Colombia: Yes to conscientious objection!

Sentence of the Constitutional Court from 14 October 2009 finally published

Eleven months after the announcenemt of the judgement of the Constitutional Court from 14 October 2009 that there is a right to conscientious objection to military service under the Colombian constitution (see CO-Update No 52, November/December 2009 ), the judgement itself - 111 pages strong - has finally been published. However, a large part of these 111 pages is taken up by summaries of the different third party interventions, and the original submission of inconstitutionality.

In its conclusion, the court refers to the development of its own jurisprudence on conscientious objection in others areas, such a health and work, and also refers explicitly, to the development of international standards on the right to conscientious objection.

The Constitutional Court points out that the convictions giving rise to the conscientious objection need to be deeply held, sincere and fixed (para 5.2.6). Consequently, the Court says that every conscientious objector will have to prove the outward manifestations of his or her conviction and beliefs, to show that military service would force him or her to act against his or her conscience (para 5.2.6.2). The Court also clarifies that a conscientious objection can be based on religious, ethical, moral, or philosophical convictions or beliefs, and stresses that it is not limited to religious reasons (para 5.2.6.4).

The court stresses that even though no legislation governing the right to conscientious objection exists, it is immediately applicable, and protection can be thought through a tutela (writ for protection), in case it is not recognised (para 5.2.6.5).

While the Court through out the original submission of inconstitutionality of article 27 of the law on recruitment, it also demanded from the Colombian congress to pass legislation on the right to conscientious objection.

However, this can take a while to happen. In recent weeks, War Resisters' International received several reports of waves of batidas in several Colombian cities, among them Bogota, Medellin, and Barrancabermeja.

Sources: La Nacion: Objeción de conciencia, 17 September 2010; Colombia Reports: Court: Conscientious objection is constitutional, 10 September 2010; El Espectador: Sí a la objeción de conciencia, 9 September 2010; Corte Constitucional: Sentencia C-728/09, 14 October 2009