Law Report: Conscientious Objection to Military Service Did Not Confer Refugee Status ; Friday Law Report; 18 May 2001 Sepet V Secretary of State for the Home Department Court of Appeal (Lord Justice Waller, Lord Justice Laws and Lord Justice Jonathan Parker) 11 May
Kate O'Hanlon, The Independent (London, England)
THERE WAS no legal rule or principle which vouchsafed a right either of absolute or of partial conscientious objection to military service such that, where it was not respected, an applicant might have a good case to refugee status under the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees 1951.
The Court of Appeal (Lord Justice Waller dissenting in part) dismissed the applicants' appeals against decisions of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal that they were not entitled to asylum.
The applicant were both Turkish Kurds, who claimed asylum on the grounds that they would, if returned to Turkey, be persecuted on account of their previous political activities; and that, on account of their objection to doing military service, they would be liable to apprehension and imprisonment.
Neither applicant claimed that he would refuse to perform military service under all circumstances. What the applicants objected to was the possibility of their being required to take military action against their fellow Kurds.
The applicants were both refused asylum by the Secretary of State, and their appeals were dismissed by the same special adjudicator. Their appeals to the Immigration Appeal Tribunal were also dismissed. They appealed against the tribunal's decisions, and on the appeals the following issues, inter alia, arose: whether there was a fundamental right, which was internationally recognised, to refuse to undertake military service on grounds of conscience; and if so, whether such a right applied alike to cases of absolute and partial conscientious objection.
Ian Macdonald QC, Nadine French and Rick Scannell (Deighton Guedalla) for Sepet and (Birnberg Peirce & Partners) for Bulbul; John Howell QC and Mark Shaw (Treasury Solicitor) for the Secretary of State; Tim Eicke (Wesley Gryk) for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees as intervenor. …