Germany: US soldiers applies for asylum

Related peace activists: 
André Shepherd: (c) Connection e.V.André Shepherd: (c) Connection e.V.

On 27 November 2008, U.S. Army Specialist Andre’ Shepherd applied for asylum in Germany. After attending college and failing to find meaningful employment, Shepherd enlisted in the military early in 2004. The promises of financial security and international adventure easily trumped working at a fast food chain. He became an Apache airframe mechanic, hoping to someday qualify up to the role of helicopter pilot.
His first unit was already deployed to Iraq when he completed his training, so he joined them immediately, with only one day at his unit’s home in Germany. Shepherd spent six months on a forward operating base near Tikrit, working 12-hour days to keep the heavily armed Apaches (and their signature Hellfire missiles) in the air.

Though he enlisted in order to bring freedom, prosperity and peace, Shepherd found none of these traits in the locals with whom he interacted.

Some had the look of fear, while others looked outright angry and resentful,” he said of locals contracted for jobs around the base. “I began to feel like a cruel oppressor who had destroyed the lives of these proud people.
Our unit did a lot of good things, giving schools books and bringing clothes to children,” he said. “These actions helped my conscience a bit, but I kept thinking to myself, ‘Had we not invaded, would these people need this aid now?’
Shepherd began researching for himself not just the causes of the Iraq War, but the wider War on Terror. As inconsistencies in the official story emerged, the reasons for which he joined the military lost credence. As the myth of Weapons of Mass Destruction evaporated, so too did his faith in the mission.

Upon his return to Germany at the end of the deployment, Shepherd began to investigate the options available to an American soldier who questions the morality of war. He spoke with a superior about conscientious objection, but was told the process was lengthy and his application would probably be denied.

U.S. military regulations also state a conscientious objector must have an objection to all war in all form. Since Shepherd’s objection was not in opposition to all war, his application would have required lying, which would have compromised the moral composition of his argument.

After months of deliberations, finding no suitable avenue in the Pentagon’s serpentine regulations, he packed his things on April 11, 2007, and went Absent Without Leave from his Katterbach base in the middle of the night.

He has lived underground in Germany for nearly two years, waiting for his unit to return from yet another Iraq deployment, but such a vaporous life can only be lived for so long.

Andre Shepherd's asylum application is the first case of a US soldier applying for asylum in Europe. Andre Shepherd faces persecution for his refusal to participate in the war in Iraq, as defined by European Union Council Directive 2004/83/EC, Article 9 para 2 (e), which states: "Acts of persecution as qualified in paragraph 1, can, inter alia, take the form of: ... (e) prosecution or punishment for refusal to perform military service in a conflict, where performing military service would include crimes or acts falling under the exclusion clauses as set out in Article 12(2);" These exclusion clause says: "2. A third country national or a stateless person is excluded from being a refugee where there are serious reasons for considering that:
(a) he or she has committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity, as defined in the international instruments drawn up to make provision in respect of such crimes;
According to a judgement of the Federal Administrative Court of Germany, "there were and still are serious legal objections to the war against Iraq launched on 20 March 2003 by the USA and the UK, relating to the UN Charter's prohibition of the use of violence and other provisions of international law. The US and UK governments could not use as their basis for the war either decisions of the UN Security Council authorising them to go to war, or the right to self-defence set out in Article 51 of the UN Charter" (BVerwG 2 WD 12.04).
Based on this ruling, in theory the chances of Andre Shepherd's asylum application should be good. However, in practice it will be very difficult to achieve the right to asylum for Andre Shepherd.

Sources: Connection e.V.: Erster Asylantrag eines US-Deserteurs in Deutschland, 27 November 2008; Military Counseling Network: André Shepherd seeks German asylum, 27 November 2008; Lawyer Dr. Reinhard Marx: Asylantrag für den US-Verweigerer André Shepherd, 27 November 2008; André Shepherd: "I am petitioning for political asylum in Germany", 27 November 2008; Council Directive 2004/83/EC of 29 April 2004 on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals or stateless persons as refugees; Federal Administrative Court of Germany: ruling in the matter BVerwG 2WD 12.0-4 of June 21, 2005