Welcome to co-update No 29 -- our May issue. Sorry for being a few days late, but we are presently very busy with work on International Conscientious Objectors' Day in Colombia - events that start in less than a weeks' time. This event is part of WRI's ongoing campaign in support of conscientious objectors in Colombia - you can read more about this in the main article in this issue, or in The Broken Rifle no 74, which has just come out. We hope that you will support us in this campaign.
15 May - International Conscientious Objectors' Day
War Resisters' International and the Colombian National Assembly of Conscientious Objectors will launch a "Conscientious Objector Card" as part of the events for International Conscientious Objectors' Day in Medillín on 15 May.
According to a report by RIA Novosti, Georgia might abolish conscription by 2009. "After 2009, the Defense Ministry will abandon conscription, and the military will shift to a contract basis," Nodar Kharshiladze, head of the ministry's planning and defense policy department told a defense conference. He said a network of reservist battalions would be set up by that time. "All reservists will take a single combat training course in 2007 and a refresher course in military professions in 2008.
Iraqi soldiers who desert their units now face execution, according to a decree by the country's Presidential Council. The offense is the latest of nearly 200 others convicted Iraqis are to be punished with death penalty. The council slapped three-year imprisonment on absentee soldiers.
The harsh penalties come following reports of large-scale desertion from army ranks in the wake of the latest surge in rebel attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces. The penalties are also applicable to the cadets of military academies in the country.
According to a report by the International Herald Tribune, U.S. Army prosecutions of desertion and other unauthorised absences have risen sharply in the past four years, resulting in thousands more negative discharges and prison time for junior soldiers and combat-tested veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military records show.
The increased prosecutions are meant, in effect, to serve as a deterrent to a growing number of soldiers who might be looking for a way to avoid heading - or heading back - to Iraq, several army lawyers said during interviews.