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Colombia: Conscientious objectors submit the question of unconstitutionality to Constitutional Court

On 18 March, several Colombian groups submitted a claim of unconstitutionality of article 27 of the Colombian recruitment law from 1993 to the Colombian Constitutional Court. The claim was submitted by the Public Interest Group of the Law Faculty of the Universidad de Los Andes, Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia (ACOOC), CIVIS and the Observatorio de Constitucionalidad de la Universidad de los Andes. In their submission it is claimed that the government of Colombia failed to provide for the right to conscientious objection, in violation of article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Colombian constitution.
Colombia's Constitutional Court has previously dealt with the issue of conscientious objection in judgments dating back to 1992, 1993, and 1995, denying that the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as granted by Colombia constitution includes the right to conscientious objection. In their submissions, the claimants show that international law on the right to conscientious objection has developed considerably since then, notably with the decision of the United Nations Human Rights Committee on South Korea in 2007 (see co-update No 27, February 2007), and the opinion of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on Colombia (see co-update No 42, October 2008).
The issue of conscientious objection was also part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Colombia. Again Slovenia brought up conscientious objection. It noted: "Following the concern expressed by the Human Rights Committee in 2004 that Colombia does not allow conscientious objection to military service, Slovenia recommended that Colombia (a) recognize this right in law and practice and ensure that recruitment methods allow it. The State should guarantee that conscientious objectors are able to opt for alternative service, the duration of which would not have punitive effects."

However, Colombia did not accept this recommendation, and stated: "The Colombian Constitution and the legal framework establish that all citizens have the obligation to enroll in the military service when the circumstances so require to defend the National sovereignty and the public institutions and to provide security conditions for all citizens. This obligation has been upheld on several occasions by the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court."

Sources: ACOOC: Comunicado de Prensa: Demanda de inconstitucionalidad del artículo 27 de la ley de reclutamiento, 18 March 2009; Human Rights Council: Universal Periodic Review: Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Colombia, A/HRC/10/82, 9 January 2009; Human Rights Council: Universal Periodic Review: Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Colombia, Addendum: Views on conclusions and/or recommendations, voluntary commitments and replies presented by the State under review, A/HRC/10/82/Add.1, 13 January 2009