International Conscientious Objectors' Day 2007 focuses on Colombia, a country with more than 50 years of (civil) war and violence. A country also, where conscientious objectors face challenges different from elsewhere – the threat of involuntary recruitment not only coming from the state military, but also from the various irregular forces and guerillas in the country.
Colombia is also a challenge for the international movement for conscientious objection. In terms of international legal standards, the question is how these can be applied to non-state actors, so that they too recognise the right to conscientious objection. But then, the Colombian state also does not recognise CO, and not only might COs end up in prison on charges of disobedience or desertion, more likely even is that they suddenly find themselves in military barracks, after being picked up at a checkpoint or a raid by the police. Legal or illegal – without us intervening, the Colombian state and the military won't care, at least not until it might be too late for the CO concerned.
International Conscientious Objectors' Day is about solidarity with COs and CO movements. There are only a few countries where this is as urgently needed than in Colombia, and we as war resisters need to stand up to the challenges posed by this specific situation. We know from experience that international solidarity can make a difference, and in the case of Colombia this is even more important, and requires our concerted efforts. And who, if not us?
More information is available on WRI's Colombia campaign page at http://wri-irg.org/co/colcampaign-en.htm.