Prisoners for Peace


1st December is Prisoners for Peace Day. For over 60 years, War Resisters' International have, on this day, made known the names and stories of those imprisoned because of their actions for peace. Many are conscientious objectors, in gaol for refusing to join the military. Others have taken nonviolent actions to disrupt preparation for war.

This day is a chance for you to demonstrate your support for those individuals and their movements, by writing to those whose freedom has been taken away from them because of their work for peace.

WRI has a permanent Prisoners for Peace list, which we make a special effort to update for Prisoners for Peace Day on December 1st.

Dear member and supporter of War Resisters' International,

Since 1956 1 December is celebrated as Prisoners for Peace Day - a day to think of those who are imprisoned for their courageous acts against war, violence, and human rights violations. This year War Resisters' International chose Russia as a focus, and the recent events highlight the importance of support to peace and human rights activists in Russia.

Traditionally, War Resisters' International celebrates Prisoners for Peace Day on 1 December. The history of War Resisters' International's activities for Prisoners for Peace goes back to the 1920s, but 1 December was for the first time celebrated as 'Prisoners for Peace Day' in 1956.

The focus of Prisoners for Peace Day 2006 will be the situation in Russia:

1 December - Prisoners for Peace Day: Focus on Russia

Prisoners for Peace Day 2006 will highlight the situation in Russia, with the new NGO law threatening the work of independent NGOs and the war in Chechnya also leading to increased persecution in Russia itself. The Prisoners for Peace campaign pack will be available early November in English, Spanish, French, and German.

Bart Horeman

For me as a WRI person, living in the Netherlands has two privileges. One is that I can take a bike and cycle to WRI's birthplace. The other is that I have easy access to WRI's heritage, stored at the International Institute for Social History (IISH) in Amsterdam.

But it was not before our chair Joanne planned a visit to the IISH and asked me to come along, that I became aware of these advantages. Going through some of WRI's archives, one realises that we already have a long history.

Conscientious objection and desertion in Eritrea

Eritrea is the focus of this years' Prisoners for Peace Day - 1 December. Eritrea is one of the few countries with an extensive conscription system for men and women. In fact, military training is an integral part of the education system, with the last school year being “served” at the military training camp.

Amnesty International reported on 28 July 2005 about the arrest of several hundred relatives of people who have evaded or deserted from the military. The arrests took place in the Debug region of southern Eritrea since 15 July.

Thousands of people arrested on suspicion of evading military conscription and held at Adi Abeto army prison are thought to be at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment. At least a dozen prisoners have reportedly been shot dead and many more were wounded following a disturbance at the prison. On 4 November Eritrean security forces in the capital, Asmara, indiscriminately arrested thousands of youths and others suspected of evading military conscription. The arrests took place in the streets, shops and offices, at roadblocks and in homes.

Abraham Gebreyesus Mehreteab addressed the 61st session of the Commission on Human Rights on behalf of War Resisters' International. We document his statement below.

Mr Chairman

I'm representing War Resisters' International. We conduct research on conscientious objection to military service in many countries. Last year, we undertook a preliminary survey on the issue of Eritrean conscientious objectors. We learned that there are thousands of Eritrean conscientious objectors and deserters.

My torture in the sun

Placheolder image

I was born in Asmara on 12 December 1978. In 1996 I was drafted into the national service in Sawa.

During basic training the food was bad and so was the training. Our instructors did not stick to the training program but, for example, they had us wash their clothes or fetch water, forcing us to submit to their will. There wasn't enough to eat. Spoilt flour was used for baking.

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I was born on 10 January 1981 in Asmara. I was just 15 years old, and we were told that we would get the results of the school leaving examinations only after basic training in the National Service. That's why I joined the military, hoping that my exam results were good and I could leave after basic training to study. In 1996 I was brought to Sawa for basic training.

How the list works First are prisoners' names (in bold), followed by their sentence, then their place of imprisonment and, finally the reason for their detention Information about countries where prisoners have had their sentences suspended, where sentences have been served or completed during the year, or where there are simply too many imprisoned COs to list, are in italics. Armenia

Although Armenia passed a law on conscientious objection in 2004, the country continues to imprison conscientious objectors.

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