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Colombia: Conscription, Conscientious Objection and Recruitment Practices
The question of conscientious objection has been brought to attention of the Colombian courts once more, via the case of one Julián Enrique Rojas Rincón who is arguing that his Christian pacifism makes military service unconscionable to him and that his right to conscientious objection is safeguarded in article 18 of the Colombian constitution which also protects medics from performing abortions where they feel this runs contrary to their interpretation of Christianity. Magistrate Jorge Pretelt has called on the military to form an ‘interdisciplinary group’ to asses Rojas’ case.
The Colombian military has been ordered by the country’s constitutional court not to continue violating the rights of conscientious objectors, whose right to freedom of conscience prevails over their legal obligation to military service. The military argues that the young conscientious objector whose case precipitated this order was not directly involved in military operations, bur rather in giving logistical support to those who were.
Jhonatan David Vargas Becerra was forcibly recruited by the Colombian military last year. He left the army as soon as he could, and later the police issued an arrest warrant for him on grounds of desertion. He was arrested by the police on 4 September in Barrancabermeja, but has since been released. WRI put out a CO Alert on Jhonatan’s behalf, and on September 16 we heard the news that Jhonatan had been recognised as a conscientious objector by the Constitutional Court.
Developments in Conscription
A bill is being considered to renew conscription to military and social service for both men and women, the Colombian Defence Ministry has announced. Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said that President Juan Manuel Santos has asked his ministry to analyse the initiative to enforce young school graduates to choose between military or social service in public institutions.
Source: Colombia Reports
Recruitment Practices and ‘Batidas’
Colombia’s army has acknowledged that forcing youths into trucks on the pretext of checking their military status is against the law. These “illegal raids” are carried out in cities where army trucks illegally and forcibly pick up young men on the pretext of checking their military status. Military service is mandatory for Colombian men over the age of 18. There are, however, exceptions. A man can be considered exempt if he is a victim of the conflict, student, disabled, parent or head of household. If a young man can afford to study he will therefore ensure exemption from the army. This explains why the poorest sectors in the country who do not have access to higher education are more likely to join the ranks. This is also why the poorest neighbourhoods are the locations of the batidas (“raids.”)
Source: Colombia Reports
A member of the leftist opposition party Democratic Pole on Tuesday filed suit against Colombia’s defence minister over ongoing illegal recruitment practices in the army, including batidas. The alleged crimes filed against Juan Carlos Pinzon by congressman Alirio Uribe include arbitrary arrest and detention, unlawful extension of imprisonment, and abuse of authority, all of which are connected to the army’s use of draft raids in recruiting soldiers. The forced drafting of Colombians who are unable to show a paper that exempts them from military service was deemed unconstitutional in 2011, but it is widely acknowledged that the practice continues throughout the country.
Source: Colombia Reports
Central Asia: Governments Crackdown on Draft Evasion
Central Asian governments are trying to prevent young men from evading mandatory military service during autumn conscription campaigns that began on October 1. Kyrgyz Armed Forces General Staff official Ruslan Abdrakhmanov, told journalists that the names of men who have been avoiding conscription for some time will be sent to Kyrgyzstan’s Border Guard Service to prevent them from leaving the country. The mayor of neighbouring Tajikistan’s second-largest city, Khujand, Rajabboi Ahmadzoda, said on September 30 that a list of regional officials’ sons is being prepared so that they can be among the first to be called up for conscription. Men aged 18 to 27 must serve in the military for one year in Kyrgyzstan and for two years in Tajikistan, but evasion of the draft has been common since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Russia & Lithuania: Russia to Draft Chechen Youth for First Time in 20 Years & Threatens to Imprison Lithuanian Draft Evader
Young men from Chechnya are being drafted into Russia’s armed forces for the first time in 20 years. Chechen youth stopped being drafted to the Russian Army in late 1994, when the Kremlin sent the military into Chechnya to try to crush its separatist leadership. Some are claiming the lack of recruitment in the North Caucasus since then was ‘discriminatory’ against Chechen youth who wanted to defend the Russian ‘homeland’ of which they are citizens, and that the move to start recruiting them again is therefore progressive, a sign of ‘political success’ and inclusivity, though it cannot be denied that Russia’s shrinking population and other problems are leading to a shortfall in army recruitment.
Meanwhile the Russian government are threatening to imprison a Lithuanian who left the Soviet army in 1990, after Lithuania declared independence from Russia. As a response, the Lithuanian State Security Department has advised the 1500+ Lithuanians who refused military service after 1990 not to travel to Russia.
Israel: Haredi Elements Protest Draft
Hardline haredi elements protested on Sunday morning against the arrest of yeshiva students who fail to present themselves when called up for army service, holding a small rally outside the Jerusalem draft office. Several protests have been staged in recent weeks due to the arrest of a number of young haredi men who have not reported to IDF enlistment offices when called to do so.
North Korea: Military Conscription to Be Introduced for Women
North Korean women aged 17 and over will face seven years’ military conscription, starting in January. According to revised military service laws to be announced soon, military service for males will be increased from 10 years to 11 years. The state originally considered increasing the period to 13 years but, taking into account the measure’s overall failure in the mid-1990s, decided instead to conscript women. The North is struggling to keep up the numbers in its military forces, which have totalled more than 1.2 million. A shortage of males born in the mid-1990s reflects the nationwide famine during which about 330,000 children died.
Source: Korea Times US
South Korea: Country Confronted with Endemic Violence among Conscripts
Trigger Warning: descriptions of bullying and torture. Two cases of extreme violence in the conscripted Korean military – one mass shooting and attempted suicide, one death by torture – have drawn public attention to the violence conscripts routinely face in the military, with 120 deaths a year occurring among them for the last five years.
Read more at: Human Rights Asia News
Britain: Legal Challenge to Army’s Discriminatory Treatment of Minors
Child Soldiers’ International are taking the Ministry of Defence to judicial review over its discriminatory terms of service for those who enlist into the army as minors. These terms currently require minors to serve until they are 22, which could be 6 years for a soldier who enlisted at 16 compared to the four years’ service required of those who enlist as adults.
Sources: The Independent
Ukraine: Reintroduction of Conscription
Ukraine announced on Thursday August 28 that it will return to mandatory conscription in the coming months as its troops battle pro-Russian insurgents in the east. “The National Security and Defence Council has decided to restart conscription in the fall (autumn),” Mykhailo Koval, deputy head of the council, said after an emergency meeting chaired by President Petro Poroshenko. Ukraine’s government decided last year to switch to a contract-based professional army, ending Soviet-style bi-annual drafts in the spring and fall for men between 18 and 25. The last call-up into the Ukrainian armed forces, numbering 168,000 people in the beginning of 2014, was in October 2013 for a period of one year. In April the military announced partial mobilisation for people with military experience ahead of its operation in the east, where pro-Russian insurgents had declared two regions independent of Kiev’s authority.Sources:
USA: Military Service to Be Made Path to Citizenship for ‘DREAMers’
A small group of undocumented young immigrants have been given the right to apply for enlistment into the army as a fast-track to citizenship if their deportation has already been deferred under the DREAM act and they have special language skills.
Source: Latin Post
More information on the DREAM Act can be found at: NNOMY
A full archive of co-alerts is available at wri-irg.org/news/alerts. Since the last CO Update, we have issued the following co-alerts:
- 08 Oct 2014: FINLAND: Total objector Henri Sulku starts 173 days home detention
- 01 Oct 2014: ISRAEL: Repeated imprisonment of COs continues
- 17 Sep 2014: COLOMBIA: Constitutional court recognises Jhonatan as a CO – keep up the pressure for his release
- 11 Sep 2014: COLOMBIA: Conscientious objector arrested