Press release from Payday, issued 19 May 2006
For more information contact:
Michael Kalmanovitz: +44 (0) 20 7209 4751 or  +44 (0) 78162 51377



Panel from l to r: Michael Kalmanovitz, Gwyn Gwyntopher, Selma James, Ben Griffin, Bill Hetherington


The Armed Forces Bill receives its third reading on Monday 22 May There is growing awareness of and opposition to Clause 8 which imposes a new, tougher definition of desertion for soldiers who could be imprisoned “for life if they go absent without leave and intend to refuse to take part in a “military occupation of a foreign country or territory”.  This has been widely condemned as a clear attack on the growing movement of soldiers who refuse to be part of Bush’s “endless war” -- three times as many British solders have absconded since the invasion of Iraq.


John McDonnell MP will present two amendments on Monday which would remove the obligation to take part in a military occupation and limit the maximum sentence for desertion to two years. The amendments were announced at a Parliamentary Briefing organised by Payday men’s network on Wednesday 17th May at Portcullis House, Westminster, attended by 50 people who responded enthusiastically to the panel of speakers which included:

Ben Griffin who resigned from the SAS and refused to go back to Iraq, denouncing the war there.  He was applauded when he said he “didn’t join the British Army to conduct American foreign policy.” 

Gwyn Gwyntopher from At Ease, a confidential advice, information & counselling service for members of the Armed Forces, who explained how MPs are responsible for the backwardness of UK military law – according to which it is still illegal for two or more soldiers to make a complaint together;

Bill Hetherington from the Peace Pledge Union, which aims to work towards creating a just world free from war, opposed the British Army’s use of “child soldiers”, that is, 16-year-olds, and the government’s refusal to include in this legislation any reference to the right of conscientious objection;

David Shayler & Annie Machon, MI5 whistleblowers, explaining how they exposed the government’s secret, illegal and “terrorist” activities and connected this with the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis as well as Dr David Kelly’s death;

Michael Kalmanovitz for Payday men’s network on how the Bill was being sneaked through Parliament, and what they have done to stop it. 


Three MPs – Angus MacNeil (Scottish National Party), Nick Harvey (Liberal Democrats), and John McDonnell (Labour) – attended and responded to the distinguished panel. Selma James, co-ordinator of the Global Women’s Strike, was in the chair.


The Briefing concentrated on Clause 8 of the Bill which – together with the proposal put forward by the former Defence Secretary to re-write the Geneva Convention legalising pre-emptive military action – would expressly legitimise occupation


Statements of support from individuals and organisations, including refuseniks, came from France, Israel, Italy, Turkey, UK and US. Especially notable was the message from Poland, stressing that Clause 8 undermines the Nuremberg Principles, established in order to prevent wars of aggression and military occupations like the one perpetrated in Poland and other countries by Hitler, and the present ”criminal occupation of Iraq”.


The meeting ended with a commitment that MPs will be lobbied immediately to support Mr McDonnell’s amendments.


Payday is a network of men working with the Global Women’s Strike
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