Right to Refuse to Kill

War Resisters' International's programme The Right to Refuse to Kill combines a wide range of activities to support conscientious objectors individually, as well as organised groups and movements for conscientious objection.

Our main publications are CO-Alerts (advocacy alerts sent out whenever a conscientious objector is prosecuted) and CO-Updates (a bimonthly look at developments in conscientious objection around the world).

We maintain the CO Guide - A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System, which can help COs to challenge their own governments, and protect themselves from human rights abuses.

Information about how nation states treat conscientious objectors can be found in our World Survey of Conscientious Objection and recruitment.

More info on the programme is available here.

In response to the many known cases of sexual abuse and harassment of women by members of the armed forces and the police in different places in Colombia, at the end of July, the Colombian vice-president Martha Lucía Ramirez held a meeting with the Defence Ministry and the Military Forces. During this meeting, the Vice-president proposed the inclusion and recruitment of women as a strategy that could prevent violence against women by members of the military and police forces.

At the beginning of June, the US President threatened state governors with the 1807 Insurrection Act by sending military and federal police into cities across the US - as happened in Washington D.C. - if they didn’t react and repress protest in their states. Some National Guard and active-duty GIs reached out to Veterans and GI rights organisations to consult about their options if they were going to refuse to comply and follow orders.

The Russian Federation has started the 11th conscription campaign of residents in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. The European Union condemned this draft attempt and has called on Russia to stop all violations of Human Rights and international law in the Crimean Peninsula.

Following reports on right-wing extremism activities by active or former members of the German army, the new commissioner for the armed forces, Eva Högl, started a debate affirming that “ending conscription was a big mistake” and reintroducing it might help tackle antidemocratic ideas inside the army. The Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer rejected the idea of the return of compulsory military service, announcing, on the other hand, a new voluntary service called “Your year for Germany” which will be introduced in 2021.

The Inter American Court of Human Rights has adopted its admissibility report on José Ignacio Orías Calvo’s conscientious objection case, presented by Derechos en Acción against Bolivia. The IACHR considered that the Bolivian state didn’t comply with its commitment of legislating on the human right of conscientious objection.

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

In an extract reproduced from WRI's 2010 anthology of women conscientious objectors, Ferda Ülker, a feminist, LGBT, and antimilitarist activist, as well as one of the first women to declare herself a conscientious objector in Turkey, explains how she came to make the decision to do so in 2005, and the gender dynamics she encountered along the way. Her declaration itself is also included.

Conscientious objection has been associated with men who declare themselves conscientious objectors. The issue has been molded and defined by them, most importantly by the compulsory military service duty they face. We women saw ourselves not as agents but supporters of the struggle. As we got involved however, we started to see the crucial importance of women's inclusion in the conscientious objectors' struggle. On the other hand, it still took us a long time to find the courage to say ‘yes, here we are’. One of the reasons for this may be the militarist culture which has had its effect on us. Having been raised in this cultural environment, even when we participate in oppositional movements, we may fail to get rid of the marks of it. We get fearful as women even when we are a part of the oppositional movement's gatherings. When we come up with a claim and need to make it, we wait to make our point intact, clear enough to deny any space for discussion. But time passes while we wait.

Working Together

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Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Throughout this book, readers will find there is a particular focus on ‘gender’. But why is such a focus pertinent? Dr. Cynthia Cockburn is a feminist researcher and writer, living in London, where she is active in Women in Black against War, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She holds honorary chairs in the Department of Sociology, City University London, and the Centre for the Study of Women and Gender, University of Warwick. Here, she addresses this question.

Why Gender?

The clear conviction of authors and editors that 'gender matters' is a welcome feature of this book. But why does it matter? What do we gain by employing a gender analysis in the study of conscientious objection, the movement of those who refuse to be enlisted into the state's preparations for war? The answer to this question, I think, may come in three parts.


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Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Why this Book?

Conscientious objection to military service is most often viewed, and written about, as a moral stand that an individual takes against an injustice in a particular conflict, or against the injustice that is war itself. But conscientious objection is also a form of political action, and a focus for campaigning and organising. As such, it has its particular strengths, and faces particular challenges.

This book has been created by and for organisers and campaigners working on conscientious objection all over the world. It contains short articles, brief case studies written by conscientious objectors and experienced activists from five continents, who tell about their actions and campaigns, share tips for successful campaigning, and discuss the difficulties their movements are facing. The chapters of the book cover a broad variety of political and social contexts in which conscientious objection movements operate and address the specific features of conscientious objection on different ideological grounds. They also pose some tough questions conscientious objectors have to face if they want their movements to be sustainable and to avoid reproducing the very same militarised and patriarchal social structures that created the injustice to which they respond.

Following International Conscientious Objection Day, WRI hosted a webinar on conscientious objection and asylum with contributions by campaigners from Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) and Connection e.V.. The presentations from this webinar are now available online and you can watch here.

CO-Update 100 is out!

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The latest issue of our newsletter CO Update is out! In this issue, you'll find stories on conscientious objection and conscription from Ukraine,Turkey, Eritrea, Germany, USA, Azerbaijan, Thailand, among others.

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