The various human rights systems – the UN, the Council of Europe and the other regional systems – are complicated. Different mechanisms have their own processes, requirements, and potential outcomes. In addition, it can be difficult to choose which system might be the most effective, or most promising, to use.
This guide can be read like a book or manual, to get an overview of the different systems available (you can also download a pdf of the guide, see below). However, it is more intended to be used as an interactive guide online at http://co-guide.org or http://co-guide.info, to help you choose the most promising avenue.
If you want to use this guide in this way, you should first clarify what you want to achieve. The search function of the website version of the guide will help you with this process.
Starting with the country, ask yourself the following questions:
These questions will help you to narrow down your search, so that you can get an overview of those international human rights mechanisms that can be useful to achieve your objectives.
In addition, you can refine your search using different aspects in relation to conscientious objection. Are you concerned with:
These different aspects will help you to narrow down the results of your search, and especially relevant jurisprudence or interpretations of international human rights law.
The search function will provide you will a list of applicable mechanisms, and display a summary for each of the mechanisms, to give you some overview. You can click on the title of a mechanism to get a more detailed description, its legal basis, relevant interpretations of the relevant legal basis and/or human rights treaties, and case law, jurisprudence, relevant opinions or reports of the mechanism.
For each of the aspects there are three different levels of recognition:
The meaning of these levels differs slightly between a legal basis on the one hand, and interpretations and jurisprudence on the other hand.
For a legal basis, if an aspect is marked with a +, it does not necessarily mean that it is explicitly recognised in this legal basis, but that it can be argued that it can be derived from it (as conscientious objection is now recognised as either inherent in or a manifestation of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion). A legal basis which does not in itself guarantee human rights, but merely establishes a mechanism (such as the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) will have all aspects set to neutral, and it is then important to check the relevant human rights treaty.
For interpretations and jurisprudence (which might come under many different names), “recognised” or a + means that there is an explicit reference to this aspect in the interpretation or jurisprudence, recognising this right. “Not recognised” or a – means that there is an explicit non-recognition. Should you encounter this, you should first check if there has been a more recent interpretation or jurisprudence overturning this. If this is not the case, it might be advisable to choose a mechanism which offers a better recognition, or – if such a mechanism does not exist – to get in touch with the organisations on this page or use the contact form.