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Human rights abuses within the military and "social integration" as coercion

In this workshop human rights record of the military towards its own, and the fate awaiting both conscripts and "volunteers" within an unaccountable and largely unscrutinised "state within a state", was examined. In particular how Britain and "New NATO" is evangelising its brand of professionalisation based on human rights violations, and on coercing the most vulnerable members of society (poor, marginalised) under the guise of "social integration", was looked at. If deligitimisation of the military is the task of peace movements, how can we work to expose the military as an abusive institution and unmask the reality awaiting our young compatriots?

Gwyn Gwyntopher introduced the theme by focussing on the human being in uniform.

France and Britain do not allow soldiers to associate themselves. Provided you focus on human rights, you may work together with military people on this issue.

In the UDHR and European Convention of Human Rights military are excluded from questioning human rights. UN directive sais that there shall be no peacekeepers under 19 years old. UK may however send professional soldiers to battle when they are 17 and they may sign up when they are 16. The British model is:

  • you may sign up when 16 years
  • a 22 year contract, with 12 months notice
  • you may leave with 14 days notice, between the 2nd and 6th first months
  • if you want a training course, you have to voluntarily give up the 12 months' notice, which means a full time service.

In many cases people who have served nearly their 20 years period, will be discharged before they have completed, and so the military avoid the gratification.

Many pacifist think the end of conscription is an achievement. Gwyn's position is that the British model of the 5 years trap is worse than conscription, because of the mitigating effects of conscription. Conscription is across class structures, it is limited in time, and is at 17 or 18 years old, which is later than the British model.

In the discussion some asked if there had been cases ever brought before UN or ECHR? Gwyn answered very few, mainly because of the fact that you have to exhaust all domestic possibilities first.

Some thought that the British model was too black. Gwyn's answer was: - Yes, but mind you.

Summary by Bart Horeman