Resolution referred to Amnesty International


with the approval of the IX International Conscientious Objection Meeting (Cachipay, Colombia) and the XXI Triennial of War Resisters' International (São Leopoldo, Brazil)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) acknowledges freedom of conscience as a fundamental right. Since its resolution of March 10, 1987, the United Nations Commission of Human Rights appealed to member states to recognise conscientious objection as a genuine exercise of the right of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, included in both the UDHR and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Exercising this fundamental right, there are conscientious objectors who refuse to perform any (civilian) service as a substitute for military service. They consider it part of the recruiting system, and hence an integral part of the structure of military defense. This violates the demand of their conscience to refuse any involvement in any kind of military structure.

Even though it is generally agreed that a fundamental right should not be subject to any limitations or charges, these objectors denounce the fact that in practice there are serious restrictions in exercising their rights. The fact that they are the only people who are drafted to the (civilian) substitutory service, which furthermore restricts the obligation to the male gender, demonstrates that the essential reason for this service is not that it is civilian or social but that it is a substitute, and consequently something that is derived from and is justified solely in the function of, compulsory military service.

This leads to the conclusion that (civilian) substitutory service is a punishment designed to limit the full exercise of the right to conscientious objection, perverting the original intention of these objectors not to participate in any military structure.

As a result of this reasoning, and on the basis that Amnesty International considers to he a prisoner of conscience any person who, without having used violence to defend his/her positions, he/she is imprisoned for reasons of belief or thought, the participants in the IX International Conscientious Objection Meeting, held in Colombia in November 1994, and the participants of the XXI Triennial Conference of the War Resisters' International, held in Brazil in December 1994, appeal to Amnesty International to extend that recognition to those people who are imprisoned on the basis of their refusal to perform either military service or its susbtitutory civilian service, in the exercise of their fundamental right to conscientious objection.

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