Colombia: Conscription, Conscientious Objection, and Armed Forces Recruitment Practices

Conscientious Objection

The question of conscientious objection has been brought to attention of the Colombian courts once more, via the case of one Julián Enrique Rojas Rincón who is arguing that his Christian pacifism makes military service unconscionable to him and that his right to conscientious objection is safeguarded in article 18 of the Colombian constitution which also protects medics from performing abortions where they feel this runs contrary to their interpretation of Christianity. Magistrate Jorge Pretelt has called on the military to form an 'interdisciplinary group' to asses Rojas' case. Source: Semana

The Colombian military has been ordered by the country's constitutional court not to continue violating the rights of conscientious objectors, whose right to freedom of conscience prevails over their legal obligation to military service. The military argues that the young conscientious objector whose case precipitated this order was not directly involved in military operations, bur rather in giving logistical support to those who were. Source: Bluradio

Jhonatan David Vargas Becerra was forcibly recruited by the Colombian military last year. He left the army as soon as he could, and later the police issued an arrest warrant for him on grounds of desertion. He was arrested by the police on 4 September in Barrancabermeja, but has since been released. WRI put out a CO Alert on Jhonatan's behalf, and on September 16 we heard the news that Jhonatan had been recognised as a conscientious objector by the Constitutional Court.

Developments in Conscription

A bill is being considered to renew conscription to military and social service for both men and women, the Colombian Defence Ministry has announced. Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said that President Juan Manuel Santos has asked his ministry to analyse the initiative to enforce young school graduates to choose between military or social service in public institutions.

Source:Colombia Reports

Recruitment Practices and 'Batidas'

Colombia’s army has acknowledged that forcing youths into trucks on the pretext of checking their military status is against the law. These “illegal raids” are carried out in cities where army trucks illegally and forcibly pick up young men on the pretext of checking their military status. Military service is mandatory for Colombian men over the age of 18. There are, however, exceptions. A man can be considered exempt if he is a victim of the conflict, student, disabled, parent or head of household. If a young man can afford to study he will therefore ensure exemption from the army. This explains why the poorest sectors in the country who do not have access to higher education are more likely to join the ranks. This is also why the poorest neighbourhoods are the locations of the batidas (“raids.”) Source:Colombia Reports

A member of the leftist opposition party Democratic Pole on Tuesday filed suit against Colombia’s defence minister over ongoing illegal recruitment practices in the army, including batidas. The alleged crimes filed against Juan Carlos Pinzon by congressman Alirio Uribe include arbitrary arrest and detention, unlawful extension of imprisonment, and abuse of authority, all of which are connected to the army’s use of draft raids in recruiting soldiers. The forced drafting of Colombians who are unable to show a paper that exempts them from military service was deemed unconstitutional in 2011, but it is widely acknowledged that the practice continues throughout the country.

Source: Colombia Reports