COLOMBIA: Conscientious objector Cristian Camilo Henao Suaza since 8 October 2008 in the hands of the military


War Resisters' International has been working for month for the release from military service of conscientious objector Cristian Camilo Henao Suaza.

Cristian Camilo Henao Suaza was recruited on 7 October 2008 against his will, and is presently serving as regular conscript in the infantry unit No 32 of Batallon Pedro Justo Berrio in Medellin, Colombia. He was recruited although he had made clear to the soldiers recruiting him that his conscience does not allow him to serve in any military.

Red Juvenil de Medellin, an organisation affiliated to WRI, received his declaration as conscientious objector on 15 January 2009. Cristian Camilo Henao Suaza presented an application for discharge to protect his fundamental rights, especially the right to conscientious objection, on 25 April 2009. In its reply the battalion did not refer to the right to conscientious objection, but only referred to law 48/1993 on military recruitment. At the moment he is detained at the Batallón Pedro Justo Barria del Ejercito Nacional de Colombia in Medellin.

War Resisters' International has presented three cases of recruitment of Colombian young men to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. In its opinion on these three cases, the Working Group said that “The Working Group considers that although law 48 of 1993 with which recruitment and mobilisation are regulated establishes in its article 42 sanctions for those who ignore registration, the drawing of lots, or the call-up, and generally for those who deliberately when summoned to register for military service do not present themselves, those sanctions are exclusively of pecuniary character or a fine. Under no circumstances do they authorise arrest, detention or the incorporation into the Armed Forces against the expressly declared will.” And: “Nor is there any legal basis or juridical support for the practice of batidas, redadas or levas for the purpose of detaining young men who cannot produce documentation of their military situation on streets and in public places.

In the case of Cristian Camilo Henao Suaza, who is a conscientious objector, an additional element of illegality of his recruitment has to be considered. In its Opinion No 8/2008, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stated: “The detention of those who have expressly declared as conscientious objectors does not have juridical support nor a legal basis and their incorporation into the army against their will is a clear violation of their postulates of conscience, which can violate article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Not to provide space for the right to conscientious objection can be a violation of said article”.

War Resisters' International calls for urgent protest emails to:

Batallon Pedro Justo Berrio Medellin
Cra. 70 No. 1-50 Belen las Playas

Ministro de Defensa Nacional
Dr Gabriel Silva LUJÁN
Avenida El Dorado Carrera 52 OFI.217
Centro Administrativo Nacional (CAN)
Bogota, Colombia
Tel.: +57-1-2660179
Fax: +57-1-266 0351
A protest email (in Spanish) can be sent at /node/8660.

Defensoria del Pueblo Medellin
Carrera 42 No. 47 - 21 (Medellín - Antioquia)
Tel.: +57-2181577 -2163826 -2160605
Defensora del pueblo regional: Sandra María Rojas Manrique

War Resisters' International calls for the immediate release of Cristian Camilo Henao Suaza from military service.

Andreas Speck
War Resisters' International