This is the first issue of WRI's new CO UPDATE email newsletter. The newsletter is produced by WRI's The Right to Refuse to Kill programme, in cooperation with the Myrtle Solomon Memorial Trust.
This new email newsletter will provide information on new developments regarding conscription, military service, and conscientious objection. In this way it complements and updates WRI's report Refusing to bear arms, published in 1998.
From 8-18 August 2004, WRI's CO Campaigning Worker visited South Korea, where he took part in a peace camp organised by Solidarity for Peace and Human Rights, one of the main groups behind Korea Solidarity for Conscientious Objection (KSCO).
The South Korean Constitutional Court ruled against conscientious objectors on 26 August 2004. This ruling is in line with an earlier ruling of the Supreme Court from 15 July, in which the court stated that "individual freedom of conscience can't be more important than accepting calls of duty for the defense of their own country". The court said seeking freedom of conscience as a member of society can only be admitted when the person follows the rules that others follow.
The mother of a British soldier killed in an Iraqi ambush has launched a petition for the withdrawal of UK troops as she prepares to sue the Ministry of Defence over the death of her son.
Rose Gentle, 40, whose outspoken criticism of the conflict has fuelled criticisms that her grief has been hijacked by anti-war campaigners, denied yesterday that she was being manipulated. "Let's just make this clear," she said. "It was my decision to speak out. Nobody is using me.
New Profile launched a report on Child Recruitment in Israel on 29 July 2004. This comprehensive report, for the first time, surveys and analyses diverse forms of compulsory and voluntary, direct and indirect, child recruitment in Israel. Such recruitment often violates international law and always violates the Israeli society's commitment to protect its children from involvement in armed conflict.
The report describes various forms of child recruitment by State authorities, private organisations and armed militias in Israel.
While women CO Laura Milo (picture left) went to prison on 23 August for her second prison term (see co-alert from 31 August 2004), Daniel Tsal was finally released from the army after 112 days in prison. In an open letter to all supporters he writes:
"I have just been released from the IDF after 112 days in military jail.
The Italian parliament voted at the end of July in favour of an end to compulsory military service. However, those who want to join the police, the carabinieri, the customs service and even the fire brigade will still have to do one year of military service as professional soldiers, at a salary of €980.
Defence Minister Antonio Martino said that the abolition of compulsory military service would be advantegous both to young people, who would be able to start their careers earlier, and to the military, which presently is unable to send conscripts on military operations abroad.
Interfax reported that Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev has signed amendments to the law on mandatory military service, which will reduce military service by six months from 1 January 2006 on. Presently, the term of military service is 1.5 years. However, this cannot be seen as a step towards disarmement: "The Defense Ministry told Interfax that ongoing military reforms envision building a professional army and increasing the number of contract servicemen".
Source: Interfax, 23 July 2004, http://www.interfax.com/com?id=5742332&item=Kyrg
On 28 September, War Resisters' International will receive the Friedrich- Siegmund- Schultze Award for nonviolent action from the Evangelische Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Kriegsdienstverweigerung (Protestant Working Group for Conscientious Objection). The award will be given to WRI in a public event in Speyer in the southwest of Germany.