Right to Refuse to Kill

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.

Our main publications are CO-Alerts (advocacy alerts sent out whenever a conscientious objector is prosecuted) and CO-Updates (a bimonthly look at developments in conscientious objection around the world).

We maintain the CO Guide - A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System, which can help COs to challenge their own governments, and protect themselves from human rights abuses.

Information about how nation states treat conscientious objectors can be found in our World Survey of Conscientious Objection and recruitment.

More info on the programme is available here.

Compulsory military service in Honduras, abolished in 1994, still brings painful memories of terrible human rights violations such as forced recruitment, forced disappearances and the torture and death of those who either refused to enlist or were campaigning against it. War Resisters’ International strongly believes that the initiatives to reestablish a compulsory military service are not a step in the right direction, if the desired result is to decrease the crime rate and avoid criminal organizations recruiting the youth of Honduras, which happen to be the two most commonly used arguments for reintroducing the compulsory military service.

1st December, Sunday, is Prisoners for Peace Day. For over sixty years on this day, we've been sharing stories and contacts details of conscientious objectors and activists for peace who have been imprisoned for their refusal to take up arms and resist war. Set aside time on this day to write to those imprisoned for their peace work.

This year has been perhaps the most crucial year for conscientious objectors in Greece since the establishment of alternative civilian service in 1997-1998. After years of efforts, there was an opportunity for significant changes. Certain improvements in the legislative framework were achieved but the most important one, the reduction of the length of alternative civilian service was quickly annulled after the summer general elections by the new right-wing Greek government.

On 17th October, European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) convicted Azerbaijan for violating Article 9 (right to freedom of conscience, thought and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of five conscientious objectors (all Jehovah's Witnesses) who were prosecuted and sentenced to imprisonment for their refusal to perform military service. 

In Turkmenistan, appeals of two conscientious objectors against their one-year jail terms for refusing compulsory military service were rejected. Nine conscientious objectors are now jailed, six of them in 2019. The United Nations ruled that Turkmenistan violated the rights of three more conscientious objectors jailed in 2013.

On October 9th, Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched an invasion into northern Syria. This invasion is an attempt to destroy the political, cultural and economic rights of the Syrian Kurds.

Turkish Armed Forces are the major military power of this initiative, supported by a group of Islamist gangs under the name of the Syrian National Army. Erdoğan’s aim with this operation is to destroy the Kurds. He also opens up space for ISIS to operate.

This is an illegal war that contradicts international treaties.

An Ashgabad court jailed 20-year-old Azat Ashirov for two years on 31 July for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. He had set out his objections in writing and offered to perform an alternative civilian service. Ashirov's jailing brings to seven the number of Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors known - as of 5 September - to be serving jail terms of between one and four years. Six of them are imprisoned at the Labour Camp at Seydi in the eastern Lebap Region.

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