Conscientious objection

1 October 2023Feature

Week of action called for 4 – 10 December

More than 30 organisations across Europe have called for a week of action leading up to 10 December, International Human Rights Day, pressing for protection for all those who refuse military service in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

The #ObjectWarCampaign coalition, which includes Connection eV (International Support of Conscientious Objectors and Deserters), the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO) and War Resisters International, is urging the European Union to open its…

1 October 2023Feature

Ukrainian pacifist in court for 'absurd' charge

On 20 September, the prosecution failed to appear in court in Kyiv to begin its case against Ukrainian pacifist Yurii Sheliazhenko.

Yurii, executive secretary of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, has been told he will be charged with ‘justifying Russian aggression’. His flat was raided on 3 August and he has been given a night-time curfew (10pm – 6am) until 11 October (though he is allowed to leave for an air raid shelter if there is an attack, or for medical assistance).

Yurii…

4 July 2023Blog

Eritrea is a highly-militarised state, with at least 18 months' compulsory military service for all men and women aged 18 – 40 ('indefinite national service'). This is the text of a speech given by Helen Kidan, chair of Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights, on 17 June 2023 at Antimilitarist Roots, the War Resisters' International gathering in London. The material in [hard brackets] and embedded links have been added by Peace News to help the British reader. Helen Kidan has also made some minor changes to her text.

[Lying on the Red Sea coast in North East Africa,] Eritrea is a former Italian colony, and it was federated to Ethiopia after Italy lost the Second World War to allied forces. Haile Selassie [emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 – 1974] broke the agreement by forcing Eritrea to be annexed. Therefore, in 1961, the 30-year war for independence broke out, this became the longest conflict in Africa.

Eritrea and Eritreans were isolated during the war of independence and the outlook of Eritreans…

1 June 2023News

'I can't kill a person' says Christian jailed for year

In Ukraine, Mykhailo Yavorsky, a 40-year-old Christian from the southwestern city of Ivano- Frankivsk, is out on bail, preparing to appeal against a one-year jail term handed down on 6 April for refusing military service on grounds of conscience, reports Forum 18.

Ukraine has suspended the right to conscientious objection (including the right to alternative service) – something that has been denounced by the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO).

‘I adhere to the…

1 June 2023News

Call for UK to welcome COs

Rather than pouring fuel on the flames by sending more and more weapons, the government should be supporting those resisting war and welcoming conscientious objectors in the UK.

British prime minister Rishi Sunak and the home secretary Suella Braverman should offer asylum to Russians who refuse to be part of the war in Ukraine.

Since the invasion of Ukraine began, calls to offer asylum to Russian objectors have been backed by MPs including Labour’s Lloyd Russell Moyle and the…

1 June 2023News

Belarusian peace activist sends message to London ceremony

Raised Voices sing songs by Sue Gilmurray and Holly Near in front of the Conscientious Objectors commemorative stone at the National Conscientious Objectors Day event in Tavistock Square, Central London, on 15 May 2023. A message from Belarusian peace activist Olga Karach was played at the ceremony. 

1 February 2023News

Ukrainian conscientious objector jailed

Ukrainian conscientious objector Vitaliy Alexeienko had his appeal rejected on 16 January and is believed to have been imprisoned shortly afterwards by order of an appeal court in Ivano-Frankivsk in Western Ukraine. Ukraine has suspended the right of conscientious objection.

Vitaliy, 46, had told the authorities last June that he refused to be conscripted into the Ukrainian army because of his pacifist religious beliefs.

He said that he was willing to take up alternative…

1 October 2022Feature

'Rights of those opposed to war should not be discarded once the bombs start falling'

A European-wide petition calling to protect the rights of conscientious objectors (COs) on all sides of the Ukraine conflict was launched on 21 September, the UN International Day of Peace.

The petition calls for protection and asylum for deserters and conscientious objectors from Belarus and the Russian Federation. It urges the Ukrainian government to stop prosecuting conscientious objectors, instead granting them internationally-guaranteed rights.

It challenges all nations…

1 June 2022News

Peace campaigners across globe mark International Conscientious Objectors' Day

Messages of solidarity were sent around the globe on 15 May, as protests and vigils were held to mark International Conscientious Objectors’ Day.

Countries such as Colombia and Turkey saw demonstrations calling for the abolition of conscription. Peace campaigners in countries from Spain to Japan sent messages of support to conscientious objectors in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

In Finland, protests against conscription were combined with demonstrations against the Finnish…

1 June 2022Comment

Why conscientious objection still matters in 2022

I’ve been a member of the International Conscientious Objectors’ Day organising group for a few years now.

The idea of having a stone dedicated to conscientious objectors to war (COs) began in 1976. After considerable efforts by Edna Mathieson, eventually the stone was unveiled at 2pm on 15 May 1994 in Tavistock Square, Central London. It was unveiled by the composer sir Michael Tippett, the president of the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), who had been imprisoned during the Second World War…

1 December 2019Feature

A view from New Profile, the movement for the demilitarisation of Israeli society

One of New Profile’s central projects is our Counselling Network – a network of volunteers accompanying young Israelis through the process of avoiding or discontinuing their compulsory military service.

One foundation that bills itself as politically radical has informed us that they’d fund other work we’re doing in education, but never the Counselling Network, because, you see, it is not radical enough.

As context, consider that, while we have always supported, and…

1 June 2019Comment

Direct action comes in different shapes and sizes

What a pleasure it was to read about what one bold cardinal has been up to in Rome.

Apparently, in May, the electricity was cut off for a building occupied by 450 squatters – about 100 of them children. Many were refugees.

Cardinal Krajewski (Polish – you guessed) decided on a bit of very direct action. He lifted a lid set in the ground, climbed down to remove a seal, and switched on the electricity.

Light and hot water restored. If there’s a fine, the cardinal said he’d…

1 June 2019News

Memorial to Haringey conscientious objectors unveiled



On 15 May, Haringey First World War Peace Forum unveiled a hand-carved plaque to remember the North London borough’s 350 First World War conscientious objectors. The plaque was installed where outdoor anti-war meetings were held during the war, outside the Salisbury pub (back then, the Salisbury hotel) on Green Lanes. Actor Jim Broadbent, historian Cyril Pearce and local councillors Mark Blake and Emine Ibrahim joined 150 people for the ceremony. The plaque was funded by a…

1 June 2019News

War refusers receive messages of support

Events were held in locations all around the world to mark International Conscientious Objectors’ Day on 15 May, including Edinburgh’s Princes Street, Leicester’s Peace Walk, Liverpool’s News from Nowhere bookshop, London’s Tavistock Square, Manchester’s Friends Meeting House, and Sheffield’s Peace Gardens.

In South Korea, hundreds of COs received messages of support, there was a cycle ride for peace in Seoul and, on Jeju Island, and Jeju Green Party and Jeju Queer Culture Festival…

28 November 2018Blog

In some ways it is hard to believe it has now been over a century since the guns of the First World War fell silent. The 'war to end all wars' is so deeply engraved on our national consciousness that even now, when there is no living memory of the conflict, people gather to speak, remember and reflect on that awful, bloody war.