The British regulations governing the right to conscientious objection have long been a well hidden "secret". In its 1998 report "Refusing to bear arms. A world survey on conscription and conscientious objection to military service", War Resisters' International wrote: "The current army rule covering the procedure on conscientious objection is Instruction No. 6 [D/DM(A) 7/5/3(M1(A))] - which is actually forbidden to be published outside the army. For the same reason of secrecy the "instruction" for the navy and air force is not known."
When the war on Iraq began in 2003, War Resisters' International published information on conscientious objection for members of the British Armed Forces, together with a leaked copy of the regulations for the army, on its website.
Only now - following a request by War Resisters' International under the Freedom of Information Act - are these documents legally available to the wider public. However, it remains to be seen if the Armed Forces will also make them more easily available to its members - who would need them most - i.e. by including them in the A-Z index of the Ministry of Defence website. Presently, a simple search of the MoD website for the term "conscientious objection" yields no results. How then are soldiers to claim their right?

Andreas Speck