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Germany: German soldier wins right to refuse supporting Iraq war

Federal Adminstrative Court upholds freedom of conscience for professional soldier

A major of the German army who refused to take part in the development of a piece of software was acquitted by the Federal Administrative Court of Germany on 21 June 2005. He had claimed that it would be impossible to guarantee that this software would not be used in the war in Iraq (in which Germany does not take part). In April 2004 major Florian Pfaff, who works in the Armed Forces Administration of the German military, refused to continue to work on the development of military software, as ordered to by his superior. He said that for reasons of conscience he cannot follow any order which could turn into a support for the war on Iraq. His superior was unable to exclude the possibility that the work on the software could amount to a support of German military activity in Iraq - a war, which he views as being in contradiction to internal law.

In connection with this the major also criticised that the members of the German Armed Forces are stationed in Kuwait, that German soldiers participate in AWACS flights, guard US bases in Germany, and that Germany grants landing and overflight rights to the US forces fighting in Iraq - all this he views as support to the war in Iraq, which would be prohibited by the German constitution and by international law.

The military tribunal degraded him from major to captain. Major Pfaff appealed against the decision, as did the military prosecutor.

Now, the Federal Administrative Court ruled that Major Pfaff did not act against military law. Although he did not refuse to serve in the military by applying for conscientious objector status, he still enjoyed freedom of conscience, said the judges.

Source: Bundersverwaltungsgericht Az 2 WD 12.04 - judgement from 21 June 2005

Veröffentlicht in CO-Update, August 2005, No. 12