International Conscientious Objectors' Day 2007 focuses on Colombia, a country with more than 50 years of (civil) war and violence. A country also, where conscientious objectors face challenges different from elsewhere – the threat of involuntary recruitment not only coming from the state military, but also from the various irregular forces and guerillas in the country.
Colombia is one of the countries with the longest history of armed conflict – by now more than 50 years. Decades of war and violence by the state's military forces, paramilitaries, and different guerilla forces lead to a militarisation of the entire Colombian socierty. After several failed peace processes, the "war on terror" and its Colombian counterparts, the "Plan Colombia" and "Plan Patriota" lead to an escalation of the armed conflict.
Freedom of conscience and obligatory military service in the Political Constitution of Colombia The legal framework over recognition of conscientious objection in Colombia remains the contradiction between Articles 18 and 216 in the 1991 Constitution. In the chapter on fundamental rights, article 18 guarantees freedom of conscience: “nobody will be obliged to act against their conscience”.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó delegates from other Colombian peace communities and visitors from 14 countries met in settlements La Unión and San Josesito de Apartadó (where the Community resettled after police installed themselves on the territory of the original community) in the municipality of Apartadó, Antioquia province.
In Colombia, conscientious objection first became a topic in 1988 when a group of people (academics, philosophers, lawyers, intellectuals and church members) began to question obligatory military service.
Departing at 21:00 from Bogota on the bus fleet Rápico Ochoa bound for Medellin, the bus was held up at 12.45 a.m. by the National Armed Forces of the Municipality of Guaduas, Cundianamarca. We were held up on the motorway till 1.55 a.m. and later the army allowed us to rest at the Guadua Infantry Battalion, by which time it was 2:11 am, the very time one starts to imagine what may happen. There were 13 youths in the hangar where everyone was amusing themselves on their mobiles or joking around. I conveyed my position as Conscientious Objector to lieutenant Gómez.
The National Assembly of Conscientious Objectors (ANOOC) is a network of organizations and groups of different regions of Colombia who, with a nonviolent approach, promote conscientious objection against all – legal and illegal – armed groups.
One of the main concerns of the National Assembly has been the recruitment problem and the constant militarization of civil life by the different actors involved in Colombia’s armed conflict. That’s the reason why we decided on the following lines of action:
It was back in 1924 that there was the first instance of women objecting to compulsory military service. Union leader Carlota Rua, during the first Workers' Congress, opened the debate on the obligation of military service by arguing that young workers and peasants should not be taken from their land, where they contributed to the country with their work, to be forced into destroy it as part of the arm.
WRI/New Profile seminar in Tel Aviv, Israel, 23–26 August 2007
Today it is becoming increasingly clear that consistent feminism cannot do without a thorough analysis of militarism and that consistent antimilitarism cannot do without a deep understanding of gender issues in both theory and practice.
The Broken Rifle is the newsletter of War Resisters' International, and is published in English, Spanish, French and German. This is issue 74, May 2007.
This issue of The Broken Rifle was produced by Andreas Speck. Special thanks go Liesbet Niveau, Andrea Ochoa, and the Asamblea Nacional de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia. If you want extra copies of this issue of The Broken Rifle, please contact the WRI office, or download it from our website.
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