepted it as part of life.

    Oh man ... now I am getting pissed.


  • Elsewhere

    I wonder if the WTS is willing to grant JWs "alternative service" that does not involve knocking on doors.

    Something tells me they will be hypocritical with this right just as they are hypocritical regarding the way they deny their members freedom of speech and freedom of worship.

  • Rabbit

    In 1972 I had to register for the Draft. I registered as Conscientious Objector, despite the threats of the Draft Board members...all wearing their Veterans of Foreign Wars caps that I could be sent to prison for 5 years at hard labor, no parole and a felony record.

    I was forced to write numerous pages of 'evidence' of my beliefs, how they came about and if I had ever 'publically declared' them with dates times and 'witnesses.' Even tho' I was a full-time pioneer, they denied that status, I thought I was prison bound. The only thing that 'saved' me was my high # (212) in the draft lottery, they came within 4 - 5 #'s of drafting me.

    I would have gone to prison, because, AT THAT TIME, the God's at the WTS, would not allow us to accept Alternative Service. It was a disfellowshipping offense.'s OK...isn't that special ?

    BTW, I was very lucky, Farkel, Nadsam & some others weren't lucky, they were convicted and sent to prison with felony records.

    Jehovah either lied to the GB back then...or He's lying to them now...ya' think ?


  • scotsman

    I have a couple of friends in Athens who registered for military service just before the possibility of civilian service arose, because a year in prison was preferable (to them) to 3 years working in some rural mental institution. They spent a year in an open, agricultural prison, picking oranges, herding sheep and working in the bakery. One of them thought it had been the best year of his life, free from responsibility and the stress of being an Athenian courier. The downside had been trapped with one or two self righteous ****.

    The alternative civilian service is no picnic. Young guys are posted out all over the country doing crap, menial work for 3 years. Some non-JW Greeks I met wished they had gone to prison rather than serve time in the army because they'd had such a hideous time.

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