Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
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This article, by Ben Fox, was distributed by the Associated Press, October 24, 2009
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Three human rights groups said Friday they will spurn an invitation to tour the Guantanamo Bay prison next month because it doesn't include an opportunity to speak with prisoners.
Amnesty International USA, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch all said the recent Defense Department invitation falls short of the full access to the prison at the U.S. base in Cuba that they jointly requested in a January letter to President Barack Obama.
"What is needed and is still being denied .... is full access to the detention camps, including detainees, so that we may independently review and report on the conditions of confinement there," said Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU's Human Rights Program.
A fourth group invited on the tour, Human Rights First, raised similar objections but hasn't yet decided how to respond to the invitation, which came in an Oct. 8 letter from Philip E. Carter, a deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee policy.
The four regularly send observers to the proceedings of the war crimes tribunals at Guantanamo but have sought to inspect the prison camps and meet with prisoners, hoping to provide the Obama administration with an outside assessment of conditions.
They were seeking far more than the standard tours, without prisoner access, that are offered to journalists, lawmakers and other visitors to the U.S. base in Cuba. Instead, they wanted a role more like that of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which interviews prisoners but issues confidential reports to the government.
Carter appears to rule out more than the typical tour in his letter to the human rights groups. He offers a visit to the prison camps and medical facilities as well as the legal complex where tribunals are held, but says they will not have access to the detainees or their records.
He did not return a phone call seeking comment but says in the letter that the visit would provide a "better understanding of the conditions" at the prison, where the U.S. holds about 220 men.
"It is in everyone's interest for the detention conditions at (Guantanamo) to be as transparent as possible," Carter wrote in the letter, which the ACLU provided to The AP, "and we would welcome a visit by your organization."
Dakwar has been an observer at proceedings of the war crimes tribunals more than a dozen times but said neither he, nor anyone from the ACLU, has been inside the prison — and won't go under these conditions.
Tom Parker, a policy director for Amnesty International, said his group also sees little value in such a limited tour.
"A managed tour of the facility is a Potemkin tour and that doesn't help us understand conditions at Guantanamo," Parker said.
The Obama administration has pledged to close the prison by early next year and has said it will decide by Nov. 16 which Guantanamo prisoners will be tried in a revamped military court and which ones moved to civilian courts.
This announcement was posted to the Free Travis Bishop blog, August 24, 2009
Travis Bishop, a sergeant in the United States army, is serving a one-year prison sentence for refusing to serve with the army in Afghanistan because of his religious beliefs. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for his conscientious objection to participating in war.
Travis Bishop’s sentence was imposed by a court-martial on 14 August, even though the US army was still considering his application for conscientious objector status. In a statement made at the court-martial, Travis Bishop explained that he discovered he could apply for this status only days before his scheduled deployment to Afghanistan. He went absent without leave on the day of his deployment to give himself “time to prepare for my [conscientious objector] application process”. He was away from his unit for about a week, during which he drafted his application and sought legal advice. He returned voluntarily, and on his return to the unit he submitted his application.
Travis Bishop has served in the US army since 2004. He was deployed to Iraq from August 2006 to October 2007. According to his lawyer, he had doubts about taking part in military action since then, but it was only in February 2009, when his unit was ordered to deploy to Afghanistan, that he considered refusing to go. In the period before he was due to be deployed, Travis Bishop’s religious convictions became stronger, and led him to conclude that he could no longer participate in any war.
At the court martial, Travis Bishop was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for going absent without leave, suspension of two-thirds of his salary and a bad conduct discharge. He is imprisoned in Bell County Jail in Texas. His lawyer has pledged to appeal against the conviction. BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Amnesty International has recognized as prisoners of conscience a number of US soldiers refusing to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan because of their conscientious objection. They included Camilo Mejia (see http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/092/2004/en), who was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for his objection to the armed conflict in Iraq in 2004, and Abdullah Webster (see http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/137/2004/en), who refused to participate in the same war due to his religious beliefs and was sentenced the same year to 14 months’ imprisonment. Another, Kevin Benderman (see
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/123/2005/en), was sentenced in 2005 to 15 months’ imprisonment after he refused to re-deploy to Iraq because of abuses he allegedly witnessed there. Agustin Aguayo (see
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/041/2007/en) was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment for his refusal to participate in the armed conflict in Iraq. All four have since been released.
Some of these conscientious objectors have been court-martialed and sentenced despite pending applications for conscientious objector status, others were imprisoned after their applications were turned down on the basis that they were objecting to particular wars rather than to war in general.
Amnesty International believes the right to refuse to perform military service for reasons of conscience is part of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as recognized in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the USA has ratified.
Amnesty International considers a conscientious objector to be any person who, for reasons of conscience or profound conviction, either refuses to perform any form of service in the armed forces or applies for non-combatant status. This can include refusal to participate in a particular war because one disagrees with its aims or the manner in which it was being waged, even if one does not oppose taking part in all wars.
Wherever such a person is detained or imprisoned solely for these beliefs, Amnesty International considers that person to be a prisoner of conscience. Amnesty International also considers conscientious objectors to be prisoners of conscience if they are imprisoned for leaving the armed forces without authorization for reasons of conscience, if they have first taken reasonable steps to secure release from military obligations. RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:
Stating that Amnesty International considers Travis Bishop to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for his conscientious objection to participate in war;
Explaining that, although Travis Bishop went absent without leave, he did so to complete an application for conscientious objector status and seek legal advice, thereafter returning to his unit to submit the application;
Urging that Travis Bishop be released immediately and unconditionally.
Commanding Officer of Travis Bishop’s Unit
Lieutenant General Rick Lynch
III Corps HQ
1001 761st Tank Battalion Ave.
Bldg. 1001, Room W105
Fort Hood, TX 76544-5005
Salutation: Dear Commanding General
Colonel James H. Jenkins III
Headquarters, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade
Building 10053, Battalion Avenue
Fort Hood, TX 76544-5068
Salutation: Dear Commander
Travis Bishop’s lawyer
James M. Branum
Attorney at Law
3334 W. Main St., PMB #412
Norman, OK 73072
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.
Check with the AIUSA Urgent Action office if sending appeals after 5 October 2009.
This article was posted to e-Ariana, August 15, 2009.
Days before the Afghan presidential elections, journalists from thirteen provinces in Afghanistan have told Amnesty International that they had recently been threatened by Afghan government officials because of their critical reporting.
At the same time, the Taleban and other anti-government groups have also stepped up attacks against journalists and blocked nearly all reporting from areas under their control.
“Afghans have made government corruption and failure to implement the rule of law as key aspects of the current election campaign, but some government officials want to respond to criticism by silencing the journalists who monitor government conduct and provide vital information to the voting public,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director.
In some cases, government officials have initiated criminal proceedings against journalists for peacefully exercising their freedom of expression and information. In other cases, government forces have even directly attacked journalists. For instance, in July 2009, five journalists were beaten by police officers in Herat for reporting on a public demonstration and police corruption.
One reporter from Ghazni, who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals, told Amnesty International, “People working on the Karzai election campaign are calling me and other journalists and threatening us if we report on corruption or anything bad that Karzai’s government is doing. Taleban and other groups contact me and threaten me, telling me I must stop writing any positive news stories about the elections because they don’t want people to support the elections. I am caught between these two sides.”
Another journalists from southern Afghanistan who also didn’t want to be named added “If government officials are threatening me, then who do I complain to? I have to self-censor because otherwise I will be killed.”
“Afghan journalists have demonstrated that they are willing to face tremendous challenges in order to give a voice to the Afghan people, but instead of being supported by the government, they are facing increasing pressure from officials,” said Sam Zarifi.
There has been little official effort to investigate murders and physical attacks on journalists. Government institutions - in particular the National Directorate of Security, have attempted to reduce the media's independence.
“President Karzai, and all the presidential candidates, should immediately and publicly commit to defending Afghan journalists, both from the Taleban, but more importantly, from the government itself,” said Sam Zarifi. “It’s vital that the Afghan government upholds the rule of law and its commitment to media freedom by urgently investigating these cases.”
Amnesty International has produced a ten-point action plan calling on the government of Afghanistan to fulfill its international human rights obligations, including upholding the right to freedom of expression and media expression. Amnesty International said that at a time when Afghans are facing increasing insecurity, prioritizing human rights and the rule of law can serve to strengthen stability and security throughout the country. Specifically, Amnesty International called on the Afghan government to:
• Fully and effectively investigate and prosecute all those responsible for attacks on journalists, human rights defenders and others exercising their right to freedom of expression;
• Commit to ensure that no government agencies, and in particular the NDS, violate freedom of expression;
• Introduce legislation facilitating public access to information from governmental institutions.
To view the full ten point action plan go to www.amnesty.org/.
Freedom of expression, which flourished after the fall of the Taleban in 2001, has eroded as a result of increasing threats and attacks by the government and anti-government forces.
The government has improperly prosecuted several journalists on charges of violating religious sensibilities under pressure from the unofficial but highly influential Ulema Council (council of religious scholars). Sayed Parwiz Kambakhsh, Ahmad Ghous Zalmai a journalist and former spokesman for the Attorney General and Mullah Qari Mushtaq were each sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for publishing a Dari translation of the Quran without the Arabic text.
Since 2007, Taleban and other anti-government groups have increased attacks against Afghan journalists. The most recent victim was Jawed Ahmad, an Afghan journalist who was gunned down in the southern city of Kandahar in March 2009. On 7 June 2008 Abdul Samad Rohani, an Afghan journalist working for the BBC in Helmand province, was abducted and shot dead the next day, possibly as a result of his investigation of the narcotics trade. In May 2008, Afghan television journalist Nilofar Habibi was stabbed at the doorstep of her home in Herat, apparently for not wearing a burqa. In June 2007, unknown gunmen shot and killed Zakia Zami, director of the private radio station Radio Peace in Parwan province. She had been critical of local warlords, who had warned her to close the station. In March 2007, the Taleban beheaded journalist Ajmal Naqshbandi and killed his driver Sayed Agha in Helmand province.
This article, by Sam Zarifi, was posted to e-ariana.com, July 17, 2009
General Abdul Rashid Dostum’s statement on allegations surrounding the deaths of Taliban prisoners who surrendered to Northern Alliance forces in November 2001 underscores the need for an urgent inquiry into those events.
More broadly, the renewed attention to this incident highlights the need for the Afghan government and its international supporters to follow through on their commitment to implement the Action Plan for Peace, Reconciliation, and Justice in Afghanistan, which aims to address the legacy of more than three decades of human rights abuses in Afghanistan. With presidential and local council elections approaching, such moves are crucial to demonstrating to the Afghan people that the rule of law will be respected in Afghanistan.
Dostum seems eager to head off an investigation into the events of November 2001 using a variety of arguments. One is that the U.S. military and the Northern Alliance have already looked at the allegations and rejected them. Of course, part of any proper probe would be an examination of whether any forces involved knowingly concealed information pertaining to a possible war crime, for doing so could be a violation of international law.
If, as Dostum asserts, there were investigations by the Afghan and U.S. governments, they should be made public. If their findings were accurate, Dostum should have nothing to fear from a reexamination of the facts. But the facts currently available indicate very strongly that many detainees -- possibly hundreds -- died while in the custody of Dostum's forces in November 2001 and their bodies were dumped in the nearby desert of Dasht-e Leili (adding to the numerous bodies unceremoniously deposited there by various warring factions over the past three decades).
Dostum asserts that “it is impossible that Taliban or Al-Qaeda prisoners could have been abused.” In fact, preliminary investigations carried out shortly after the alleged killings by highly experienced and respected forensic analysts from Physicians for Human Rights established the presence of recently deceased human remains at Dasht-e Leili and suggested that they were the victims of homicide.
I was a human rights investigator in northwestern Afghanistan in February 2002. At the time, numerous witnesses spoke of seeing several trucks dumping what appeared to be human remains in Dasht-e Leili, while others told of detainees being held for days in overcrowded shipping containers without food, water, or medical care, and, in some instances, being shot while inside the containers.
It was also clear that U.S. personnel were serving with and advising Dostum during this period, but preliminary investigations failed to reveal the identities of these personnel or their chain of command. Later journalistic efforts suggested that U.S. Special Forces troops and CIA operatives served alongside Dostum during this period. CIA operative Mike Spann was killing during a firefight at Dostum’s Qala-i Jangi fortress in November 2001.
Dostum claims that no foreign journalists highlighted this episode. On the contrary, in English-language media alone, several highly respected journalists have recounted the allegations and explored the possibility that U.S. forces -- military and intelligence agencies -- either knew or should have known about the events.In addition, as early as November 2001, and continually after that, several major international human rights organizations -- including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and most doggedly, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) – raised the alarm about the conditions of detainees held by Dostum’s forces.
Crucially, the International Committee of the Red Cross did not have access to the Taliban detainees at Sheberghan until December 10, 2001 -- and thus could not monitor their conditions during the period when the detainees died. This undermines Dostum’s claim that a massacre could not have occurred because the ICRC would have known about it. Need For Investigations
By June 2002, we were told that Dostum’s forces, which still constituted a serious military force in the area, had warned locals away from the site and would not allow any investigation. To my knowledge, this situation continues to this day, notwithstanding the expansion of NATO forces into northern Afghanistan.
On several occasions between 2002 and 2005, I personally raised the issue of the need for investigations into this and other possible serious human rights violations with high officials of the Afghan government, the United Nations mission to Afghanistan, and the U.S. government. The consistent call at these meetings was for (1) a public statement of political will to investigate and address the serious human rights violations that have occurred in Afghanistan over the past three decades, and (2) a demonstration of practical support for such an endeavor, for instance by deploying security around suspected mass-grave sites and facilitating the work of forensic investigators.
In each case, I was told quite plainly that such investigations would not be pursued because they were not politically expedient, and because the relevant actors would not and could not guarantee the security of any investigation. Thus, even when the UN agreed in principle to allow PHR to conduct investigations in the area, security conditions prevented them from doing so.
With U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement about an investigation, this situation might improve.
Dostum is correct in one regard: There is a highly politicized atmosphere surrounding the timing of the increased attention to this incident, and that is linked to President Hamid Karzai’s reinstatement of Dostum as the army chief of staff after he had been removed in disgrace last year. Karzai has also nominated as his vice presidential candidate Marshal Fahim, another Northern Alliance commander facing widespread allegations of serious human rights violations and war crimes. Ongoing Impunity Many Afghans, who have repeatedly demanded truth and accountability for the three decades of atrocities they have endured, have told Amnesty International they are extremely disappointed by the presence of such figures in Karzai’s administration. The ongoing impunity of senior government officials has done much to erode public confidence in the Afghan government, something now readily acknowledged even by international militaries.
Obama’s call for an investigation of the November 2001 incidents should renew interest in the essential issue of accountability and transitional justice in Afghanistan. Fortunately, there already exists an excellent Action Plan for Peace, Reconciliation, and Justice in Afghanistan, formulated by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission after significant consultation with a cross-section of the Afghan people.
This plan provides for a multiyear process of gathering information, considering national reconciliation, and, finally, if possible, providing accountability for the crimes of the past. The international community and the Afghan government have explicitly endorsed this plan as part of the Afghanistan Compact. But it is disappointing to note that neither has done much to implement the Action Plan so far. The Action Plan seeks to do exactly what Dostum urges: “to present facts in a balanced way in order to promote understanding, good will, and confidence among the deprived people of different groups that are now far from their government.”
General Dostum has bemoaned the increasing operations of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda after seven years of international nation building. It is time to ask: After seven years of appeasing warlords and human rights violators, isn’t it time for the Afghan government and its international supporters to try truth and accountability?
This article, by William Fisher, was published by IPS, February 15, 2009
NEW YORK, Feb 15 (IPS) - Three human rights groups have released documents that they say reveal close cooperation between the U.S. Defence Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in rendering terrorism suspects to secret prisons, creating 'ghost prisoners' by concealing their identities from the Red Cross, and delaying their release to counter negative publicity about their treatment at Guántanamo Bay.
Close to a thousand pages of documents were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and New York University's Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ). The suit, dating from 2004, seeks the disclosure of government documents relating to secret detention, extraordinary rendition, and torture.
At a press conference earlier this week, the groups revealed that the newly released documents confirm the existence of 'black site' prisons at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and in Iraq; affirm the Defence Department (DOD's) cooperation with the CIA's "ghost" detention programme; and show one case where the DOD sought to delay the release of Guantánamo prisoners who were scheduled to be sent home in order to avoid bad press.
"These newly released documents confirm our suspicion that the tentacles of the CIA's abusive programme reached across agency lines," said Margaret Satterthwaite, Director of the CHRGJ. "In fact, it is increasingly obvious that defense officials engaged in legal gymnastics to find ways to cooperate with the CIA's activities."
"A full accounting of all agencies must now take place to ensure that future abuses don't continue under a different guise," she said.
While most of the documents simply contain news articles, there were several significant disclosures from the DOD.
A February 2006 email to members of the DOD's Transportation Command discusses how to deal with the bad press the U.S. was receiving over its detention facilities. It said the U.S. was "getting creamed" on human rights issues sparked by "coverage of the United Nations Rapporteur's report on Guantanamo, plus lingering interest in Abu Ghraib photos." These developments add up to "the U.S. taking a big hit on the issues of human rights and respect for the rule of law, the email said." It cited criticism of the U.S. in blogs and discussion boards.
"America has lost its prestige," a blogger from Yemen wrote. "Every year the world waits for the annual U.S. State Department report on human rights. Today, it is America that awaits the world's opinion of its human rights policy. From Gitmo, to Abu Ghraib, to secret prisons in Europe, the world accuses America of not respecting human rights."
To temper the bad PR, the email suggests delaying the release of prisoners at Gitmo "for 45 days or so until things die down. Otherwise we are likely to have a hero's (sic) welcome awaiting the detainees when they arrive."
The email adds, "It would probably be preferable if we could deliver these detainees in something smaller and more discreet than a T tail (a larger aircraft with a T-shaped tail wing)."
"It is astonishing that the government may have delayed releasing men from Guantánamo in order to avoid bad press," said CCR attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez, who represents many of the men held in Guantánamo and has made 30 trips to the base since 2004. "Proposing to hold men for a month and a half after they were deemed releasable is inexcusable. The Obama administration should avoid repeating this injustice and release the innocent individuals with all due haste."
In a second document, one heavily redacted page mentions an "undisclosed detention facility" at Bagram.
Another highlights how the Geneva Conventions can be interpreted to allow the CIA and the DOD to 'ghost' detainees' identities so they can be denied a visit from the International Committee of the Red Cross. The organisations charged that the document, entitled "Applicability of Geneva Conventions to 'Ghost Detainees' in Iraq", shows that the DOD interpreted the 'security internee' provisions of the Geneva Conventions to allow for 'ghosting' of detainees by prohibiting the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from visiting.
It also shows that the DOD recognised that indefinitely prohibiting the ICRC from visiting or failing to notify the ICRC of the existence of detainees was illegal under the Geneva Conventions, the groups said.
A 2005 document labeled a "Detainee Update" presentation dealt with "Internment Serial Number Policy (ISN). The organisations said, "It shows that the DOD did not, as a matter of course, register detainees with the ICRC until they had been in custody for up to 14 days and that authorisation was sought to hold some individuals for up to 30 days without ISN/registry with ICRC to 'maximise intelligence collection'," even though "there is some disagreement as to legal basis to go beyond 14 days."
The groups said these policies "demonstrate the ease with which the CIA could have used DOD facilities as 'sorting facilities' without having to worry about ICRC oversight or revelation of the ghost detainee programme."
Records from a Detainee Senior Leadership Oversight Council meeting contain references to a previously unreleased section of the Church Report and discuss the need for the DOD to develop and enforce guidelines governing their relationship with 'Other Government Agencies', including the CIA, in order to regulate interrogation and other operations overseas.
The organisations claimed that these documents demonstrate that the DOD and CIA were in an ad hoc relationship, "apparently unconstrained by formal guidelines".
The lawsuit is based on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests dating back to 2004. Previous government releases also included documents largely already in the public record, including, in one instance, a copy of the Geneva Conventions. This is the first time the DOD has provided any documents in response.
"Out of thousands of pages, most of what might be of interest was redacted," said Tom Parker, policy director for Counterterrorism, Terrorism and Human Rights at AIUSA.
"While the sheer number of pages creates the appearance of transparency, it is clear this is only the tip of the iceberg and that the government agencies have not complied with spirit of President Obama's memo on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. We call on Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration to put teeth into the memo and work actively to comply with FOIA requests."
In his first week in office, President Obama signed an order closing the Guantanamo detention facility in Cuba within a year and prohibiting CIA secret prisons. However, the order allows the CIA to detain people temporarily. Obama also pledged increased openness and transparency during his administration.
It is not known whether the Pentagon or the CIA still holds 'ghost detainees,' Satterthwaite said, referring to people housed at secret facilities.
The following statement was distributed by Amnesty International, June 6, 2008
Amnesty International believes James Corey Glass to have a genuine conscientious objection to serving as a combatant in the US forces in Iraq, and would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience if imprisoned on his return to the USA. He is facing deportation from Canada on 12 June.
James Glass joined the army in 2002, enlisting in the National Guard where he was assigned to non-combatant duties in the USA. His unit was later ordered to deploy to Iraq, where he served five months of active service in 2005.
According to his statement, he had concerns about the legality of the war before his deployment to Iraq. While serving there, he developed further serious objections to the war, including what he saw as the abusive treatment of civilians by the US military and failure within the system to address such abuses. He stated that, whilst in Iraq, he reported his concerns to his superiors and asked to be relieved of duty. His request was denied but he was granted a two-week leave. He refused to return to his unit and went absent without leave (AWOL) in February 2006.
Since being in Canada, James Glass has become a member of the "War Resisters Campaign" and has spoken out publicly about his objection to the Iraq war.
US law recognizes the right to conscientious objection only on grounds of opposition to war in any form. James Glass was therefore unable to seek a claim for discharge from the army on grounds of his objection to the Iraq War. Other similar cases where US soldiers have sought to register their conscientious objection and apply for non-combatant status have been turned down.
If returned to the USA he faces a possible court-martial, where he could be imprisoned for between one and five years. Background Information
Some US military personnel who have refused to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan due to their conscientious objection to US policy and practice in the "war on terror" have been imprisoned solely for their beliefs. Amnesty International has considered some to be prisoners of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally.
Some of these conscientious objectors have been court-martialled and sentenced despite pending applications for conscientious objector status, others were imprisoned after their applications were turned down on the basis that they were objecting to particular wars rather than to war in general.
Amnesty International has declared a number of conscientious objectors in the USA to be prisoners of conscience. They included Camilo Mejia, who was sentenced to one year's imprisonment for his objections to the war in Iraq, and Abdullah Webster, who refused to participate in the same war due to his religious beliefs. Another, Kevin Benderman, was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment after he refused to re-deploy to Iraq because of the scenes of devastation he witnessed there. Agustn Aguayo was sentenced to eight months' imprisonment for his refusal to participate in the war in Iraq. All four have since been released.
Amnesty International is of the view that the right to refuse to perform military service for reasons of conscience is inherent in the notion of freedom of thought, conscience and religion as recognised in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Amnesty International considers a conscientious objector to be any person who, for reasons of conscience or profound conviction, refuses either to perform any form of service in the armed forces or applies for non-combatant status. This can include refusal to participate in a war because one disagrees with its aims or the manner in which it was being waged, even if one does not oppose taking part in all wars.
Wherever such a person is detained or imprisoned solely for these believe, Amnesty International considers that person to be a prisoner of conscience. AI also considers conscientious objectors to be prisoners of conscience if they are imprisoned as a consequence of leaving the armed forces without authorization for reasons of conscience, if because of those reasons; they have taken reasonable steps to secure release from military obligations.