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.


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Welcome to the Prisoners for Peace special edition of The Broken Rifle. The focus of Prisoners for Peace Day 2004 is the imprisonment of conscientious objectors in Finland. Finland, a member state of the European Union, continues to imprison conscientious objectors who refuse to perform a substitute service which is punitive in length. And the number of imprisoned conscientious objectors is growing - now standing at about 70-80 annually.

Kaj Raninen

Finland still maintains a very extensive conscription system. About 80% of all male Finnish citizens perform military service, a bit more than 10 % are exempted from service and about 7 % apply for conscientious objection.

Militarism in Finland

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Kaj Raninen

In its own way, Finland is a very militarised country, although it might not look like that at first sight. Finnish militarism does not mean that the military is strikingly visible in society or that it necessarily has more influence in the society than in other Western European countries. It is rather a state of mind, a historically constructed way of thinking, according to which Finland is always under military threat - even when no one has got any idea who might cause this threat or no one can imagine a situation where it might materialise.

The defence of the entire country is only possible if general conscription is maintained. The high educational standard of conscripts makes it possible, with the current periods of service, to provide conscript training in even the more demanding tasks, and to recruit high-quality personnel for international crisis management tasks and for the professional personnel posts in the Defence Forces.

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, or where sentences have been served or completed during the year are in italics. Armenia

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

In July 2001, Jussi Hermaja was sentenced by a Finnish court for total objection - nothing special, just one of about 70 cases per year. However, unlike most other conscientious objection, Jussi Hermaja did not report to prison, but fled to Belgium in October 2001, and applied for asylum. This was the beginning of a very special asylum case.

European Social Forum in London

War Resisters' International and many of its European affiliates are preparing for the European Social Forum, which will take place in London from 15-17 October 2004. You can find out more about WRI's presence at the ESF on WRI's website.

Prisoners for Peace Day 2004

1 December is Prisoners for Peace Day. The focus for this years is conscientious objection in Finland.


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Prisoners for Peace Day 2003 focuses on the young movement of conscientious objectors in South Korea. Although conscientious objection in young in terms of a movement, the history of imprisonment of conscientious objectors--of Jehovah's Witnesses--goes back a long while. More than 10,000 Jehovah's Witnesses have been imprisoned in the last 50 years for their conscientious objection, mostly to three years imprisonment, and until recently often several times.

Jung-min Choi

Only early in 2001 the concept of "objection to military service" became known to the Korean public. A current affairs magazine reported on a forum on the military service system, including the right to conscientious objection. It especially reported on the history of Jehovah's Witnesses CO. Since the formation of the Korean army, over 10,000 objectors (mostly Jehovah's Witnesses) have spent time behind bars. The public has treeted them as nonexistent.

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