1 December – Support Prisoners for Peace

War Resisters' International Appeal

Igor SekeIgor Seke

In September 2001, when I demanded that the Serbian authorities recognise my right to CO there were 12 religious COs imprisoned in Serbia. Thanks to the campaign organised by the WRI and other peace groups, not only was I not jailed, but also these 12 imprisoned objectors were released in following months. Once the youth of Serbia lost its fear of being imprisoned for refusing to do military service, the CO movement started to grow rapidly, with more than 50%of the youth opting for CO in 2008. Loss of freedom is never easy, but none of the imprisoned objectors I've met ever said he regretted the decision to say no to the conscription.

Igor Seke, conscientious objector from Serbia

Since its foundation in 1921, the work for prisoners for peace – imprisoned conscientious objectors and peace activists – has been a central part of the work of War Resisters' International. As Igor Seke tells us, this work can be crucial not only for those concerned, but also for a young movement for conscientious objection. The work for prisoners for peace takes many different forms: writing letters to government authorities, organising international solidarity, and mobilising the support of the international human rights system, i.e. the United Nations.

Diego Yesid Bosa RicoDiego Yesid Bosa Rico

I was also told that inside this institution one is not obliged to leave his principles aside, but on the other hand, all of them keep on telling me that we “need to maintain our hatred to convert it into a cold, violent and efficient killing machine”. I feel insulted and attacked, I should not be here, I should be assisting my family and studying to be able to do a service that is really necessary to the community, and to give it to those who for the effects of violence and the huge war budget are getting more and more poor and loose all opportunities.

Diego Yesid Bosa Rico, Colombian conscientious objector recruited by the military on 23 February 2008.

This year, our work for Prisoners for Peace has seen some success. In spring, the pressure organised by War Resisters' International and Colombian CO organisations in the cases of recruited conscientious objectors Diego Yesid Bosa Rico and Diego Alexander Pulgarin Ossa led to the release of both objectors after a few months. In May 2008, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention gave an opinion on three cases submitted by War Resisters' International and declared the recruitment of conscientious objectors in Colombia a form of arbitrary detention, “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.” In a separate opinion, the Working Group declared the imprisonment of Turkish conscientious objector Halil Savda “arbitrary detention”.

Presently, War Resisters' International is developing an internet based Conscientious Objection Information System (COBIS), which will go live on 26 November 2008. This system will bring together all our efforts to support conscientious objectors, and integrate them. It will also include a permanent Prisoners for Peace list. This will make our work in support of Prisoners for Peace more visible and more effective.

We ask you to support our efforts to support conscientious objectors and Prisoners for Peace. Take some time on 1 December – Prisoners for Peace Day – to write letters to prisoners (see the included list). And – for us to be able to continue our work – give generously to support WRI's work in support of Prisoners for Peace.

Thank you.

(Andreas Speck)
Conscientious Objection Campaigning Worker