The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations declares raids on potential recruits and the recruitment of conscientious objectors “arbitrary detention”.

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War Resisters' International
5 Caledonian Rd, London N1 9DX, Britain

London, 25 September 2008

Press Communique

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations declares raids on potential recruits and the recruitment of conscientious objectors “arbitrary detention”.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [1] declared in its Opinion No 8/2008 (Colombia) the practice of recruitment in the form of raids (batidas), and the recruitment of conscientious objectors a form of “arbitrary detention”.

In 2007, War Resisters' International (WRI) [2], a network of pacifist and antimilitarist organisations with affiliated organisations in 40 countries, including Colombia, presented three cases from Colombia to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention:

Frank Yair Estrada Marín was detained by members of the army in May 2007 during a 'batida', and was recruited by force. Frank Yair Estrada Marín declared himself a conscientious objector.
Carlos Andrés Giraldo Hincapié was detained during a batida in August 2006, and recruited by force. He too declared himself conscientious objector.
Alejandro de Jesús Gonzáles Duque was detained on 8 April 2007 during a batida. He was released a few days later.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention decided on these cases on 8 May 2008, and transmitted this decision to War Resisters' International on 25 September 2008. In all three cases the Working Group concluded that “the deprivation of liberty of which Mr Estrada Marin, Giraldo Hincapie and Gonzales Duque were victims was arbitrary, and in contravention of article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

In the two cases of conscientious objection the Working Group concluded that “with reference to Mr Estrada Marin and Giraldo Hincapie, contravened also article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, corresponding to category I of the categories applied by the Working Group.”

The Working Group is very clear on the right to conscientious objection and states: “The detention of those who have expressively declared themselves conscientious objectors does not have a juridical substance nor a legal base, and their incorporation into the army against their will is a clear violation of their assumption of conscience which can violate article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Not to provide a space for the right to conscientious objection can be a violation of this article.”
About the 'batidas', the Working Group states: “Neither does the practice of 'batidas', raids, or 'levas' with the aim to detain youth who cannot confirm their military situation in the streets or public spaces a legal basis or juridical substance.”
The opinion of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is very important for Colombia, especially for two reasons:

1.The Working Group clarifies that the practice of 'batidas' is illegal and constitutes arbitrary detention in all cases, not only in cases of conscientious objectors.
2.The Working Group clarifies that the sentences of the Constitutional Court of Colombia about conscientious objection to military service do not conform with international law, and that not to provide a space for the right to conscientious objection can be a violation of article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. [3].

Since May 2007, WRI jointly with the groups of the National Assembly of Conscientious Objectors ( Asamblea Nacional de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia (ANOOC)) [4] give out “Conscientious Objectors' Cards” to declared conscientious objectors, and maintain a database of conscientious objectors in Colombia [5]. Until today, more than 100 persons declared themselves conscientious objectors.

Andreas Speck
War Resisters' International

More information:
Andreas Speck +44-20-7278 4040 (English, German)
Red Juvenil de Medellín: +57-4-239 36 70 (Spanish)
Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia: +57-1-8025619 (Spanish)

Notes for journalists:
[1] The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was established by resolution 1991/42 of the Commission on Human Rights. The mandate of the Working Group was clarified and extended by Commission resolution 1997/50, and confirmed by resolutions 2000/36, 2003/31, General Assembly resolution 60/251 and Human Rights Council decision 2006/102, as well as resolution 6/4.
More information: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/detention/index.htm
[2] More information: http://wri-irg.org/en
[3] In the opinion of the Human Rights Committee about Communucations Nos 1321/2004 and 1322/2004 – Republic of Korea – under article 5, paragraph 4 of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Committee specifies that article 8 of the International Covenant neither recognises nor excludes a right to conscientious objection. The Comittee specifies that article 18 paragraph three of the International Covenant, by proclaiming the right to manifest ones religion or belief, provides certain protection from acts which imply a coercion to act against ones genuine religious beliefs. Although some necessary restriction to protect public order and security may be allowed, these restrictions cannot affect the essence of this right (paragraphs 8.2 and 8.3).
[4] The National Assembly of Conscientious Objectors (Asamblea Nacional de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia) ANOOC is a space for the articulation and coordination of organisations and groups of the diverse regions of Colombia which promote conscientious objection to all armed groups, state and non-state, with a perspective of nonviolence.
More information http://www.objecioncolombia.org
[5] War Resisters' International is now working closely with the National Assembly of Conscientious Objectors on an international strategy of protection and accompaniment for conscientious objectors. Part of this strategy is a "Tarjeta Objetor/a de Conciencia", issued by War Resisters' International to those Colombian conscientious objectors who want it. In some way, the libreta objetor/a de conciencia is a form of "virtual accompaniment", similar to the physical accompaniment Peace Brigades International tries to provide to some threatened human rights activists in Colombia (and elsewhere). This CO card is based on a WRI database of conscientious objectors in Colombia, which will allow to act quickly in case of recruitment of a conscientious objector.

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