Colombia

When in some countries conscientious objection has been recognised and in others, conscientious objectors continue to be imprisoned, some governments are considering introducing compulsory military service for women covering it up with gender equality and anti-discrimination discourses. This has been the case for countries like México, Colombia, the United States and more recently in South Korea and Switzerland.

The antimilitarist movement in Colombia describes the situation that has been experienced in Colombia since April 28, 2021, the reasons why demonstrations have been held since that date and the militarized response of the government. This is an urgent call for solidarity to challenge he discourses of war and fear that today find an absolutely opposite correlate to the cultural resistance, the bets for change and the possibility of building horizons more in line with the reality of the Colombian people and their proposals to materialize peace from the territories, in diversity and dignified life.

Social movements across Colombia are facing severe repression and violence from the police and military. The demonstrations began on 28th April 2021 as a general strike was called in response to an unpopular tax reform and the mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors (Spanish: la Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia, or ACOOC) is a social organization which, based around the concepts of nonviolence and conscientious objection, supports alternatives to Colombian militarism, militarization, and the patriarchy, via legal, public campaigning, and educational strategies. Since 2006, ACOOC has worked alongside young people and their communities with to cultivate a peaceful culture.

The first webinar of our series, Campaigning for Conscientious Objection to Military Service, co-organised with QUNO and IFOR, is taking place on Wednesday, 3rd Feb. In our first event, we will have campaigners from Geneva (Switzerland), Seoul (S.Korea) and Bogotá (Colombia), explaining the role of litigation in their campaigns supporting conscientious objectors.

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Alba Milena Romero Sanabria is a political scientist at the National University of Colombia. She has worked for the recognition of the right to conscientious objection to military service for ten years, alongside participating in nonviolence training processes. She is a member of Asociación Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia (ACOOC, Conscientious Objectors' Collective Action) and Conscience and Peace Tax International. Her co-author Andreas Speck is originally from Germany, were he refused military and substitute service in the 1980s. He has been involved in the environmental, anti-nuclear and antimilitarist movements ever since. From 2001 until 2012 he worked for War Resisters' International (WRI) and today lives in Spain. Together, they use the example of Colombia to illustrate how international human rights mechanisms can be put to use in local cases, and in combination with other tactics, when campaigning for the right to conscientious objection.

On the international level, the right to Conscientious Objection (CO) has been on the political agenda of the UN General Assembly, the Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, the Human Rights Commission, and other UN institutions.1 In addition, the right is addressed by other international institutions, especially the inter-American and European systems.2 At the same time, different movements have implemented strategies to try to prioritise within states' agendas the recognition of the right to conscientious objection.

Up to now, Colombia’s response to the pandemic - the Common Enemy - has been one of a familiar nationalist and militarist rhetoric, a staunchly-upheld, militarized response that is unfolding in Colombia’s towns and cities.

In February of this year, we sent out a CO-Alert of a Colombian Conscientious Objector, Brayan Gonzalez, who was irregularly recruited by the Army. His CO application wasn't recognised by the military Interdisciplinary Commission. To avoid being charged for desertion, he decided to come back to the battalion. He continues refusing inside the battalion. Read Brayan's story and consider sending the support letter. 

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