This past October 15 the Columbian Constitutional Court ratified Article 27 of Law 48 of 1993, in which conscientious objection – for ethnic reasons or physical limitations – to the obligatory military service is established. Moreover, the Court emphasized the ambiguity of the Law, saying that this type of objection could also come to be for religious, philosophical or political grounds, although these are not established in Article 27. Already on numerous occasions, many youth, under protection of the law, have been able to employ this legitimate right to refuse to do military service (the objection).
For the last few years, some youth have been organizing around this issue, since for many of them “the role of all of the conscientious objectors in Colombia is to confront the militarization, the oppression, the violence, not in an individual, passive and egotistic manner but one that is active and collective,” says Cristian Henao, a conscientious objector whom the army discharged one month ago on account of the pressure generated by human rights and youth organizations, among them the Youth Network of Medellín (RJ) and the Foundation for Journalists for Peace (FUPERPAZ).
This youth organization has been working for 17 years in the promotion of a culture of nonviolence, the defense of human rights, and the empowerment of youth in a society where they are constantly stigmatized and marked for participating in projects aimed at social transformation. For its part, the Foundation for Journalists for Peace is a new human rights organization that has been working for a little less than eight months, and that has grown stronger during the last two months, due to the commitment they have taken on to address the problems of the student movement and the young conscientious objectors.
*(Translation: T. M. Orzolek)*