A military court in Portsmouth sentenced British conscientious objector Michael Lyons to seven months' detention today, following a two-day trial.
Michael Lyons joined the Royal Navy as a medic in 2005, and in May 2010 he was notified that he would be deployed to Afghanistan later that year. Soon after, he applied for discharge as a conscientious objector, as he had developed a conscientious objection to participating in the war in Afghanistan in particular, and against war in general.
During the application process, he continued serving, and was sent on an advanced medic course on battlefield medics, as part of the preparation for his deployment to Afghanistan. In mid September 2010, he was notified that his application for conscientious objection had been rejected, although his Commanding Officer had supported it. He prepared an appeal to the Advisory Committee on Conscientious Objection (ACCO), but meanwhile he was sent to an advanced rifle training course, again in preparation for his deployment to Afghanistan.
There he was given the order to "draw a weapon and begin rifle training" on the first day of the course - 20 September 2010. He refused the order, explaining that he is a conscientious objector and cannot follow the order because of his ethical and moral beliefs. He asked to be re-rolled to non-combatant status.
Michael Lyons had previously participated in a weapon training in 2006, but never since. Under the Geneva Convention, medics are non-combatants and are only allowed hand guns for self-defence and to protect their patients.
During the court-martial it became obvious that initially Warrant Officer Robert Bainbridge, who gave the order, was unsure what to do with Michael Lyons, and needed to seek advice. Initially, he was minded to return Lyons back to his unit, but was given the advice/direction/order to again order Lyons to draw a weapon and commence training, which he did in front of a military police officer at 1pm on 20 September. Lyons again politely refused, and was then sent back to his unit.
In December 2010, the Advisory Committee on Conscientious Objection heard Michael Lyons appeal, and decided to advice Minister of Defence Liam Fox to uphold the original decision, and to reject Lyons claim of conscientious objection. Until today - more than six months later - Michael Lyons has not officially been informed of the decision.
Lyons argued that the order to commence weapon training had been unlawful, as he was still appealing the rejection of his conscientious objection application, and he should have been assigned to non-combatant duties. The court martial, however, found him guilty of disobeying a lawful order and sentenced him to seven months' detention.
War Resisters' International condemns the sentence, and requests that it be commuted or annulled. Please write to:
Liam Fox, Minister of Defence
A protest email can be sent at http://wri-irg.org/node/13260.
War Resisters' International