This is the last issue of the CO-Update e-newsletter for 2004 - a bit earlier than usual, because the editor takes a break over Christmas and New Year. This means the next issue of co-update will only come out on 1 February 2005, and from then on again on every first day of the month.
December has been a busy month, especially regarding co-alerts. This issue includes an update of the situation in Greece, the focus country for International Conscientious Objectors Day on 15 May 2005.
A new trial of Greek conscientious objector Lazaros Petromelidis triggered a campaign for conscientious objectors in Greece, which ties in with International Conscientious Objectors' Day on 15 May 2005, which will focus on Greece.
Lazaros Petromelidis was sentenced on 16 December 2004 to 2 1/2 years imprisonment for two charges of "insubordination", dating from 26 July 1999 and 3 July 2003. The trial was carried out in his absence.
On 1 January 2004, the Russian law on conscientious objection entered into force (for a detailed analysis of the law see WRI's Russia report from September 2003). According to the law, substitute service lasts 1.75 times as long as military service (42 month compared to 24 month).
In a landmark case, the UKs Immigration Appeal Tribunal granted asylum to a Russian deserter. The person in question deserted from the Russian Army in Grozny in Chechnya shortly after being sent there in 1999, and fled to Britain. The Tribunal concluded: "He had been called up for service after deferments and had received three months training.
According to a CBSNews report on 8 December 2004, the Pentagon says that "more than 5,500 servicemen have deserted since the war started in Iraq". Many of them fled to Canada, as did about 55,000 Vietnam war deserters. However, back then Canada welcomed the US deserters, but the law has changed since, and todays deserters have to convince the Immigration Board that they are refugees.
Some of the deserters will be represented before the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board by Toronto lawyer Jeffry House.
On 18 December 2004, some twenty Turkish antimilitarists protested in front of the Harbiye Officers Club against the imprisonment of conscientious objector Halil Savda (see co-alert TR14682-161204). Police pushed the antimilitarists to the other side of the road, but did not make any arrests. The antimilitarists read out a press release, in which they gave details of Halil Savda's case and expressed their solidarity.
Halil Savda was born in Sirnak/Cizre in 1974, and graduated from primary school.
Armenia: First legal conscientious objectors - but others still in prison
According to information provided by the Armenian Defence Ministry, about 20 persons chose to opt for conscientious objection during the autumn call-up in Armenia, the first after the new law on conscientious objection came into force in July 2004.
15 May 2005: International Conscientious Objectors Day
Focus: conscientious objection in Greece. WRI and the Greek Association of COs are organising an international seminar, nonviolence training, and action in Thessaloniki from 9-15 May 2005. Contact WRI for more information.
WRI Seminar 2005 in South Korea
In cooperation with several partner organisations from South Korea, War Resisters' International is preparing for its 2005 seminar and Council meeting, which will take place in or close to Seoul in June 2005.