ISRAEL: Court martials against conscientious objectors coming to an end
The two court martials against conscientious objectors in Israel will be coming to an end soon. In the court-martial against Jonathan Ben-Artzi (ISR12371), the date for the verdict has been set for 12 November 2003. In the trial against the five refusers Haggai Matar (ISR12701), Matan Kaminer (ISR12840), Noam Bahat (ISR12842), Adam Maor (ISR12843), and Shimri Tzamaret (ISR12847) the prosecution summed up his case on 4 November 2003. On 11 November the defence will be presented, so that in this trial to the verdict is not too far away. Both trials drag on since early 2003 - for more than half a year by now. On 21 February 2003, War Resisters' International sent out a first co-alert on Jonathan Ben-Artzi's court martial (http://wri-irg.org/news/htdocs/21022003a.html). The court martial of Haggai Matar started on 26 February 2003 (see http://wri-irg.org/news/htdocs/21022003a.html). The others followed soon after. On 23 February 2003, the War Resisters' International Executive issued a statement, calling on Israel to recognise the right to conscientious objection (http://wri-irg.org/statemnt/co-isr03-en.htm). In this statement, War Resisters' International called on the Israeli government: "- to recognise the right to conscientious objection, and to pass a law on conscientious objections according to the standards set out in UN Commission on Human Rights resolutions 1998/77 and 2002/45; - to immediately release all imprisoned conscientious objectors, and to postpone call-up for all those who declare their conscientious objections to military service until a law has been introduced."
During the court martials, the conscientious objectors explained their position clearly, and exposed the realities of the occupation. On the other hand, the military witnesses exposed their complete lack of knowledge on issues of conscientious objection, and the arbitrary way the so-called "conscience committee" decides on selected cases of conscientious objectors became obvious (the testimony of Colonel Shlomi Simchi, chairman of the conscience committee, can be read at http://wri-irg.org/news/2003/yba-simchi.htm).
All six conscientious objectors now face prison terms of up to 3 years. All six already spent time in military prison - up to 200 days.
War Resisters' International calls for letters of protest to Israeli authorities, and Israeli embassies abroad. An email letter can be sent at http://wri-irg.org/co/alerts/20031106b.html.
War Resisters' International calls for the immediate release of all imprisoned conscientious objectors.
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