War Resisters' International statement on recognising the right to conscientious objection

Support to Israeli conscientious objectors is needed

War Resisters' International Executive, 23 February 2003

The Executive Committee of War Resisters' International, the 81-year-old international network of pacifist organisations with 90 affiliates in 45 countries, expressed its grave concern about the situation of conscientious objectors to military service in Israel during its Executive meeting in London this weekend. In light of the increased punishment of Israeli conscientious objectors, the Executive Committee calls on the Israeli government to recognise the human right to conscientious objection. It calls on the international peace movement to support Israeli conscientious objectors, and to voice its protest against Israeli government policy on conscientious objection.

Israel does not recognise the right to conscientious objection, which is derived from Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Israel is a signatory. On top of that, and in response to the increasing number of conscientious objectors who refuse to enlist in the IDF, the Israeli authorities increased sentences for draft resisters. Again in violation of international legal standards, conscientious objectors are sent to prison again and again -- most recently conscientious objector Jonathan Ben-Artzi received his eighth prison term, and Dror Boimel received a seventh prison term. In a further move to break conscientious objectors, they now face court-martials, although they already spent more than 150 days in prison. A court-martial can sentence conscientious objectors to up to 3 years in prison. Jonathan Ben-Artzi and Dror Boimel will be the first.

A WRI report on conscientious objection to military service in Israel, recently submitted to the United Nations Committee on Human Rights, lists more than 180 conscientious objectors who served prison terms for their conscientious objection between September 2001 and January 2003 -- a total of more than 6,500 days in prison .

War Resisters' International calls on the Israeli government

  • to recognise the right to conscientious objection, and to pass a law on conscientious objection according to the standards set out in UN Commission on Human Rights resolutions 1998/77 and 2002/45;
  • to immediately release all imprisoned conscientious objectors, and to postpone call-up for all those who declare their conscientious objection to military service until a law has been introduced.

War Resisters' International urges its affiliates, other peace movement organisations, and everyone

  • to voice their protest against the imprisonment of conscientious objectors in Israel by writing letters to Israeli embassies, the Israeli government, and the Israeli military;
  • to support imprisoned conscientious objectors by sending letters to prisoners ;
  • to take part in WRI's campaign in support of conscientious objectors in Israel, which will culminate on 15th May, International Conscientious Objectors' Day: organise protest actions, vigils, workshops, public debates on 15th May, to raise awareness about and support conscientious objectors in Israel;
  • to join a WRI delegation to observe court-martials against conscientious objectors in Israel.

Israel's conscientious objectors need our support.