BRITAIN: Conscientious objector sentenced to eight month in prison
War Resisters' International is very concerned about the sentencing of
British conscientious objector Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith
(UK14787). The RAF doctor refused to serve in Iraq because he believed
the war to be illegal. He was jailed for eight months on 13 April 2006.
According to a report in The
Independent of 14 April 2006, bitter accusations and
recriminations dominated the trial, which took place at Aldershot
barracks. At an earlier hearing, Assistant Judge Advocate Jack Bayliss
had ruled the doctor could not use the defence that in refusing
military orders he had acted according to his conscience. The judge
maintained that the US and British forces were now in Iraq at the
invitation of the Iraqi government.
Judge Advocate Bayliss also refused to allow the defence to call as
witnesses, among others, Ben Griffin, a member of the SAS who resigned
from the Army because he believed the Iraq war was illegal and who
refused to serve alongside US forces because of the excesses they
committed. Also barred was an Iraqi doctor who had flown to Britain to
describe his experience of what has happened to the country following
During the hearing Kendall-Smith repeatedly expressed his view that an
order for him to deploy to Basra was illegal. He also described the
actions of the Americans in Iraq as being akin to the Nazis.
It took the military jury of five RAF officers just one hour and 28
minutes to find Kendall-Smith guilty on all five charges of disobeying
Judge Advocate Bayliss accused Kendall-Smith, a former university tutor
of moral philosophy, of "amazing arrogance" and seeking to be a
"martyr". The sentence was intended to make an example of him and serve
as a warning to others in the forces.
"Obedience of orders is at the heart of any disciplined force. Refusal
to obey orders means the force is not a disciplined force but a rabble.
Those who wear the Queen's uniform cannot pick and choose which orders
they will obey. Those who seek to do so must face the serious
consequences," he said.
"We have considered carefully whether it would be sufficient to dismiss
you from the Royal Air Force and fine you as well. We do not think that
we could possibly be justified in taking such a lenient course. It
would send a message to all those who wear the Queen's uniform that it
does not matter if they refuse to carry out the policy of Her Majesty's
Independent, 14 April 2006)
Malcom Kendall-Smith stated shortly after the court-martial:
"I have been convicted and sentenced, a very distressing
experience. But I still believe I was right to make the stand that I
did and refuse to follow orders to deploy to Iraq - orders I believe
were illegal. I am resigned to what may happen to me in the next few
months. I shall remain resilient and true to my beliefs which, I
believe, are shared by so many others.
Iraq was the only reason I could not follow the order to deploy.
As a commissioned officer, I am required to consider every order given
to me. Further, I am required to consider the legality of such an order
not only as to its effect on domestic but also international law. I was
subjected, as was the entire population, to propaganda depicting force
against Iraq to be lawful. I have studied in very great depth the
various commentaries and briefing notes, including one prepared by the
Attorney General, and in particular the main note to the PM dated 7
March 2003. I have satisfied myself that the actions of the armed
forces with the deployment of troops were an illegal act - as indeed
was the conflict. To comply with an order that I believe unlawful
places me in breach of domestic and international law, something I am
not prepared to do.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq is a campaign of imperial
military conquest and falls into the category of criminal acts. I would
have had criminal responsibility vicariously if I had gone to Iraq. I
still have two great loves in life - medicine and the RAF. To take the
decision that I did caused great sadness, but I had no other choice."
War Resisters' International calls for letters of support to Malcom
Kendall-Smith. Letters of support can be sent to his solicitor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
War Resisters' International calls for letters of protest to John Reid,
Minister of Defence, email email@example.com.
A protest email can be sent at /co/alerts/20060417a.html
War Resisters' International calls for the lifting of the sentence
against Malcom Kendall-Smith and the recognition of the right to
War Resisters' International
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