War Resisters' International's work in support of conscientious objectors
Conscientious objection has always been at the very centre of WRI's policy. WRI's declaration not to support any kind of war is a call to refuse to serve in any military or armed forces, a call to conscientious objection.
War Resisters' International supports all conscientious objectors, whether they are willing to perform a substitute service (in countries where this option exists) or not. War Resisters' International does not judge a person's motives to refuse to kill, and values a person's individual decision not to take part in war and preparation for war as an impor-tant step to end wars.
No to war
WRI will never endorse any kind of war, whether it is waged by a state, by a "liberation army", or under the auspices of the United Nations, even if it is called a "humanitarian military intervention". Wars, however noble the rhetoric, are invariably used to serve some power-political or economic interest. We know where war leads -- to suffering and destruction, to rape and organised crime, to betrayal of values and to new structures of domination.
War Resisters' International's programme The Right to Refuse to Kill combines a wide range of activities to support conscientious objectors individually, as well as organised groups and movements for conscientious objection.
Supporting COs in prison: co-alerts
In many countries, prison is still the fate of conscientious objectors. Thousands of COs are still in prison -- in South Korea, Israel, Finland, Spain, and many other countries. Despite many countries having introduced laws on conscientious objection, many COs still face imprisonment, because they either don't fit into the authorities' criteria, or they refuse to perform any alternative service. War Resisters' International supports conscientious objectors who are imprisoned because of their conscientious objection, or face repression by the state or state-like entities. Co-alerts, sent out by email as soon as the WRI office receives information on the imprisonment or trial of a con-scientious objector, are a powerful tool to mobilise support and protest. Co-alerts are available by email (through the web interface at http://lists.wri-irg.org/sympa) or on the internet at wri-irg.org/news/alerts .
Supporting COs on the run: CO Asylum
Conscientious objectors often have to leave their country in order to flee from prosecution and imprisonment. However, conscientious objection is rarely accepted as a reason for asylum, and COs soon find themselves in danger of being deported back to their home country -- into the very situation that made them leave.
War Resisters' International demands the recognition of conscientious objection as a reason for asylum. War Resisters' International supports asylum seekers in their asylum claim through providing information on military service and the punishment for draft evasion and conscientious objection.
WRI, as part of a coalition of CO support organisations, is hosting CONCODOC (CONscription and Conscientious Objection DOcumentation Centre), a worldwide documentation on the situation of conscription and conscientious objection. It is the only one of its kind in the world. You can read all 180 CONCODOC country reports at wri-irg.org/co/rtba/; some reports are also available in Spanish.
Supporting CO movements & international campaigns
All over the world new movements for conscientious objection are emerging. War Resisters' International sees support to new CO movements -- solidarity actions, training of CO activists, and the exchange of experience -- as one of its most important tasks. During the 1990s these activities focussed on support to the CO movement in Turkey (especially during the imprisonment of Osman Murat Ülke), and on the Balkans. These struggles are not over yet, but new CO movements are emerging in South East Asia, Latin America, Israel, and in Africa. All these CO movements need international support.
War Resisters' International coordinates two international days of action, which both focus on support to peace activists and conscientious objectors.
15 May was first celebrated as a day of action in 1982. The day focusses on the struggle for the right to conscientious objection, and WRI usually highlights one particular struggle each year, while at the same time remembering those who served this cause in the past.
Prisoners for Peace Day is a way to support those imprisoned for their stand against war and war preparations, by sending greeting cards to prisoners, and raising public awareness of prisoners for peace.
Prisoners for Peace Day was introduced in the 1950s, but its roots go back to the 1920s, when WRI called for sending Christmas greetings to prisoners. You can read a history of Prisoners for Peace Day at wri-irg.org/co/pfphist.htm or view the current year's and past years' lists and campaign packs at the Broken Rifle/Prisoners for Peace homepage.