Petition the EU to protect Russian and Ukrainian conscientious objectors

IssueOctober - November 2022
Feature by John Cooper

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 around Europe to open their borders to those seeking asylum because they oppose war in their home country.

The campaign was created by the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, War Resisters International, the European Board of Conscientious Objection and Connection e.V. The campaign is being promoted in England and Scotland by the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

The rights of those opposed to war should not be discarded once the bombs start falling. We call on the European parliament, council and commission to each take steps to reaffirm and uphold the rights of COs.

The UK was the first nation, in 1916, to grant the legal right to conscientious objection. It is vital that we now all support this petition and campaign to ensure these rights for others.

The campaign was launched on social media and features stories of people from Ukraine and Russia who have refused to fight and now seek asylum in other countries. It highlights how the European parliament and court of human rights and the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe have all acted to protect and uphold the right to conscientious objection in previous years.

The petition builds on a letter sent to the European bodies earlier this year to highlight these concerns.