Britain: Muslim Iraq war objector looses appeal

Related peace activists: 

Muslim Gulf war conscientious objector Mohisin Khan, who refused to take part in the war on Iraq because he did not want to fight against fellow Muslims, lost his appeal in the hight court against his prosecution by the RAF for going absent without leave on 7 October 2004.

Khan voluntarily enlisted in the Royal Air Force in December 1999, and joined the Medical Assistant trade on an engagement for 9 years of service plus 6 years reserve. In January 2001, Khan applied for premature release, which was granted on 24 April 2001. He therefore became a reservist.

In January 2003 Mohisin Khan was recalled for service, following the mobilisation of some reserves in the run-up to the war on Iraq. The call-up papers listed several reasons for exemption, but this list did not include reasons of conscience or religion.

The High Court of Justice ruled that the right to conscientious objection does not amount to a defence in law against punishment for absence without leave. The RAF punished Khan after his arrest with the loss of nine days' pay and seven days' privileges.

The regulations governing conscientious objection in Britain are covered by a smokescreen. It is therefore not surprising that Khan did not apply for discharge for reasons of conscience, but saw no other way then to go absent without leave. Even the High Court of Justice writes in its judgement on the appeal: "It is, however, true that the call-out materials in this case, like the 1997 Regulations, do not mention conscientious objection expressly. In that respect, it would seem that the information provided to the recalled reservist could be improved" (Para 57) - peace organisations in Britain demand for years that the CO regulations, which are considered confidential documents, should be made public, so that independent organisations can give advice to potential conscientious objectors.

Source: The Guardian, 8 October 2004

The judgement can be found at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2004/2230.html