War Resisters' International statement on initiative to reestablish compulsory military service in Honduras
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.
The young people of Honduras, especially those from economically unprivileged neighborhoods, were literally hunted down on the streets and in public transportation in order to be taken to military barracks and forced to perform armed military service. We are aware of that fact that many of them were opposing and objecting to military service because of their religious, moral of philosophical beliefs, but were brutally deprived of their right to refuse to become soldiers.
War Resisters’ International strongly believes that the initiatives to reestablish a compulsory military service, like the system introduced by Mr. David Chavez, 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. These goals can only be reached through implementing a culture of peace and nonviolence on all scales of the society, and not by further militarization of it. What the young people of Honduras need are decent and well-paid jobs that would improve their life standard. A compulsory military service would be just another impulse for many of them to flee the country and make the migration wave even bigger.
Even if the initiative succeeds, the Government of Honduras would need to guarantee the right to conscientious objection to military service to all those who refuse to enlist. We remind the Government of Honduras and Mr. Chavez that the right to conscientious objection to military service is based on article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief. Honduras has signed the Covenant and therefore it not only forms a part of country’s legislation, but it’s also above any national law.
This means that by international law, all those who oppose the military service have the right not to enlist, making forced recruitment illegal and would be a drastic violation of their human rights. In that sense, we would like to invite Mr. Chavez to reconsider the initiative that would bring more harm than good to Honduras and its people.