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.

Since the founding of War Resisters' International in 1921, the right to refuse to kill - conscientious objection - has been at the core of WRI's work. Although this right to today recognised as an international standard, it is in practice often not granted, and those who claim their right are thrown into prison, or worse (see for example the article on Eritrea in this Broken Rifle).



Conscription and Conscientious Objection

What is conscientious objection

The recognition of the right to conscientious objection

Different faces of conscientious objection

Challenges for the CO movement

The role of the right to conscientious objection


Presentation at the international seminar "Unarmed Resistance: the transnational factor", Coventry, 15 July 2006

Andreas Speck, War Resisters' International

WRI homepage > Programme Areas > The Right to Refuse to Kill > Solidarity with war resistance in Turkey (for Coventry seminar)



The Turkish war resisters movement - a brief hi
Speech at Public Hearing "The Right of Soldiers to Refuse to Participate in Wars Violating International Law" at European Parliament in Strasbourg

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Members of the European Parliament,

I'm pleased to have the opportunity today to speak about the kind of protection soldiers need when they refuse to commit violations of international law or declare their conscientious objection.

I work in a German organisation called Connection.

Notes on the acquittal of a German military officer who refused to carry out a military order in connection with the Iraq War document for the Green/EFA hearing on 14 March 2006 on the right to refuse participation in an illegal war

On 21 June 2005 the German Federal Administrative Court brought down an exciting judgement: Major Florian Pfaff of the German Federal Army, previously sanctioned by his superiors because of his refusal to follow an order related to the war in Iraq, got his right.

organised by the Intergroup on Peace Initiatives (http://www.quaker.org/qcea/intergroup/index.html), co-chaired by Tobias Pflueger (Germany, European United Left/Nordic Green Left - GUE/GNE) and Caroline Lucas (UK, Greens)

Additional reading

English summary of the Federal Administrative Court decision on Florian Pfaff's case, with link to original documents in German
Presentation by Rudi


Although the United States does presently not enforce conscription, its present practice of recruitment for the Armed Forces and of keeping personnel within the forces once recruited gives reasons to concern from a human rights perspective. The focus lies on recruitment of the one hand, and on the difficulties to get out of the military once enlisted on the other hand.

On 4 January, 2004 Five conscripted Conscientious Objectors were sentenced to an additional year in prison on top of the year they have been held for refusing to serve in the IDF. The sentence is, in effect, an unlimited one as the prosecution intends to jail them till they agree to serve. That's the price they will pay for refusing to be part of the brutal occupation.

The 5 COs are being punished because of their convictions - the severity of the punishment reflects the Israeli government's fear of those convictions.

Started 11.30am

Testimony of Colonel Shlomi Simchi, Chairman of Conscience Committee


SS : Shlomi Simchi

MS: Defense Attorney Michael Sfard

Judge: Colonel Avi Levy, Chief Judge, Military Tribunal

YBA: Defendant Yoni Ben-Artzi


MS: Did your committee ever release a conscript from service for reasons of conscience?

SS: To my recollection, no.

MS: Your committee twice rejected YBA's requests.

SS: Yes.

MS: Do you know what happened to YBA after your committee rejected his requests?

SS: I know the det

The right to conscientious objection is derived from Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and seen as a manifestation of the freedom of religion and belief. The then CSCE stressed the right to conscientious objection in paragraph 18 of the Document of the Copenhagen meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension in June 1990.The UN Commission on Human Rights stressed the right to conscientious objection in several resolution, most recently Resolution 1998/77, 2000/34, 2002/45. The Council of Europe also stresses the right to conscientious objection, especially in resolution 337 (1967) and recommendations 1518 (2001), R (87) 8, and 816 (1977).

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