Issue 18 of our CO-Update e-newsletter has a lot of legal developments to report: good news about a "friendly settlement" regarding the case of a conscientious objector from Bolivia, which includes the commitment of the Bolivian government to introduce a law on conscientious objection, and another decision in favour of Turkish antimilitarist activists.
However, we also have to report on negative developments, especially from Eastern Europe - see our reports from Russia and Armenia.
Bolivia and a Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector reached a "friendly settlement" following a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights by the Bolivian ombudsman. According to Report No 97/05, "Alfredo Díaz Bustos is a Jehovah's Witness whose right to conscientious objection has been violated by the State, directly affecting his freedom of conscience and religion, and that the State has failed to fulfill its obligation to respect and ensure the rights established in the American Convention, to which Bolivia is a party.
On 11 January 2006 War Resisters' International asked the Macedonian Ministry of Defence some questions about applications for conscientious objection in 2005. WRI did so on request of its Macedonian section Peace Action, who were unable to obtain the figures, and were told by the Ministry of Defence that they might respond to questions from an international/foreign NGO. Peace Action drafted the fax in Macedonian, and this was put on WRI stationary, signed and faxed to the Ministry of Defence from London.
Following a recent case of hazing within the military, several organisations openly called for a boycott of the spring 2006 round of call-ups to military service. The Russian paper Pravda reported in its English language online edition on 23 February: "Russian draft boards may face a large-scale boycott of conscription this spring.
In a new judgement, the European Court on Human Rights ruled against against Turkey, and in favour of antimilitarist activists. The case was brought by İzmir Savaş Karşıtları Derneği and Others against Turkey (no. 46257/99), on grounds of violation of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The applicants are an association, İzmir Savaş Karşıtları Derneği (Izmir Association Against War), and Ayşe Tosuner, Ali Serdar Tekin and Osman Murat Ülke, Turkish nationals born in 1950, 1974 and 1970 respectively, who live in Izmir (Turkey).
Forum 18 News Service reported on 22 February that 48 Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors were imprisoned in Armenia, with four more awaiting trial. A Jehovah's Witness lawyer has complained to Forum 18 News Service "that the Armenian authorities are deliberately dragging out the trials, as they are too embarrassed to sentence them.
The lawyer, who preferred not to be named, gave the appeal of the four Jehovah's Witnesses who abandoned their 'alternative' service at Sevan Psychiatric Hospital, north of Lake Sevan, last May as an example.
Operation Refuse War
15 May - International Conscientious Objectors Day
Focus on US resisters and GIs
From May 11th to 16th, an international group of conscientious objectors will gather in New York City and Washington, DC for Operation Refuse War, a week of conferences, demonstrations, and actions in celebration of International Conscientious Objectors Day, May 15th.