Monday, October 25, 2010

Help release conscientious objector detained at army base

This post is a call to action from the Fellowship of Reconciliation, by my former colleagues Rachel and Peter. Please take action!
Juan Diego is a young campesino in the municipality of Andes, a few hours southwest of Medellin. He works on a farm to help support his parents and two little sisters; his father’s income as a day-laborer is not enough to feed the whole family. On September 5, Juan Diego was grocery-shopping for his family in town when soldiers came up to him and asked for his papers. When he told them he did not have his military service booklet, he was pushed into a truck and taken to the 11th battalion of the 4th Brigade. They took away his identification and have still not returned it to him. 


You can take action to help have Juan Diego released!!

1. Call the 4th Brigade in Medellín (011 574 493 9290 ext. 111) and ask for his immediate release.

2. Call the Ombudsman of Antioquia (011 574 218 1577 ext. 101) and ask for Doctora Sandra Maria Rojas to intervene in the release of Juan Diego.

Tell them this: “Llamo para expresar mi preocupación por la detención arbitraria e ilegal de Juan Diego Agudelo Correa, numero de cédula 1027885649, en el municipio de Andes (Antioquia) el día 5 de septiembre. Juan Diego se encuentra prestando servicio militar en el Batallón 11 de la Cuarta Brigada, pero se ha declarado objetor por conciencia, postura que tiene el amparo de la Corte Constitucional en el fallo C-728 de 2009. Quiero pedir que usted colabore para que el derecho fundamental de Juan Diego a declararse objetor, a través de una tutela, sea confirmado. Muchas gracias.”

I am calling to express my concern at the arbitrary and illegal detention of Juan Diego Agudelo Correa, ID number 1027884569, in the municipality of Andes (Antioquia) on the 5th September. Juan Diego is currently performing obligatory military service in the 11th Battalion of the 4th Brigade, but has declared himself a conscientious objector, a position that the Constitutional Court has backed in sentence C-728 (2009). I ask for your assistance so that Juan Diego’s fundamental right to declare himself a conscientious objector, by way of a writ, is upheld. Many thanks.
In Juan Diego’s words, “Since that day I have been in the base against my will, because I do not want to perform obligatory military service. In the first place, because my moral principles don’t let me participate in the war and so I do not want to be part of any army or armed force. And second, because my highest priorities are my family, which needs me to continue to work, and to continue my high school studies, which I had to temporarily suspend because of the economic difficulties in my family.” (link to declaration) The day after he signed this declaration of conscientious objection, the soldiers in the battalion asked who did not want to be there. Juan Diego replied that he did not want to be in the army because he does not agree with the war. The soldiers laughed, made fun of him, and answered that there wasn’t a chance in hell they would let him go. 

Juan Diego is a conscientious objector. He was arbitrarily detained and is being forced to serve in the Colombian military. There are differing views on the legality of Juan Diego’s recruitment, depending on whom you ask. According to Lieutenant Colonel Juan Carlos Quiroz, who directs operations in the 4th Recruitment Zone, which has jurisdiction over Andes, the Colombian Constitution says that the military can go out and compel men to serve in the army (according to Col. Quiroz this includes using force). “No one wants to serve, so what am I supposed to do?” Colonel Quiroz asked us. Lieutenant An officer of the “Cacique Nutibara” Battalion 11 in Andes told us that he feels he is doing youth a favor when he rounds them up in trucks: “Many of the kids don’t have the money to pay for transportation to the brigade’s base to enlist, so we provide the transportation for them.” 

However, according to the United Nations, this type of recruitment is illegal and can be defined as an arbitrary detention and a violation of personal liberty. There is no specific legal provision in the Colombian Constitution to allow for these indiscriminate street-roundups. According to the Constitution, since personal liberty is a fundamental right, an explicit written order must be in place to deprive someone of that right. The Colombian Constitutional Court has also declared that administrative detentions, even for only a minute, constitute an illegal deprivation of liberty. The military must legally request the presence of a potential recruit in a written fashion, and if the recruit doesn’t show up, they can then request a warrant or charge a fine. The Ombudsman of Antioquia has requested that the military stop this practice, as have War Resister’s International, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Medellin Youth Network, and FOR, among others, but they keep doing it! 

Juan Diego’s recruitment was done illegally according to many authorities, and now, under Colombian law, conscientious objection is also legally recognized. A year ago, the Constitutional Court accepted the validity of conscientious objection in its ruling C-728 in a case brought by the Bogotá-based University of the Andes and the Collective for Conscientious Objectors, together with CIVIS of Sweden. In a change from earlier jurisprudence, the legal requirement for the majority of young males to perform military service is now set against the right not to be forced to act in contravention of one’s deepest moral, religious or political convictions. Last month, the full text of the Court’s judgment was made public. The Colombian Congress is now required to pass a bill normalizing conscientious objection, which may eventually also encompass some form of civil service. But in the meantime, objectors like Juan Diego must present a judge with a tutela, a writ for the protection of constitutional rights. At the time of writing, this is underway in the city of Medellín. The case of Juan Diego, therefore, may prove to be something of a precedent.

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