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.
Our sister site antimili-youth.net features stories on youth militarisation and resistance to it. Follow it for inspiration and information!
In this year's final CO Update, we're glad to share with you a number of good news from different countries.
As we approach the end of 2016, we're looking back on what WRI has been up to this year - we thought we would share some of the highlights,as we look towards a 2017 of radical action against war and it's causes!
Bram, Luis and Javier, outside courtEarly in the year, we were excited to hear the news that several members of WRI affiliates in Europe were found "not guilty!" in a trial that exposed the criminality of the DSEi arms fair. Javier, Bram and Luis travelled from Belgium to London in September 2015 to help blockade the entrances of the huge weapons fair alongside activists from the UK. At the end of the year, we were also relieved to hear that members of Spanish group AA-MOC had their charges dropped, following an action to disrupt a NATO training event in 2015.
In April, members of the WRI network travelled to Turkey to take part in a delegation, visiting Diyarbakir and towns effected by the curfews and armed conflict that has gripped the region. The delegation inspired a petition to the EU, and a speakers tour of European cities.
On July 13, 2016, non-governmental organisations in Venezuela filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Justice for the partial annulment of the Law of Registration and Enlistment for the Integral Defence of the Nation, which establishes an obligation to enroll on the Military Register, on grounds of unconstitutionality.
The judicial action sought to reverse the unconstitutional ramifications of the law, which limits Venezuelans' right to free self-development, equality before the law and freedom of conscience and association, as well as affecting rights to work and education.
Here is a satire video by activists from Colombia, mocking a TV show in which obligatory military service and the “libreta militar” (which people are given when they complete miltiary service) is promoted strongly.
This video was made in response and dissent of this promotion, which was broadcast on 28 July 2016 on Personeria TV.
During a War Resisters' International trip to Thailand last month we met Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, a conscientious objector. Here's a short interview by WRI staff member Hannah Brock, talking with Netiwit about conscription and the role of the army in Thailand.
Make sure 'CC' is on if you want subtitles (in English).
The European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO) launched its Annual Report 2016 on Conscientious Objection in Europe on last month n Athens, Greece. The report edited by Derek Brett and researched by Martina Lucia Lanza, was presented with the participation of activists and representatives from countries including Cyprus, Greece, Finland and Turkey.
Hannah visited Thailand as part of the Right to Refuse to Kill Programme's work to support conscientious objection, and movements against conscription.
Memorials to Bhumibol Adulyadej seen in train stations and public spacesWhen I arrived in Bangkok in November, many people were in mourning Bhumibol Adulyadej - the king who died on 13th October after seven decades on the throne. I travelled there along with Jungmin Choi and Yongsuk Lee, two members of World Without War (WRI's affiliate in Korea).
This period of mourning was evident in peoples' homes, in public spaces, and in the very atmosphere of cities and town. Festivals were cancelled or curtailed, most people still dressing in black (or wearing black ribbons) over a month after his death, and memorials and commemorative videos found in bus stations, temples, and the metro.
Alongside this respect for the monarch lies a coercive tradition: Thailand's strict lèse-majesté laws (prohibiting criticism of the royal family) inhibit freedom of speech, and have been used against activists as a weapon. Dissent is a social taboo, as well as illegal under Article 112 of the Penal Code. Although the lèse-majesté laws only apply to the King, Queen, Royal Heir (now Rama X), and Regent, they have been widely used for suppression, even for those who mock the King’s favourite dog, Thong Daeng (Copper), and the Crown Prince’s poodle Foo Foo, who was elevated to the status of Air Marshal, complete with uniform. Many are arrested for innocuous Facebook comments and hyperlinks.
Since the most recent coup of 2014, a military government has been in place, and their rhetoric reinforces their position as protector and champion of the monarchy. So it was an interesting time to visit Thailand for the first time!
Rwanda is a landlocked African country with a recent history of war and conflict. In 1990, a rebel army, formed by mostly exiled Tutsi refugees, attacked the regular army from Uganda. The war lasted four years and the rebel group, the Rwandese Patriotic Front, took control of the country and ended the genocide of 1994. Its military branch, the Rwandese Patriotic Army, integrated some of the regular defeated army and became the Rwanda Defence Forces.
This report examines barriers to leaving the armed forces in Rwanda over the past decade. It is based on the testimonies of former soldiers who have deserted the army (we use 'respondent a, b, c and d' to designate them. Anonymity is important for their security). We find that:
Activists in front of the White House in Washington DC. Photo by Chase CarterOn 1st December Prisoners for Peace day this year, actions took place across many different countries in solidarity with Israili conscientious objectors Tamar Alon and Tamar Ze'evi, who were imprisoned for refusing to be part of the occupation and to serve in the Israeli army.
The appeal court of the Gwangju Distrct in Korea, overturned the guilty verdicts of two conscientious objectors, Cho Rak-hoon and Kim Hyung-geun. The decision is a victory for conscientious objectors in Korea as it is the first time an appeal court has reversed guilty verdicts in a conscientious objectors case. The appeal court also rejected prosecutors’ calls to convict a third conscientious objector, Kim Hye-min, who was found not guilty at his initial trial in May 2015.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in favour of Leonidas Papavasilakis, a conscientious objector who the Greek government refused to recognise, in its Chamber judgement on 15th September 2016.
The court found that the authorities had violated article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights (which provides a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion).