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.

Conscientious objector groups from the eastern Mediterranean region have recently issued a statement on the ongoing military crisis in their region. Declaring their solidarity with refugees escaping from war and repression, they made a call to the international community to pursue peaceful solutions, rather than militarised ones, for the ongoing violence in the region. “The world's reaction to the current regional violence,” the statement declares, “should be building societies, assisting refugees, and mediating between fighting parties, not selling arms, bombings and providing military assistance.”

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ONUR EREM / @onurerem - BİRGÜN NEWSPAPER

Turkish courts have released the detailed ruling against Yannis Vasilis Yaylali, a conscientious objector from Turkey who was convicted for violating a highly controversial penal code, Article 318 – “alienating public from military service”. The details show that Turkish courts are having a go at philosophy in order to sentence Yaylali to 7 months and 15 days in prison. The court simply argued that Yaylali’s thoughts are not real thoughts, thus he can’t benefit from freedom of thought!

We are conscientious objectors from all around the eastern Mediterranean region. Our region has suffered for so long from oppression, injustice, militarisation, military occupations and wars, as well as poverty, illiteracy, hunger and lack of social infrastructure. In this difficult period, when our region seems to fall even more into the chaos of war, we raise a common voice for peace and against militarisation.

We refuse to allow this cycle of violence, initiated by oppressive states and economic interests, to continue; we refuse to be a part of it; we refuse to be enemies with people who just happen to be of a different nationality or religion; we will not be dragged into their wars and armies leading to death and destruction in the region.

Ukrainian journalist and CO Ruslan Kotsaba is on trial in Ivano-Frankivsk. Ruslan has been in detention for almost a year, charged with treason and obstructing the military.  In a video addressed to the Ukrainian President, he declared his refusal to be drafted, saying he would rather go to prison for five years than turn a weapon on his "compatriots in the east".

Draft Law 4020 has been adopted by the Ukrainian government. The law, instigated by President Poroshenko, allows the President, in 'special circumstances' e.g. during military mobilisation, to give only one months' notice of the draft. Notice is given in the media.

However, conscientious objectors who wish to apply for an alternative service need to apply two months before their call up. So in theory, if this practice is applied, it may make it impossible to take advantage of the right of alternative service.

Editorial

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Stories in this edition of this CO Update remind me of the importance of solidarity with conscientious objectors.

The Syrian Human Rights Network has accused the Syrian regime of arresting civilians for forced army conscription, saying it has documented more than 1,000 cases of arrest for this purpose in the past six weeks alone.

Children are also being recruited by different warring parties, UNICEF say. At least several hundred children were recruited in 2015, and thousands killed or injured in the conflict.

In Cyprus, conscripts deemed to be 'mentally unfit' (here we quote the government source, and apologise for the language) will no longer be able to secure a full discharge but will be required to serve in the army for a period one-third longer than the normal stint, under new legislation designed to deter potential 'draft dodgers'.

Defence minister Christoforos Fokaides told Daily Politis that draftees diagnosed with psychological problems would serve out an alternative service, not at military installations but at defence-related services.

Ukrainian journalist and CO Ruslan Kotsaba is on trial in Ivano-Frankivsk. Ruslan has been in detention for almost a year, charged with treason and obstructing the military. In a video addressed to the Ukrainian President, he declared his refusal to be drafted, saying he would rather go to prison for five years than turn a weapon on his "compatriots in the east". He called on his fellow countrymen to refuse to be drafted. Ukrainian law does allow individuals to refuse military service, but this right is confined to a small group of religious minorities. He could face 15 years in gaol. Observers from DFG-VK were present, and rallied outside the court. The trial is ongoing.

We are working on creating an interactive map of conscription, and the way conscientious objectors are treated in different countries. This will be part of the “World survey of conscription and conscientious objection to military service” project. This interactive map will make information on conscription and objection more accessible and more clear visually, so it may be used for campaigning as well as research.

We have started collecting information through a questionnaire, but still missing contacts in many countries. If you have the relevant information on one of the following countries, please email taya@wri-irg.org: Algeria, Burkino Faso, Cambodia, China, Comoros, Dominican Republic, Gambia, Honduras, Jamaica, Liechenstein, Malaysia, Myanmar,  Samoa, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago.

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