Who may be a conscientious objector?Although conscientious objection may be based on a formal religiousposition, this is not required. The Human Rights Committee has madeclear that no discrimination is permitted between the religion or belief onwhich the objection is based. 17 Indeed, in its General Comment 22 the HumanRights Committee simply referred to situations where “the obligationto use lethal force may seriously conflict with the freedom of conscienceand the right to manifest one’s religion or belief”. 18 Furthermore, thesame General Comment gives a broad scope to the terms ‘religion’ and‘belief’, stating 19 “Article 18 protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs,… Article 18 is not limited in its applications to traditional religions orto religions and beliefs with institutional characteristics or practices analogousto those of traditional religions.” The Committee has specifically addressedthis issue in Concluding Observations on State reports under theCovenant, calling, for example, on a reporting State to “extend the rightof conscientious objection against mandatory military service to personswho hold non-religious beliefs grounded in conscience, as well as beliefsgrounded in all religions” 20 and in Eu-min Jung et al v Republic of Korea,the Committee specifically identified that “the authors’ subsequent convictionand sentence amounted to an infringement of their freedom ofconscience”, in additionto being a violation of their freedom of religionor belief. 21Equally, a person may become a conscientious objector after joining thearmed forces, whether as a conscript or as a volunteer. Such a situa-417 Human Rights Committee General Comment 22, para 11; also Brinkhof v Netherlands(Communication No. 402/1990 of 27 July, 1993). Similarly, UN Commissionon HumanRights resolution 1998/77 (adopted without a vote): “Recognizing that conscientious objectionto military service derives from principles and reasons of conscience, including profoundconvictions, arising from religious, moral, ethical, humanitarian or similar motives”.18 Human Rights Committee General Comment 22, para. 11.19 Human Rights Committee General Comment 22, para. 2.20 Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on the Ukraine, November 2006(CCPR/C/UKR/CO/6), para. 12.21 Eu-min Jung et al v Republic of Korea (CCPR/C/98/D/1593-1603/2007 of 14 April 2010),para. 7.4.
tion may arise in the context of a change of religion or belief in general,or in relationto the specific issue of military service. The general freedomto change one’s religion or belief is recognized in Article 18(1) of theCovenant, 22 and Article 18(2) prohibits “coercion which would impair” theindividual’s freedom to have or adopt a religion. The UN Working Groupon Arbitrary Detention considers that “repeated incarceration in casesof conscientious objectors is directed towards changing their convictionand opinion, under threat of penalty” and is thus incompatible with Article18(2) of the Covenant. 23 The Human Rights Committee has specificallyapplied the possibility of changes in religion or belief in this context, forexample, when recommending the adoption of legislationon conscientiousobjectionto military service to a reporting State, “recognizing thatconscientious objection can occur at any time, even when a person’s militaryservice has already begun”. 24 Similarly, the UN Commissionon HumanRights has stated “that persons performing military service may developconscientious objections” and affirmed “the importance of the availabilityof information about the right of conscientious objectionto militaryservice, and the means of acquiring conscientious objector status, to allpersons affected by military service”. 25In 2010, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe explicitlyrecognised that professional members of the armed forces as well as conscriptsshould be able to leave the armed forces for reasons of consciencein their Recommendationon human rights of members of the armed forces.2622 The right to change one’s religion or belief was also specified in the Human RightsCommittee General Comment 22, para. 5.23 UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Recommendation 2: detention of conscientiousobjectors, E/CN.4/2001/14, paras. 91-94.24 Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on Chile, March 2007 (CCPR/C/CHL/CO/5), para. 13.25 UN Commissionon Human Rights resolution 1998/77.26 Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member states onhuman rights of members of the armed forces (24 February 2010), Section H, paras 40-46.5