Right to Refuse to Kill

War Resisters' International's programme The Right to Refuse to Kill combines a wide range of activities to support conscientious objectors individually, as well as organised groups and movements for conscientious objection.

Our main publications are CO-Alerts (advocacy alerts sent out whenever a conscientious objector is prosecuted) and CO-Updates (a bimonthly look at developments in conscientious objection around the world).

We maintain the CO Guide - A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System, which can help COs to challenge their own governments, and protect themselves from human rights abuses.

Information about how nation states treat conscientious objectors can be found in our World Survey of Conscientious Objection and recruitment.

More info on the programme is available here.

CO-Update 100 is out!

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The latest issue of our newsletter CO Update is out! In this issue, you'll find stories on conscientious objection and conscription from Ukraine,Turkey, Eritrea, Germany, USA, Azerbaijan, Thailand, among others.

The Ukrainian Pacifist Movement condemns Bill No 3553, recently sent to parliament by President Zelensky. If parliament passes the bill, Ukraine will face further bloodshed, crime will rise, and our economy will fall into deeper misery and shadows. Thousands of additional Ukrainian citizens will seek asylum abroad, away from war and violence destroying their peaceful way of life.

Ruling party deputy Siyavush Novruzov told parliament on 30 March that an Alternative Service Law should be adopted. Parliament's Defence Committee is handling this, he told Forum 18. The government has not made public any draft. Azerbaijan committed to the Council of Europe to have alternative service by 2003 but failed to meet its obligation.

PRO ASYL and Connection e.V., both based in Germany, released a report criticising the German government for its record of denying refugee status for asylum seekers from Eritrea. In their report, the organisations detailed the ongoing oppressive practices of the Eritrean regime, despite a peace treaty between Ethiopia and Eritrea in July 2018. They called on German authorities and courts to provide necessary protection for Eritreans fleeing the oppression and indefinite conscription in Eritrea in accordance with the UNHCR guidelines and Geneva Convention.

Two court cases, one in the Netherlands, the other in the UK, have been launched to contest the European Union (EU) aid for Eritrea which finances a development project employing conscripts from the Eritrean National Service. Eritrea is notorious with its indefinite national service as part of which men and women are forced to spend a lifetime as conscripts, forced to be part of the military or work in mines, farms and factories with no right to leave and essentially no pay.

Mustafa Araz, a conscript in the Turkish Military, was found dead on 12th May. Araz was doing his compulsory military service at an air military base in the Babaeski district of Kirklareli, a city in northwest Turkey. The Turkish Military has ruled that the death of the 23-year-old soldier was a suicide. However, the family challenges the Military’s claim, saying their son’s body was covered in severe bruises and scars, as reported in the prosecutor’s report. They have filed a lawsuit at the prosecutor’s office for the incident to be investigated further. 

Since 2016, US Congress has been having an extended debate to expand the current draft registration to women. However, it decided to delay its decision and assigned a Military, National, and Public Service Commission (NCMNPS) to study this issue. In March of this year, the National Commission presented its final report in which it recommended to extend the draft registration to women. There are two bills pending in the Congress at the moment: to end draft registration and abolish the Selective Service System or to implement the National Commission recommendations including requiring women to register for the draft.

WRI affiliate Ukrainian Pacifist Movement (UPM) released a statement condemning a bill introducing “intolerable elements of military dictatorship” in Ukraine. UPM said, Bill No 3553, proposed by the president Volodymyr Zelensky, introduces mandatory military registration for employment, as well as draconian fines and imprisonment for conscientious objectors and those showing solidarity with them.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has urged Turkey to stop prosecuting conscientious objectors and take the necessary measures to address the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. Since 2006, the ECHR has ruled against Turkey multiple times regarding the treatment and status of conscientious objectors. 

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