Conscientious objector Cristian Camilo Henao Suaza

Not sent after

Use this form to send the letter below to the relevant authority (Minister of Defence GABRIEL SILVA LUJÁN). You can add your own notes in a separate box after the standard text, if you wish. You must include a name, address, and email address; a copy will be sent to you with a cc to the WRI office (so we have a record of how many email letters have been sent out for this particular case).

Dear Gabriel Silva Lujan,

I am very concerned about the situation of conscientious objector Cristian Camilo Henao Suaza (C.C. 1020434627), who was recruited against his will on 7 October 2008, and is still serving against his expressed will and conscience at the Batallon Pedro Justo Berrio in Medellin.

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.

Two important legal aspects are to be considered in the case of Cristian Camilo Henao Suaza:

1. The way of recruitment. Recruitment is regulated in Colombian law 48 of 1993. While this law requires to "clarify ones military situation when someone reaches the age of 18" (Art 14), failure to do so can only be punished with a fine (Art 41 and 42). The law does not specify that in such cases the normal recruitment procedure, as outlined in Articles 14-21 of the law, does no longer apply. The recruitment of Cristian Camilo Henao Suaza is therefore illegal under Colombian law and international law.

2. The right to conscientious objection. Colombia is signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The right to conscientious objection is recognised by the United Nations Human Rights Committee as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, as guaranteed by Article 18 ICCPR. In fact, in a recent decision on two cases of conscientious objectors from South Korea, the Human Rights Committee stated that not to provide for the right to conscientious objection is a violation of Article 18 ICCPR (see CCPR/C/88/D/1321-1322/2004 from 23 January 2007).

In its Opinion No 8/2008 on three cases from Colombia, 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”

I therefore urge you to immediately release Cristian Camilo Henao Suaza from military service. I urge you to respect human rights.