Approaching International Conscientious Objection Day (15th May), the updates from the last couple of months - which have unfortunately been mostly negative - are reminding us: we need to keep mobilising our movements for conscientious objection, and strengthening our networks of international solidarity.
Conscientious Objector Diego Fernando Blanco López from Colombia has been illegally recruited by the Colombian army, despite his right to postpone as a student. He is currently being forced to serve in the Grupo de Caballeria Mecanicado No 4 Juan de Corral of the Colombian Army in Rionegro, Antioquia.
Israeli conscientious objectors Tamar Alon and Tamar Ze'evi, who declared their refusal to serve in the IDF and take part in the occupation on 16th November 2016, were freed after each spending more than 100 days behind bars.
Conscientious objector Onur Erden has been sentenced to 10 months in prison on charge of deserting mandatory military service. Erden will go to prison if the penalty is approved by the Military Supreme Court.
Trials of conscientious objectors Onur Erden and Uğur Gültekin, who were pending a trial without arrest on charge of deserting mandatory military service, were heard by Gelibolu 2nd Corps Commandership Military Court.
Sweden is to reintroduce military conscription by 1 July, citing difficulties in filling army ranks on a voluntary basis and increased Russian military activity in the Baltics.
The defence minister the Social Democrat-Green coalition government, Peter Hultqvist, said the move was in response to a deteriorating security environment in Europe. “We are in a context where Russia has annexed Crimea,” the minister told AFP. “They are doing more exercises in our immediate vicinity.”
The Georgian Ministry of Defense (MoD) reintroduced compulsory military service, which had been abolished several months ago by the former Minister Tinatin Khidasheli. This was an expected move by the current Defence Minister, Levan Izoria, who announced his plan to reintroduce conscription in November 2016.
The Ministry of Defence in Croatia considers reintroducing compulsory military service, which was “suspended” in 2008 following high numbers of applications for conscientious objection by young people.
In December 2016, the Defense Minister of Taiwan, Feng Shih-kuan, announced that 2017 will be the last year young men will be required to serve in the military and that by 2018 military conscription will be abolished in the country.
War Resisters' International maintains a unique resource, the World survey of conscription and conscientious objection to military service: a database of country profiles and information on the situation for COs and conscripts around the world. This is updated on a rolling basis, and we have recently revised our report on Greece.
In December 2016, the Association of Greek Conscientious Objectors called on conscientious objectors (COs) in Greece to boycott the Conscience Examination Committee, which considers CO applications under the authority of the Ministry of Defence. In their statement, the Association said "The existence of a committee, which, like another Holy Inquisition, interrogates the conscientious objectors, violates any sense of the protected right to freedom of conscience."
WRI has been working with former soldiers from Rwanda and the German campaigning group Connection e.V.. In December 2016, we published a report exploring the experiences of former members of Rwandan armed forces, especially the barriers they experienced in leaving the army over the past decade.
In February, War Resisters' International responded to a request for information from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on conscientious objection to military service, towards a quadrennial analytical report on conscientious objection to military service that will be presented to the Human Rights Council.
In this issue of the CO-Update, we would like to share with you an inspiring story from 2003, which we think worth re-sharing and remembering. We are aware of many protests that took place across different countries to avert Iraq War in 2003.
Former Maoist child soldiers in Nepal, discontent with the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN or Maoist-Centre) for discarding them unceremoniously during the peace process, locked party leaders at the CPN office in Kathmandu. During their action, at least seven party leaders were locked in the building when the main door was padlocked.
War Resisters' International has a CO-Alert system that we use to pressure authorities across the world where conscientious objectors (COs) face persecution.
Hundreds of subscribers receive an email, and they use an email template (here's an example) to protest the treatment of COs to the relevant authorities, for example asking for their release from forced recruitment or imprisonment.