Tuesday, June 19, 2007

CO Watch: Colombia

The US and Israel aren’t the only countries where Conscientious Objectors face difficulties and hardships in the wake of making known their moral opposition to war and violence.

Janice Gallagher, who left a teaching post at a charter school outside of Boston to join the staff of the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s office in Bogota, Colombia, has posted an insightful article about the travails of Colombian COs as they try to get their government to recognize their right to conscientious objection under international law. (Read her article on her blog, “Pedaling for Peace,” by clicking <here>.)

Caught in the coils of a civil war that is now forty years old, military-age youth in Colombia face forced recruitment by not only their nation’s standing army, but by paramilitary organizations and guerrilla groups, as well.

Gallagher notes that Colombia’s national constitution contains two contradictory provisions that make it difficult for COs to establish their status: Article 18 declares “nobody will be obligated to act against their conscience,” while Article 216 says “All Colombians are obligated to take up arms when the public interest necessitates in order to defend national independence and public institutions.”

The nation’s Constitutional Court, citing the latter provision, holds that there is no right to CO status, which means that Colombian COs are now turning to international law to force their government to recognize its treaty obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Gallagher notes that it international pressure is especially important in the struggle to make Colombia recognize the right to conscientious objection. You can join a petition to secure release of Carlos Andres Hinacapie, a CO who was forcefully recruited into Colombia’s military in August 2006, by contacting FOR’s Bogota office at presenciaparalapaz@yahoo.com.

Adam Simms

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