Conscientious objection

LITHUANIA & LATVIA: reacting to growing tension with Russia

Lithuania's plans to extend military conscription after 2020. Conscription was reintroduced earlier this year, planned to be only for five years. But due to the “threats from the east” they have already decided to prolong it at least by another year.

A new survey, shows that more than 50% of the population backs the re-introduction of conscription in the country. The survey also shows that the majority of those that oppose conscription belong to the 15-24 age group, the age group closest to conscription age, which is 19-26.

Write to a prisoner for peace on 1st December

Postcards sent from WRI affiliate World Without WarPostcards sent from WRI affiliate World Without WarEach year on 1st December War Resisters' International and its members mark Prisoners for Peace Day, when we publicise the names and stories of those imprisoned for actions for peace. Many are conscientious objectors, in gaol for refusing to join the military. Others have taken nonviolent actions to disrupt preparation for war.

The Role of Veterans in Peace and Antimilitarist Movements

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Wendy Barranco was born in south central Mexico in 1985. At the age of four, she migrated to the United States 'illegally'. She was then raised in Los Angeles, California, and at the age of 17, joined the United States Army. She was later deployed on so called 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' and honourably discharged upon her return home. While at college, she encountered Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and has since served as a chapter president with them, organising events to raise awareness about the true cost of war, troops' right to heal, and GI resistance, as well as demanding an immediate end to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Elected to the organisation's board of directors, she has served as national chair. Today, she is an activist on womyn’s rights, military sexual trauma, migrant rights, workers' rights, antimilitarism, and anti-imperialism. She writes about these here.

As a woman veteran, my three years of service in the United States Army as a combat medic and my deployment to Iraq is constantly questioned and met with faces of disbelief. It is no novelty that we, women, exist in patriarchal, misogynistic, and sexist societies, constantly 'surprising' individuals as to our capabilities for thousands of years. While we may not be properly valued, respected, and understood, we continue to play key roles in a variety of settings, including the peace and antimilitarist movements. While rich men wage war, we traditionally supply its lifeline of blood and bodies from our wombs. As the producers of the casualties of war in this way, women have often been a crucial and revolutionary factor in attaining peace for we often have the most to lose; many of us have skin in the game. Even if we do not have skin in the game however, we do have game changing insights about the sexist workings of the war machine. Without us, and without listening to us, the peace and antimilitarist movements will remain ignorant of these and be the weaker for it.

Supporting Conscientious Objectors and Deserters in Times of War: a supporter’s perspective

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Rudi Friedrich, General Secretary of Connection e.V. in Germany, is engaged in achieving recognition of the human rights of conscientious objectors, and acknowledgement of the persecution which conscientious objectors and deserters face as a reason for asylum. The organisation collaborates with groups opposing war, conscription and the military. Beyond Europe, the network extends to Turkey, the U.S., Israel, South Korea, Latin America and Africa. It offers counselling and information to refugees and support for their self organisation.He takes on the topic of supporting conscientious objectors and deserters abroad.

Some thousand men, liable for military service, are leaving the Ukraine as I write, at the beginning of 2015. Obviously, they don't want to fight in a war against their neighbours. One of them, who fled to Germany, told us: 'I was born in Donetsk and grew up there. We were living in the war zone close to Donetsk. I didn't want to fight either for the Republican Army of Donetsk nor for the Ukrainian army. War is wrong. I don't want to fight against my neighbours and my own family'. For more than 20 years the German based association Connection e.V. has supported conscientious objectors and deserters, of all genders.

Supporting Conscientious Objectors and Deserters in Times of War: an objector’s perspective

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

A native of Belgrade, Serbia, Bojan Aleksov became an anti-war activist in 1991. Since 2007, he has been a lecturer in Balkan history at University College London. His very personal perspective on anti-war activism in the former Yugoslavia appeared as 'Resisting the Wars in the Former Yugoslavia: An Autoethnography' in Resisting the Evil: [Post-]Yugoslav Anti-War Contention. Here, he writes from the same personal perspective about how to support conscientious objectors and deserters in times of war.

Conscientious Objection (CO) was never going to be easy, certainly not in Serbia during the 1990s.

Throughout history, people have strived for peace and yet our past often looks like a succession of wars. It's one thing to want peace, another to achieve and maintain it. 'Others' are usually blamed for war and aggression, while we see ourselves or our people as victims. We claim that we are defending ourselves from these vicious 'others'. Even big powers and their more imperially inclined elites usually justify their wars as preventative, defensive, 'good' wars, while enemies are only after 'bad' wars. Indeed, the greatest achievement of modern times in preventing war, or limiting its disastrous consequences, has so far only been to set some rules of how to wage war, and some conventions on war crimes.

The Impact of International Mechanisms in Local Cases: the example of Colombia

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Alba Milena Romero Sanabria is a political scientist at the National University of Colombia. She has worked for the recognition of the right to conscientious objection to military service for ten years, alongside participating in nonviolence training processes. She is a member of Asociación Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia (ACOOC, Conscientious Objectors' Collective Action) and Conscience and Peace Tax International. Her co-author Andreas Speck is originally from Germany, were he refused military and substitute service in the 1980s. He has been involved in the environmental, anti-nuclear and antimilitarist movements ever since. From 2001 until 2012 he worked for War Resisters' International (WRI) and today lives in Spain. Together, they use the example of Colombia to illustrate how international human rights mechanisms can be put to use in local cases, and in combination with other tactics, when campaigning for the right to conscientious objection.

On the international level, the right to Conscientious Objection (CO) has been on the political agenda of the UN General Assembly, the Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, the Human Rights Commission, and other UN institutions.1 In addition, the right is addressed by other international institutions, especially the inter-American and European systems.2 At the same time, different movements have implemented strategies to try to prioritise within states' agendas the recognition of the right to conscientious objection.

International Solidarity

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Alexia Tsouni is a Greek human rights activist and a feminist. She is a board member of the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO). She is also a member of the group on the right to conscientious objection of Amnesty International's Greek section. She writes about how conscientious objection movements can reach out for international solidarity, and the crucial role this can play.

Organising Refuser Support

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

A key activity of the movements for whom this book is intended is likely to be supporting those who refuse to join the military. How to go about organising that support is the question addressed by Sergeiy Sandler in this chapter. Sergeiy is a conscientious objector and antimilitarist activist from Israel. He is one of the founders of the Counselling Network for Refusers operated by the Israeli feminist and antimilitarist movement New Profile and is also an International Council member of the War Resisters' International.

On March 2nd, 2001, about thirty people met in a small conference room in the Druze Palestinian town of Isfiya on Mount Carmel. A few of us had had some years of experience supporting declared conscientious objectors. Others had been helping friends and acquaintances obtain medical exemptions from military service. A few more came to learn from the rest. Working under the aegis of the feminist antimilitarist movement, New Profile, we formed a network of volunteers committed to counselling and supporting any person refusing to perform military service in Israel. More than fourteen years later, this network receives, and successfully resolves, well over a thousand calls for support every year, from people from all walks of life, genders, and ethnic backgrounds. Many more use us to help themselves: our Internet forum and other resources posted online have hundreds of thousands of hits a year. We were even enough of a menace for the Israeli police to start a criminal investigation against us (for 'inciting draft evasion', i.e. encouraging people to resist conscription) a few years back. All in all — a nice little success story, especially if measured against the bleak backdrop of Israeli political realities.

Consensus Decision Making

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Here, an introduction to making group decisions by consensus is reproduced from War Resisters' International's Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns. This is one way of working constructively with differences in terms of privilege and with different motivations.

Why consensus?

There are many ways a group can make decisions, and it's important to choose the method that is best for the decision that needs to be made. This may be voting, one person decides (usually a 'leader' or another person tasked with that responsibility), a randomised method like flipping a coin, or consensus decision making.

Often in a democratic vote, a significant minority is unhappy with the outcome. Whilst they may acknowledge the legitimacy of the decision – because they accept these rules of democracy – they may still actively resist it or undermine it, and work towards the next voting opportunity.

Idan's Story

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Idan Halili became the first Israeli conscientious objector to refuse military service on the g

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