COLOMBIA: Conscientious objector arrested
Conscientious objector Jhonatan David Vargas Becerra was arrested by the police on 4 September in the city of Barrancabermeja, Santander.
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Jhonatan was forcibly recruited by the army against his will in March 2013. He has always stated that his religious beliefs prevented him from exercising violence or belonging to armed groups, and he therefore refused to perform compulsory military service. On 14 June 2013 Jhonatan received permission to travel to his homes for leave. He decided not to return to the battalion, as the only alternative to ensure his right to conscientious objection.
For over a year Jhonatan has been undertaking legal actions, seeking to ensure his right to conscientious objection. His case has been selected by the Constitutional Court for review. Despite this, on 29 August 2014 military authorities informed Jhonatan that he was considered a deserter, and begun a military criminal proceeding against him.
On 4 September, 2014, at 8:30 pm, on leaving the Industrial University of Santander, Jhonatan was approached by police at a checkpoint where his identification documents were requested. On examining his identity card, the arrest warrant was flagged, so they detained him and took him to the police station. The next day he was transferred to the Battalion Nueva Granada and he will appear before the Military Criminal Judge.
A CO Alert in Spanish here is directed at the Director of Recruitment in Bogotá. Read the translation in English here.
As well as using our support email, please consider cutting and pasting the email form your own email address and sending it to: email@example.com (the army's Head of Human Rights) , firstname.lastname@example.org (military prosecutor); email@example.com,(the Battalion in Nueva Granada); firstname.lastname@example.org, (the Defensoria - a public protector) and email@example.com (Justapaz, Jhonatan's support group in Colombia).
You can also send it to the Colombian embassy in your own country - find a list here.
Please tell others about Jhonatan's arrest on social media, using #liberaJhonatan in Spanish, or #freejhonatan in English.
Find more information about Jhonatan here.
Hannah Brock, War Resisters' International