Conscientious objector forced to serve in military

IssueNovember 2005
Feature by Andreas Speck

In early October, Colombian conscientious objector Juan Carlos Montoya Munera was forcefully recruited by the Colombian military in the city of Antioquia, and taken to the barracks of the Batallon Bombona Coronel Diaz, where he is being forced to perform military service.

During the same week the Colombian military forcefully recruited a number of youths in the cities of Medellin and Antioquia, also taking conscientious objectors. On 10 October Alejandro Piedrahita, a conscientious objector and activist with WRI's affiliate Red Juvenil, was detained by the military together with 50 others. He announced his conscientious objection to the military and was later secretly released by the military, while ensuring that other detainees did not see him leave.

The following day, Hector Fabian Londono, another Red Juvenil activist, was detained while observing the military detaining other youths. He also declared his objection, and called Red Juvenil while detained by the military and was released.

Official denials

Although the Colombian constitution recognises freedom of conscience and religion in Article 18, the country does not recognise the specific right to conscientious objection.

Forced recruitment is a common practice in Colombia. At bus stops, in market places, on the street the military pick up youths. Those who cannot prove that they already have a military service record or have a valid reason to be exempted, are taken to recruitment centres. They are then dispersed around the country to conflict areas, border areas, forests and swamps to perform military service under very harsh and dangerous conditions - this despite Law No48 which states that conscripts are to perform their service in their home areas. Such forms of forced recruitment are officially denied by the armed forces.

After being deluged by letters of protest from around the world, Juan Carlos Montoya Munera was released from the barracks just a few days after his “recruitment”. Red Juvenil express their thanks to everyone who writes.