A WRI affiliate in the United States of America – War Resisters League – stand 'with all migrants in the U.S., especially the many facing renewed threats of mass deportation under the new Trump administration.' WRL are working to challenge police militarisation and racism, and their campaign #NoSWATzone upholds a vision of “Sanctuary Cities” and sanctuary spaces that provide refuge from the federal raids that Trump promises to bring.
Read their statement and recommended reading and resources here.
This month, War Resisters' International responded to a request for information from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on conscientious objection to military service, towards a quadrennial analytical report on conscientious objection to military service that will presented to the Human Rights Council.
Find the pdf of our submission here.
Every year on 1st December War Resisters' International and its members mark Prisoners for Peace Day, when we publicise the names and stories of those imprisoned for their actions for peace. Many are conscientious objectors, in jail for refusing to join the military. Others have taken nonviolent actions to disrupt preparation for war. Supporters send cards and letters in solidarity. This year, there were also solidarity actions with three conscientious objectors in prison in Israel.
In July of 2012 three disarmament activists in the United States - Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice and Michael Walli - engaged in a nonviolent direct action they dubbed "Transform Now Plowshares" at Oak Ridge, TN's Y12 National Security Complex. Oak Ridge is a site dating back to the beginning of the Manhattan project during World War II and remains an essential link in the nuclear weapons production capability of the US. The three were able to traverse the terrain of the Federal reservation during the night, overcome four security fences, and confront the Highly Enriched Uranium Maintenance Facility (HEUMF) - a repository for 400 metric tons of bomb-grade uranium, enough for 10,000 nuclear weapons. Once there they marked the area with crime scene tape, unfurled peace banners and marked the walls of the building with human blood and spray-painted biblical peace messages.
Hannah from the WRI office, along with Jungmin and Yongsuk of World Without War (WRI's affiliate in Korea) visited Thailand as part of the Right to Refuse to Kill Programme's work to support conscientious objection, and movements against conscription. There's no provision for conscientious objectors in Thailand, but there is resistance!
When we think of social change, we often think of protests, campaigns, and direct action. These are all vital ways to say “no!” to destructive practices and institutions. However, it's equally important that we are building concrete alternatives, where we say “yes!” to the vision of the world we want. Built on the same power analysis as our nonviolent direct action, “constructive programmes” can be powerful acts of resistance.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a call for inputs on the issue of conscientious objection to military service (see attached file).
The compiled information will lead to a new UN report on the topic. The report will provide the most comprehensive outline
On Monday 12 of December, a few days after the anniversary marking 30 years from the first declaration of refusal to enlist on ideological grounds of Mihalis Maragkakis, three new conscientious objectors proceeded to an unprecedented, as for Greece, massive refusal to be examined by the Conscience Examination Committee.
Specifically, the 3 conscientious objectors, responding to the Call to boycott the Conscience Examination Committee, issued by the Association of Greek Conscientious Objectors (AGCO), they reported to the Ministry of National Defence. Upon their arrival, the 3 conscientious objectors stated to the Ministry's employee who was escorting them, that they have a common stance, and therefore they wanted to enter altogether in the room in order to declare orally the reasons for holding this stance and to collectively present their protest. When she passed this information to the president of the Committee, Mr. Theodoros Raptis, member of the State's Legal Council, who was entering in the same time, he responded that these things will not be discussed in the corridor, without showing the minimum interest to know what exactly the three objectors had asked for.
The Association of Greek Conscientious Objectors calls on those who have submitted applications in order to be recognized as conscientious objectors and perform alternative service, to boycott, from now on, the Conscience Examination Committee. The existence of a committee, which, like another Holy Inquisition, interrogates the conscientious objectors, violates any sense of the protected right to freedom of conscience.
Furthermore, this interrogation, under the threat of rejection and the subsequent sanctions for insubordination in case the rejected persons insist in their conscientious objection, leads to the collection of data (profiling) of people, based, among other things, on their political beliefs, which they are kept in records of the Ministry of National Defence. What's even worse, the Committee has recently exercised unacceptable pressure to the conscientious objectors under examination, in order to reveal other comrades in their political activities,[i] sometimes even asking the latter to act as testifiers in order to confirm the claims of the applicants. This results either in the profiling of persons beyond the objector under examination, or in the rejection of any applicant who refuses to do so.
Adopted by Council, October 2016
War Resisters' International (WRI) as a world-wide network is challenged with responding to – or not responding to – many crises situations around the world. There are the 'global' challenges and crises like large wars involving many different countries from different continents (like the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the Iraq war of 2003, or Syria/Iraq today). There are regional conflicts and crises like the ongoing occupation of Palestine or the war in South Sudan, and there are national or even local violence, and the flaring up of persecution for example of conscientious objectors or human rights defenders, political murders etc. on all continents.
SUBMISSION TO THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE: 119th SESSION
for the attention of the Country Report Task Force on ERITREA
Military service, conscientious objection and related issues.
Prepared December 2016
HISTORY: Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, after a thirty-year armed liberation struggle, and that year became the 184th member state of the United Nations.1 Following independence, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front transformed itself into the “Popular Front for Democracy and Justice”, and under that title has imposed military rule ever since. Between 1998 and 2000 a war with Ethiopia over a disputed border caused massive casualties: since then there have been simmering border tensions but no full-scale military conflict. Nevertheless, the level of militarisation in the country has if anything increased.
Lee Sangmin speaking at a press conference, declaring his conscientious objectionSometimes I dream about the past. Usually, I don't dream about positive experiences, just days I regret and memories I want to run away from. Memories remains an unconscious pressure, and come to me often in my dreams. It smells like a scent of dirt just before raining. I also dream about the future that never came. In the worst case scenario, the very situations I want to avoid appear in my dreams. I always breath a sigh when I wake up, and I’m glad they didn’t happen to me in real life.
What is the worst thing that can happen to me while in prison? For prisoners, the most anticipated thing is being released. I believe that most prisoners hope to get an early release through parole, by being a model prisoner. In a horrible place where I cannot even open the door, I cannot get out of the day and see the outside air and the landscape beyond 4 meters of the wall, sharing love with my beloved, smiling with my friends and family. I feel my heart beating so fast by imagining these things. At the same time, it is frustrating that this reality, these good things, are not available to me right now. If the scheduled parole is cancelled, it will be a terrible thing. Only three month left I have to spend. But those short days keep dragging on.
Tamar Alon, Atalya Ben Abba and Tamar Ze'evi are facing repeated imprisonment for refusing to serve the Israeli occupation. On 1st December, Mesarvot (a network supporting political refusal and conscientious objectors) called an international a day of action to support them.
Outside the office of arms manufacturers Lockheed Martin, London
Vigils took place outside arms manufacturing facilities and other locations calling on governments to stop arming the Israeli occupation rather than profiting from it. the day of action highlighted that as young people in Israel are refusing to serve the occupation, we should refuse to profit from it. Because as long as Europe trades with the Israeli weapon industry - the occupation will continue. As long as the US continue to arm Israel and buy its weapons - young Israelis will continue to be imprisoned for refusing to aim these weapons toward civilians.
Image: AddameerThis year, Palestinians commemorate International Human Rights Day mourning over 266 Palestinians including 76 children who were killed by Israeli Occupation Forces since October 2015. Palestinians mark this day following over a year of nonstop violence and widespread human rights violations by Israeli Occupation Forces against the Palestinian population used as a form of collective punishment and a method of control of Palestinian society. These consistent and systematic policies by the occupation include, mass arrests campaigns, torture, hunger strikes, extrajudicial executions and issuance of discriminatory legislations.
(Image: Smoke and Prison Cell via Shutterstock; Edited: LW / TO)
A longer version of this article was first published on TruthOut.org - thanks to Sarah Robinson for abridging
Multiple letters from Mount Olive Correctional Complex (MOCC) in West Virginia, report at least 5-7 imprisoned people are sprayed by tear gas, pepper spray or other chemical agents each week. First-hand testimonies refer to the guards' lax references to the frequent use of these chemicals as "bug spray."
One person reports getting sprayed after kicking a door and breaking a window because guards ignored his emergency call button. He had not received his diabetic snack bag, which he had been requesting for four hours. In a letter he writes to the War Resisters League he describes that, "I have severe hypoglycemia at nighttime which can result in my death… they opened the beanhole and used a canister of OC [oleoresin capsicum gas] spray on my stomach and testicles intentionally!" OC spray, commonly referred to as pepper spray, is derived from capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers. According to his letter, the spray dispersed to the top tier of the ventilation system impacting at least seven others imprisoned in the MOCC.
When we think of social change, we often think of protests, campaigns, and direct action. These are all vital ways to say “no!” to destructive practices and institutions.
Permaculture farmers in El Salvador
However, it's equally important that we are building concrete alternatives, where we say “yes!” to the vision of the world we want. Built on the same power analysis as our nonviolent direct action, “constructive programmes” can be powerful acts of resistance. Constructive programmes demonstrate the radical alternatives – to militarism and the causes of climate change, for example – that our world desperately needs, and puts them into practise in the here and now.
For Gandhi, a nonviolent revolution without a constructive programme was impossible; direct action and social change had to be embedded in empowered and vibrant communities that were bringing their own radical and egalitarian visions of life. Along with protest and direct action, he called for communities in India to start building the world they wanted to see, to build a new world in the shell of the old.