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In December, War Resisters' International has submitted a report to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The submission was in response to the OHCHR's request for information on different approaches and challenges with regard to application procedures for conscientious objection to military service.

In early July, following years of campaigning from anti-nuclear activists, the United Nations formally adopted a treaty that categorically prohibits nuclear weapons. Read more from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. This news was met with joy amongst those staying at the Coulport Disarmament camp – run by Trident Ploughshares – who undertook ten days of direct action at the nuclear weapons depot on Loch Long.

From the Quaker United Nations Office:

 The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a call for inputs on the issue of conscientious objection to military service (see attached file).

The compiled information will lead to a new UN report on the topic. The report will provide the most comprehensive outline

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Rachel Brett (LLM in International Human rights Law) is a British Quaker based in Geneva, Switzerland, where she is an Adviser to the Quaker UN Office, having just retired as their Human Rights & Refugees Representative after 21 years during which she helped to gain recognition of conscientious objection to military service as a human right. She serves on the War Resisters' International Right to Refuse to Kill Committee. Here, she gives as an overview of conscientious objection in international law.

Explicit international recognition of a right to conscientiously object to military service is relatively new with only two regional human rights standards doing so: the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Ibero-American Youth Convention. However, older international and regional human rights treaties – specifically the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Human Rights Convention – have been reinterpreted to include conscientious objection to military service, and various of the UN's human rights bodies and mechanisms have endorsed conscientious objection.

The United Nations has released a damning report into the operations of Canadian mining company Nevsun Resources in Eritrea, which accuses the company of using conscripted labour at it's Bisha Mine in the country. Nevsun estimated that the mine held over a billion pounds of copper and 2.7 billion pounds of zinc.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has found that the state of Turkmenistan has violated Article 7, Article 10(1), Article 14(7) because he was tried and sentenced twice for his refusal to do military service and Article 18(1).

7.2...The Committee takes note of the author’s claim that, upon arrival at the LBK-12 prison on 3 April 2012, he was subjected to ill-treatment by the prison guards in violation of article 7 of the Covenant. It notes that the author has provided a detailed description of the manner in which he was ill-treated while in isolation, as well as the identity of the organizer of his ill-treatment. The author claimed that he was placed in the colony’s isolation block for 10 days, was beaten, subjected to “goose stepping”, doing push-ups, running, and sitting on the floor with stretched-out legs. The Committee further notes that the author’s detailed allegations and his argumentation regarding the lack of adequate mechanisms for investigation of torture claims in Turkmenistan were not refuted by the State party. The Committee also recalls that complaints of ill-treatment must be investigated promptly and impartially by competent authorities.1 In the absence of any other pertinent information on file, the Committee decides that due weight must be given to the author’s allegations. Accordingly, it concludes that the facts as presented reveal a violation of the author’s rights under article 7 of the Covenant.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has issued guidelines on claims to refugee status related to military service. These Guidelines focus on individuals who seek international protection as refugees to avoid recruitment and service in State armed forces, including conscientious objectors, as well as forced recruitment by non-State armed groups. They provide guidance for governments, decision makers, lawyers and the judiciary as well as UNHCR staff.

Since the 1950s, the right to conscientious objection to military service in international human rights law has excited the interest of both non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations in a variety of contexts. This book examines the subject, beginning with an exploration of the concept of conscience and its evolution with a view toward understanding the meaning and potential scope of the right to conscientious objection from a legal perspective. It also describes the different categories into which conscientious objectors can be divided, explain the differences between these categories, and investigate how these differences are interpreted at national and international levels. It then investigates the right to conscientious objection as a legitimate exercise of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion in international human rights law. In this regard, this book deeply analyzes human rights law at both the international and regional level, examining UN, European, and Inter-American mechanisms.

Research from Child Soldiers International suggests that the Burmese military is still recruiting children, one year after the Myanmar government made a commitment to the United Nations to stop doing so. Whilst they did release 66 children from the military last month, many more remain. The Tatmadaw (the Myanmar Armed Forces) has continued to recruit since it signed the Joint Action Plan with the UN last year, although in lower numbers than those previously reported.

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