Approaching prisoners for peace day, reading about the state of conscientiousness objection and conscription in different places in the world, it's sad to see that more than 60 years after the founding of the “Prisoners For Peace Day”, it is still so relevant.
In the past few months there have been small advancements, such as Ukraine’s high court and South Korea's lower courts recognizing the right to CO, Yiannis Glarnetatzis, a Jehovah Witness from Greece found innocent (though only for procedural reasons) and gay people in Turkey being able to be released from army service without going through humiliating check-ups.
In the trial of Vitaliy Shalaiko, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Ukraine’s high court has affirmed the right of conscientious objectors to refuse to be drafted to the army even in times of war. COs will be allowed to do alternative service instead of being drafted. Also in the Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko has declared that the age of conscription will be increased from 18 to 20, and that the conscripts will not be required to fight in Anti-Terrorist Operation zones. He added that the army would move towards having more contracted soldiers.
The Turkish army exempts gay men from serving in the army, since they categorize homosexuality as a ‘psycho-sexual disorder’. A new change in the process will allow men to declare they are gay in an interview without undergoing humiliating tests such as rectal examination or showing sex pictures. Getting an exemption still puts gays in danger of future discrimination, since it means their sexual orientation is listed on their official record.
In September 2013, Yiannis Glarnetatzis was tried at court without being summoned to attend the trial. The sentence - insubordination charges with one year imprisonment suspended for two years, and revoking his CO status - were sent to an outdated address, and he only learned of the judgement a few months later, when he received requests to pay for the costs of the trial, sent to his current address.
A new website has been launched to allow people to easily report illegal batidas (press gangs) that happen on the streets of Colombia. http://batidasreport.net/ allows you to easily upload stories and pictures, and will list batidas that have occurred, especially in Antioquia and Cundinamarca.
In south Korea, a growing number of lower courts have recently ruled in favour of COs, acknowledging their right to the freedom of conscience. One example is “Suwon district court” which on August 13th found two COs not guilty. The court said that “their objection to military service neither undermines the function of the nation nor violates others’ rights and interests”. A day earlier, the Gwangju District Court ruled in favour of a conscientious objector, based on a similar argument. Though this is an improvement in the status of COs in south Korea, the supreme court has not been making similar judgements, having turned down an appeal of a CO on August 28th, thus imprisoning him for 18 months.
In Belarus, a law enabling alternative civilian service for religious COs is due to come in to force on June 1st 2016, but that has not stopped the army from continuously calling up COs to attend military service. Lately, two Jehovah Witnesses, Dmitry Chorba and Viktor Kalina, have been tried in “show trials”, as well as another 5 young men who chose not to go to the army for non-religious reasons. Their hearings took place in front of a selected audience of final year students from a nearby school and newly called up young men who have doubts regarding military service, thus, to deter other young men from refusing military service.
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.
A new book from War Resisters' International has been published this week. Written by and for activists all over the world who are campaigning against war, militarism, and all kinds of injustice, it will be of use not only to conscientious objector movements.
Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements is full of ideas to help groups work together, deal with power dynamics, surmount the external challenges they face, and enhance the concept of conscientious objection, using it in new and innovative ways — like resistance to war profiteering, or the militarisation of youth.
The book pays particular attention to the question of gender and the often invisible role of gender, both in the war machine and in the movements that oppose it. We believe this is the first book of its kind, we know it has lots of original content, and we hope it will become an invaluable resource in the worldwide peace movement.
It will soon be available online, and you can purchase a copy here. Thank you to the many people who contributed to our crowdfunder, which made this book possible, and to all those who contributed to the book through writing articles and translations.
Translations into Thai and Spanish are already planned. If you would like to translate the book into your own language, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org