Developments in Colombia

Andreas and Hannah from the Right to Refuse to Kill programme spent 15 days in Colombia in November. Our visit coincided with developments on the law proposal that regulates the right to conscientious objection, and creates compulsory substitute service. It will also create a National Committee of Conscientious Objection to Military Service (Comité Nacional de Objeción de Conciencia al Servicio Militar), which will have the authority to judge applications for conscientious objection.

Soon after our return, on 11th December the law proposal passed through its second reading in the Senate. It must now pass through the House of Representatives, and will return again to the Senate for a third reading. ACOOC (Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia) in Bogota is commenting and lobbying on the law proposal.

On our visit we met with many groups new to WRI who are working on issues related to conscription and conscientious objection, such as the Objetores y Objetoras Neiva. One of the many issues that came up in our conversations was the ongoing use of batidas - raids that pick up recruits on the street - which continue despite condemnation from UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and others.

WRI will be working to support the Colombian CO movement in a number of ways in the coming year, including:

  • Gathering information on the ongoing use of batidas
  • Planning a seminar for lawyers and activists on harnessing international mechanisms and national law to protect the rights of conscientious objectors in Colombia
  • Re-releasing an 'identity card' for conscientious objectors that can be used as a deterrence for the military to recruit COs.
  • A fuller report of the visit will be available on the WRI website in the coming weeks.

    Sources: Colombia and the Possibility of Conscientious Objection: An Advance Towards Peace?, November 13, 2012; Servicio Militar no sería obligatorio en Colombia, November 13, 2012; Objeción de Conciencia también aplicaría al servicio militar obligatorio , December 12, 2012.