CO Update

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Issue number
98

This year has been perhaps the most crucial year for conscientious objectors in Greece since the establishment of alternative civilian service in 1997-1998. After years of efforts, there was an opportunity for significant changes. Certain improvements in the legislative framework were achieved but the most important one, the reduction of the length of alternative civilian service was quickly annulled after the summer general elections by the new right-wing Greek government.

Conscientious Objection Association (Turkey) member Furkan Çelik was indicted by the Office of Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor on charges of "alienating the public from military service." Furkan Çelik was accused in relation to the social media posts on CO Association's Twitter account.

In Turkmenistan, appeals of two conscientious objectors against their one-year jail terms for refusing compulsory military service were rejected. Nine conscientious objectors are now jailed, six of them in 2019. The United Nations ruled that Turkmenistan violated the rights of three more conscientious objectors jailed in 2013.

On 17th October, European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) convicted Azerbaijan for violating Article 9 (right to freedom of conscience, thought and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of five conscientious objectors (all Jehovah's Witnesses) who were prosecuted and sentenced to imprisonment for their refusal to perform military service. 

Compulsory military service in Honduras, abolished in 1994, still brings painful memories of terrible human rights violations such as forced recruitment, forced disappearances and the torture and death of those who either refused to enlist or were campaigning against it. War Resisters’ International strongly believes that the initiatives to reestablish a compulsory military service are not a step in the right direction, if the desired result is to decrease the crime rate and avoid criminal organizations recruiting the youth of Honduras, which happen to be the two most commonly used arguments for reintroducing the compulsory military service.

Three conscientious objectors, all Jehovah's Witnesses, returning to Transdniester (a self-declared state in the eastern part of Moldova) to visit family were called up for military service in May, and banned from leaving. "I've been living with this uncertainty for nearly half a year, unable to leave, work or relax," Mikhail Yeremeyev told Forum 18. Proposed Alternative Service Law amendments would subjugate alternative service applications to the personnel needs of the military.

WRI's new booklet, Countering Military Recruitment: Learning the lessons of counter-recruitment campaigns internationally, is out now. The booklet includes examples of campaigning against youth militarisation across different countries with the contribution of grassroot activists.

Exiled conscientious objectors from Turkey published a call to refuse the war in Northern Syria: “Refuse! Resist! Don’t be a soldier!” They declared: “This is an illegal war that contradicts international treaties. Those who make the decision to invade, those who participate in it, and those who offer support should know that they are committing a crime against humanity!”

The Labour Party in Mexico proposed reforming the Military Service Law to introduce compulsory military service for women to "promote gender equality and no discrimination" between men and women in the country.

Unjust laws and human rights violations force many people to flee their countries and risk drowning to reach Europe via passing through the Mediterranean Sea. Saving the lives of those who are facing death is the first human duty. But now, the Italian law prevents NGOs from search and rescue activities of those people drowning in sea. Because of this context, a number of individuals from Italy launched an appeal for conscientious objection to disobey the relevant law and for saving human lives.

On 23-29 November this year, activists from across the world are taking action against the militarisation of young people in their countries, cities and towns. Join us this November in the International Week of Action Against the Militarisation of Youth with your own nonviolent actions and events!

We have had a kind offer from an individual donor, who will match up to £5,000 of donations from others - so by supporting War Resisters' International today your donation is worth double!