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.

Hannah visited Thailand as part of the Right to Refuse to Kill Programme's work to support conscientious objection, and movements against conscription.

When I arrived in Bangkok in November, many people were in mourning Bhumibol Adulyadej - the king who died on 13th October after seven decades on the throne. I travelled there along with Jungmin Choi and Yongsuk Lee, two members of World Without War (WRI's affiliate in Korea).

This period of mourning was evident in peoples' homes, in public spaces, and in the very atmosphere of cities and town. Festivals were cancelled or curtailed, most people still dressing in black (or wearing black ribbons) over a month after his death, and memorials and commemorative videos found in bus stations, temples, and the metro.

Alongside this respect for the monarch lies a coercive tradition: Thailand's strict lèse-majesté laws (prohibiting criticism of the royal family) inhibit freedom of speech, and have been used against activists as a weapon. Dissent is a social taboo, as well as illegal under Article 112 of the Penal Code. Although the lèse-majesté laws only apply to the King, Queen, Royal Heir (now Rama X), and Regent, they have been widely used for suppression, even for those who mock the King’s favourite dog, Thong Daeng (Copper), and the Crown Prince’s poodle Foo Foo, who was elevated to the status of Air Marshal, complete with uniform. Many are arrested for innocuous Facebook comments and hyperlinks.

Since the most recent coup of 2014, a military government has been in place, and their rhetoric reinforces their position as protector and champion of the monarchy. So it was an interesting time to visit Thailand for the first time!

This report was written by a Rwandan researcher, working with War Resisters' International and Connection e.V.

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Read this report as a pdf

Rwanda is a landlocked African country with a recent history of war and conflict. In 1990, a rebel army, formed by mostly exiled Tutsi refugees, attacked the regular army from Uganda. The war lasted four years and the rebel group, the Rwandese Patriotic Front, took control of the country and ended the genocide of 1994. Its military branch, the Rwandese Patriotic Army, integrated some of the regular defeated army and became the Rwanda Defence Forces.

This report examines barriers to leaving the armed forces in Rwanda over the past decade. It is based on the testimonies of former soldiers who have deserted the army (we use 'respondent a, b, c and d' to designate them. Anonymity is important for their security). We find that:

generally, soldiers recruited between 1990 and 2012 were not given employment contracts anyone recruited in this period (including those still in the armed forces currently) have no clear process for leaving the military for soldiers recruited in this period still in the military, ability to leave the military is at the discretion of commanding officers the consequences of desertion can be grave, yet difficulties in finding lawful ways to leave the army mean that desertion remains the only option for many the right of conscientious objection to military service is not respected.

1st December is Prisoners for Peace Day: a chance to show solidarity with those imprisoned or their work for peace. Use this list to contact those currently in jail.

During November and December, Tamar Alon, Atalya Ben Abba and Tamar Ze'evi will refuse to conscript and serve the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. So this Prisoners for Peace Day we are also organising an international day of action with Mesarvot (a network of Israeli organisations, groups and individuals who support political conscientious objectors) when we declare: THEY REFUSE to serve the occupation, WE refuse to profit from it. Vigils will take place outside arms manufacturing facilities and other locations calling on governments to stop arming the Israeli occupation rather than profiting from it. Could you arrange an action near you? Contact mesarvot.im@gmail.com, and share the Facebook event.

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To the press and the public;

While the society is being tried to be made more hostile within each other day by day with the militarist and nationalist speeches that have increased after the termination of the solution process, the militarist pressure on the society is now changing shape. In these days when the militarist language is becoming dominant, the pressure on the society doesn’t remain as just words. In this context; the provisions of the law which have been in force for years but have never been applied in practice, have started to being put into practice.

Tamar Alon, Atalya Ben Abba and Tamar Ze'evi are facing imprisonment for refusing to serve the Israeli occupation. Support them by joining us on December 1st for an international day of action.

Vigils will take place outside arms manufacturing facilities and other locations calling on governments to stop arming the Israeli occupation rather than profiting from it.

As long as Europe trades with the Israeli weapon industry - the occupation will continue. As long as the US continue to arm Israel and buy its weapons - young Israelis will continue to be imprisoned for refusing to aim these weapons toward civilians.

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THEY REFUSE to gas civilians, will the US refuse to buy Israeli teargas?
THEY REFUSE to shoot civilians, will EAST ASIA refuse to buy Israel guns?
THEY REFUSE to bomb Gaza, will we call OUR COUNTRIES to refuse to trade drones with Israel?

THEY REFUSE to serve the occupation, WE refuse to profit from it.
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We share the conscientious objection declaration by Hilal Demir, first published in Women and Conscientious Objection - An Anthology

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I don't want to live in a world that is sexist, hierarchic, authoritarian, militarist and patriarchal.

I do not want them to give me their system-based school education…

I do not want people to die in wars because they are deceived.

I do not want to have to prove that I am a fully intelligent being and individual, just because I am a woman.

I do not want to brush aside the state's war policies and their lies.

I do not want militaries that train dummies to die in wars…

I do not want people to decide for me about anything without asking me…

I do not want to see militarist concepts and behaviours within our movements…

I do not want to live under patriarchic rules and behaviors that invade my private life.

I do not want antbody to judge people's sexual identities.

I do not want to be ruled by labels such as "mother", "wife", "daughter", "girlfriend" just because I am a woman…

I do not want to live fenced in by borders…

I do not want to kill and be killed…

And.. I am rejecting all of these by listening to my conscience…

Because I WANT to live free and happy, in a world where there is no war, or any kind of violence, anti-authoritarian, without borders.

And you?

Hilal Demir, 2005 Izmir

19 years old high school student Risto Miinalainen started to serve his 173 days prison sentence today 4 Oct. A group of 20 people, composed of his friends and activists of Finnish Union of Conscientious Objetors, walked with him from his school to the gates of Helsinki prison through the centre of the city today.

Risto was charged on "refusal from civilian service" (siviilipalveluksesta kieltäytyminen). He was sentenced by Eastern Uusimaa district court (Itä-Uudenmaan käräjäoikeus) on 20 April 2016. Helsinki sppeal court (Helsingin hovioikeus) refused to give him a permission to appeal on 6 July. Majority of Finnish total objectors are sentenced to home detention instead of prison, but Risto chose the prison sentence after reading about the negative experiences of some total objectors who has been sentenced to home detention.

No to Compulsory Military Service Movement supports the Conscientious Objector Kamal El-ghety in his request to be excepted from the compulsory Military Education subject. The universities organization law requires every Egyptian male student to attend a subject on Military Education in order to get his graduation certificate.

Kamal has submitted a written request addressed to Cairo University dean Mr. Gaber Gad Nassar asking him to exclude the former from attending the Military Education subject. The subject contradicts with his pacifist beliefs, and his discomfort with being used as a tool in armed conflicts. The subject promotes for values such as blind disobedience making it a crime to reject any order as well as it discriminates between Egyptians on terms of their gender, according to El-ghety. Forcing El-ghety to attend the subject is a blatant violation of the international law, and article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights in particular that bans any “coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.” Cairo University has rejected El-ghety’s request.

Video featuring Accion colectiva de objetores y objetoras de conscienca (Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors), by FOR Peace Presence

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