SWITZERLAND: Conscientious objector starts hunger strike today


Today conscientious objector Marino Keckeis began a hunger strike, demanding civilian service instead of prison. Marino Keckeis declared his conscientious objection in March 1996, and applied for civilian service on February 1997. However, his application was turned down, and he was called up for military service in February 1999. He didn't follow his call-up, and was subsequently sentenced to five months imprisonment on 18 December 2001. On 15 January 2002, Marino Keckeis started his prison sentence in Luzern. Although Switzerland passed a law on conscientious objection in a referendum in 1992, this law limits the freedom of conscience seriously. Not only is civilian service considerably longer than military service, also the accepted reasons for conscientious objection are limited. In practice, many conscientious objectors don't apply for CO status, but find another way out - often with psychological help. Of those who apply, about 8 out of 10 are accepted - Marino Keckeis is one of those whose applications were turned down. Marino Keckeis begins a hunger strike today, in order to protest against a practice that leads to the imprisonment of conscientious objectors. The Swiss Zivildienstkomitee (Civilian Service Committee) supports Marino Keckeis, and released a petition to the Swiss Federal Council and the Federal Parliament, calling for the abolition of any judgement of conscience (see below).

War Resisters' International supports Marino Keckeis in his hunger strike, and calls for his immediate release. War Resisters' International calls for letters of protest to Swiss authorities, and Swiss embassies abroad. War Resisters' International asks you to consider signing the petition below.

Andreas Speck
War Resisters' International


To the Swiss Federal Council
and the Federal Parliament

Freedom of Conscience: Civillian Service, not Prison

Honoured Chancelors,
Honoured Members of Parliament

Marino Keckeis was condemned to five months in prison on the 18th of December 2001 by the Military Cassation Court on charges of refusing to do military service (Art. 81 MSt). This despite his explicitly expressed will to perform Civilian Service, and disregarding the fact that he had officially applied for addmission thereto. Both the Commission for Admissions (of the Civilian Service Authorities) and the Appeal Council (EVD) rejected his application stating that he was not able to convince them of an “inner conflict of conscience” to their satisfaction. Marino Keckeis is one of many!
Such arguments are regularly used to prevent applicants from performing a service to the community that complies with their conscience.

We, the undersigned, condemn the Military Justice’s treatment of Marino Keckeis. We also condemn the admission modus practiced by the Civilian Service Authorities, and demand:

* The abolition of Judgement of Conscience and that the will to perform Civilian Service be accepted as reason for admittance.
* That steps be taken to prevent cases like Marino’s ever happening again.

Surname Name Address Signature 1._______________________________________________________________ 2._______________________________________________________________ 3._______________________________________________________________ 4._______________________________________________________________ 5._______________________________________________________________ 6._______________________________________________________________ 7._______________________________________________________________ 8._______________________________________________________________ 9._______________________________________________________________ 10.______________________________________________________________

Schweizerisches Zivildienstkomitee, Postfach 9777, CH-8036 Zürich