Reforms made after unreasonable punishment given to conscientious objector

Thlimmenos v. Greece  | 2000

Reforms made after unreasonable punishment given to conscientious objector

A conviction for refusing on religious or philosophical grounds to wear the military uniform cannot imply any dishonesty or moral turpitude likely to undermine the offender's ability to exercise this profession.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, 6th May 2000


Iakovos Thlimmenos was a Jehovah’s Witness. He refused to do military service because of his religious beliefs. He was convicted of insubordination and sentenced to four years in prison. Upon his release he passed exams to become an accountant. However, the relevant board refused to appoint him because he had been convicted of a serious crime.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The court found that Mr Thlimmenos’s refusal to serve in the military had not shown dishonesty that would undermine his ability to work as an accountant. Barring him from the profession had therefore been unreasonable and unjustified. As it was due to Mr Thlimmenos’s spiritual beliefs, this amounted to discrimination based on his religion.


In response to the court’s judgment, the law was changed to give conscientious objectors the right to have their criminal records changed, to remove offences linked to their objections to military service.

In 2001 the Constitution was changed to grant conscientious objectors the right to perform civilian service instead.

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