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The right to refuse
An African-American US Iraq veteran may be able to claim asylum in the EU after arguing that the Iraq war was illegal. On 11 November, a German judge ruled that military deserters may be able to claim asylum in the European Union if they have a reasonable fear that they would have been ordered to commit war crimes if they hadn’t deserted, and if they face punishment on returning to their home country.
Eleanor Sharpston, the advocate general of the Munich administrative court, was ruling in the case of André Shepherd, a US soldier who was sent to Iraq in 2004 as a maintenance mechanic. He deserted in 2007 when ordered to redeploy to Iraq, arguing that the war was illegal.
In 2008, he sought asylum in Germany; when this was denied, Shepherd appealed to the Munich administrative court, which has asked the European court of justice to clarify certain points of EU asylum law.
The European court of justice has yet to make a final ruling, but they normally abide by the advocate general’s opinion.
Meanwhile another US Iraq war veteran, Sara Beining, is facing a court martial on two counts of desertion, on 9 December at Fort Carson, Colorado. She and her husband went AWOL in January 2007 and she became an outspoken opponent of the war.
Stopped for a traffic offence in September 2013, she was held on a military warrant arising from the 2007 desertion and sent to Fort Carson, where she again deserted this summer.
For more on US military resisters: www.couragetoresist.org