Conscientious objector Visa Savolainen was one of those detained COs who received letters of solidarity in December 2015 on Prisoners for Peace Day. Visa wrote a reflection on his blog on the joy of receiving these.
International Prisoners for Peace Day has been celebrated on December 1st for years. The purpose of the day is to provoke conversation and commemorate peace prisoners with different expressions of support and solidarity.
In a joint action War Resisters’ International, Connection e.V. (Germany), Amnesty International Korea and World Without War (South Korea) today presented more than 8,000 signatures from 108 countries, including members of parliaments from Germany, European Union and South Korea, to the ministry of defense in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. The organizations demand the recognition of conscientious objection and the immediate and unconditional release of conscientious objectors in prison (...more). The signatures were presented by an international delegation on the International Day of Prisoners for Peace, December 1, with participation from War Resisters‘ International and Connection e.V.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People's Army (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia: FARC) have released the first of an estimated 2,000 child soldiers from within its ranks. Last week, it declared its intention to stop recruiting under 18s.
On 6 January 2016, conscientious objector Yannis Vasilis Yaylali was sentenced to 7 months and 15 days of prison penalty, for his articles that defend conscientious objection and oppose the war going on in Kurdish regions. The custodial sentence can only begin after the decision of court of appeal, so he is not in prison yet. He was found guilty of flouting the infamous Article 318 of the Turkish penal code: alienating people from military service. He has two more prosecutions with the same accusation.
Yannis made a statement after the decision:
"Article 318 was rarely used in the last years, until the war began again last year. The state is increasing its pressure to all war resisters, anti-militarists and conscientious objectors in the times of war. They're trying to silence us but we won't give in."
In Cyprus, conscripts deemed to be 'mentally unfit' (here we quote the government source, and apologise for the language) will no longer be able to secure a full discharge but will be required to serve in the army for a period one-third longer than the normal stint, under new legislation designed to deter potential 'draft dodgers'.
Defence minister Christoforos Fokaides told Daily Politis that draftees diagnosed with psychological problems would serve out an alternative service, not at military installations but at defence-related services.
The Syrian Human Rights Network has accused the Syrian regime of arresting civilians for forced army conscription, saying it has documented more than 1,000 cases of arrest for this purpose in the past six weeks alone.
Children are also being recruited by different warring parties, UNICEF say. At least several hundred children were recruited in 2015, and thousands killed or injured in the conflict.
Ukrainian journalist and CO Ruslan Kotsaba is on trial in Ivano-Frankivsk. Ruslan has been in detention for almost a year, charged with treason and obstructing the military. In a video addressed to the Ukrainian President, he declared his refusal to be drafted, saying he would rather go to prison for five years than turn a weapon on his "compatriots in the east". He called on his fellow countrymen to refuse to be drafted. Ukrainian law does allow individuals to refuse military service, but this right is confined to a small group of religious minorities. He could face 15 years in gaol. Observers from DFG-VK were present, and rallied outside the court. The trial is ongoing.
We are working on creating an interactive map of conscription, and the way conscientious objectors are treated in different countries. This will be part of the “World survey of conscription and conscientious objection to military service” project. This interactive map will make information on conscription and objection more accessible and more clear visually, so it may be used for campaigning as well as research.
We have started collecting information through a questionnaire, but still missing contacts in many countries. If you have the relevant information on one of the following countries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org: Algeria, Burkino Faso, Cambodia, China, Comoros, Dominican Republic, Gambia, Honduras, Jamaica, Liechenstein, Malaysia, Myanmar, Samoa, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago.
A conscientious objector in Bolivia, José Miguel Orías, has been recognised as a CO by a court in La Paz, provided he fulfills conditions they have stipulated. The Constitutional Court will now review the decision made in La Paz; this will likely happen within the next six months.
The Bolivian Minister of Defence has previously publicly rejected the possibility of Bolivia recoginsiing the right of conscientious objection to military service, so the Constitutional Court may mirror his opinion.
The United Nations' Human Rights' Committee have published new concluding observations following the examination of Austria and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) as part of the Universal Periodic Review.
The Committee called upon the state of Austria to 'ensure that the length of service alternative to military service required for conscientious objectors is not punitive in nature.'
It demanded that the Republic of Korea:
'(a) Immediately release all conscientious objectors condemned to a prison sentence for exercising their right to be exempted from military service;
(b) Ensure that the criminal records of conscientious objectors are expunged, that they are provided with adequate compensation and that their information is not publicly disclosed; and
(c) Ensure the legal recognition of conscientious objection to military service, and provide conscientious objectors with the possibility to perform an alternative service of civilian nature.
With new sources of information, we've been able to update the prisoners for peace list with hundreds of more names from Singapore and South Korea, primarily Jehovah's Witnesses. The process of adding names of conscientious objectors to our database is ongoing. They include prison addresses, so please consider writing to an imprisoned CO over the year, not just on Prisoners for Peace Day!
There are over 700 COs in prison in South Korea at present.
Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements is now available online here.
You can also buy a paperback version.
This book is intended as a practical companion for conscientious objection movements and all those whose work forms part of the continuum of war resistance.
It has been written by activists who are campaigning against all kinds of injustice, all over the world. Learning from the lived experience of these activists, the aim is to help movements work together, surmount the external challenges they face, and enhance the concept of conscientious objection, using it in new and innovative ways - such as against war profiteering, or the militarisation of youth. The book also has a specific focus on gender, and the often invisible role of gender, both in the war machine, and in the movements which oppose it.
To read this book is to be encouraged, not just to notice gender and the other power structures upholding militarism, but to actively work to undermine them - and in doing so, to start dismantling militarism itself.
The European Bureau for Conscientious Objection's annual report gives an overview of conscientious objection in Europe this year. Read it here.
Foreword by Friedhelm Schneider, EBCO President
In September 2014 Heiner Bielefeldt, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, speaking at a side event to the Human Rights Council, observed: “Conscientious objection to military service is a specific issue, but not a side issue!”. One year on, in October 2015, the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, for the first time launches its Annual Report “Conscientious objection to military service in Europe 2015” in Geneva, immediately before the Session of the UN Human Rights Committee which will deal with the reports of Greece and the Republic of Korea - two states in which the right of conscientious objection to military service continues flagrantly to be violated.