Experiences of conscientious objection movements in the world

Conscientious objection as it is "generally" understood today was first legally recognised in Europe and Australia in the early 20th century. However, legal and political concepts of conscientious objection are varied, and movements for conscientious objection respond to militarism differently, based on political circumstances and systems of recruitment.


Based on three case studies, the authors explain important issues/challenges for CO movements.

Counter-recruitment - A new strategic focus for the peace movement?

On 3 November, the National Audit Office released its report about “Recruitment and Retention in the Armed Forces”. While most of the mainstream media used one finding of the report for the headlines – i.e. The Guardian's “Two-thirds of teenagers too fat to be soldiers” (3 November 2006), or the Daily Mail's “Army forced to admit clinically obese because of recruiting crisis” (2 November 2006) – peace activists should read this report very critically. The report gives us an idea to what length the Armed Forces will go in the future to fill their ranks – and what we need to respond to.


A new strategic focus for the peace movement?
Let's start with the good news: presently, the Armed Forces are under-staffed: 5,170 soldiers short, which is 2.7%. However, this isn't much, and the report also states that all three services – army, navy, and air force – “have recruited 98 per cent of their targets for intake from civilian life” (page 2). My question is: why is this so, and what can we do to change that?

Myths and Truths about the UK military

The British military is facing a recruitment crisis, according to a recent report by the National Audit Office. This means, the military will try harder to recruit you – and they might present a very rosy picture to you, which does not match reality.

Myth: The military is an equal opportunity employer. “We aim to treat everyone fairly and will not tolerate unlawful discrimination, including harassment and bullying.

General panorama of Conscientious Objection in the World

Presentation at the "International Meeting of Solidarity for Conscientious Objection in Colombia", Bogota, 18-20 July 2006


It is difficult to give a panorama of the right to conscientious objection within the available time - the world is big, and situations are quite different. Conscientious objection in Western Europe for example means something very different from conscientious objection in Eritrea, or South Korea, or Israel, or Russia, or Latin America. And you all know that even within Latin America situations vary, and it is hard to compare Paraguay with its more than 100,000 conscientious objectors with the situation here in Colombia.

Solidarity with war resisters in Turkey

Presentation at the international seminar "Unarmed Resistance: the transnational factor", Coventry, 15 July 2006

Introduction I myself am involved in supporting the Turkish war resisters movement since about 1995. This presentation is based on my own experience and discussions I had in the last 10 years with Turkish activists. It is therefore very subjective, and all views expressed are mine, and not the ones of the Turkish war resisters.

EU intervention in Congo: milestone on the way to a military Europe?

Disguised as “humanitarian intervention” and “support to building democracy”, the second major EU military intervention in Congo began in June. 2,000 EU troops from 20 EU countries (plus Turkey) are being deployed in Congo while Peace News goes to press, to safeguard the elections in the DRC. Officially, the EU mission (named EUFOR RD Congo) aims to support the already 19,000 UN “peacekeepers” in the country, which became famous recently for contributing to the systematic destruction of civilian-occupied villages1. Separately the EU would provide mapping support to MONUC via the EU satellite centre2.

Reclaim the Bases

I want to talk about resistance to military bases in Britain, but will also say a few words about Spain. This might be surprising, but maybe it is less so when I explain my own role in this. I am not only working at War Resisters' International1 in London – an international network of pacifist and antimilitarist groups – but I am also part of the nonviolent direct action group D102, which was instrumental in setting up the network Reclaim The Bases3 in Britain. This network goes back to early 2003, before the start of the war on Iraq. The first call to reclaim the bases was taken up by War Resisters' International internationally, and was especially taken up by Alternativa Antimilitarista-MOC4 in Spain, with actions happening annually ever since.

Celebrate, for now

Good news for a change from Turkey: on 9 March, gay Turkish conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan was unexpectedly released from the military prison in Sivas, following an order by the Military Court of Appeal in Ankara. The reasons for his release remain unclear, but one possibility is that, even if finally sentenced, Mehmet Tarhan would be unlikely to serve more time in prison than he already has (he was arrested on 6 April 2005, and has spent almost a year in prison).

A Festival for Deserters in Moscow

In Russia, 23 February is traditionally the "Day of the Defenders of the Fatherland" — converted from the Soviet "Red Army Day". But for the Chechens and Ingush it is the anniversary of the deportation of their entire people from the Caucasus to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzistan by Stalin back in 1944. They were only allowed to return in 1956, to a country which was then populated by Russians and neighbouring people — one of the sources of today's conflicts in the North Caucasus.

Refusal in the international war resistance movement

Refusal to take part in war is as old as war itself. However, with the introduction of conscription as a more "effective" means for recruiting (first in France on 5 September 1798), and modern warfare, war resistance too had to become more organised. Former WRI Council secretary Tony Smythe wrote in 1967: "Men have always been impressed, levied, requisitioned, conscripted and bullied into the armies of their rulers but modern mass compulsory recruitment has been applied on a scale which makes it one of the major repressive institutions of our time, It is an integral part of the total war concept.


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