Juan Diego Agudelo is a young campesino in the municipality of Andes, a few hours southwest of Medellin. He works on a farm to help support his parents and two little sisters; his father’s income as a day-laborer is not enough to feed the whole family. On 5 September 2010, Juan Diego Agudelo was grocery-shopping for his family in town when soldiers came up to him and asked for his papers. When he told them he did not have his military service booklet, he was pushed into a truck and taken to the 11th battalion of the 4th Brigade. They took away his identification and have still not returned it to him.
In Juan Diego Agudelo’s words, “Since that day I have been in the base against my will, because I do not want to perform obligatory military service. In the first place, because my moral principles don’t let me participate in the war and so I do not want to be part of any army or armed force. And second, because my highest priorities are my family, which needs me to continue to work, and to continue my high school studies, which I had to temporarily suspend because of the economic difficulties in my family.” The day after he signed this declaration of conscientious objection, the soldiers in the battalion asked who did not want to be there. Juan Diego Agudelo replied that he did not want to be in the army because he does not agree with the war. The soldiers laughed, made fun of him, and answered that there wasn’t a chance in hell they would let him go.
The recruitment of Juan Diego Agudelo is illegal under Colombian and international law for several reasons:
1. Recruitment during a 'batida'
Recruitment is regulated in Colombian law 48 of 1993. While this law requires to "clarify ones military situation when someone reaches the age of 18" (Art 14). However, failure to do so can only be punished with a fine (Art 41 and 42). The law does not specify that in such cases the normal recruitment procedure, as outlined in Articles 14-21 of the law, does no longer apply.
In addition, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention 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".
2. Conscientious objection
On 14 October 2009, the Constitutional Court decided that there is a right to conscientious objection to military service under the Colombian constitution (see CO-Update No 52, November/December 2009). The court stresses that even though no legislation governing the right to conscientious objection exists, it is immediately applicable, and protection can be thought through a tutela (writ for protection), in case it is not recognised.
War Resisters' International calls for letters of protest to:
- Rodrigo Rivera Salazar, Minister of Defence of Colombia. A protest email (in Spanish) can be sent at http://wri-irg.org/node/11481
- Juan Carlos Quiroz Osorio, Comandante Cuarta Zona de Reclutamiento. A protest email (in Spanish) can be sent at http://wri-irg.org/node/11480
War Resisters' International calls for the immediate release of Juan Diego Agudelo from military service.
War Resisters' International