Cross-party briefing on the Armed Forces Bill
Wednesday, 17 May 2006, 6.30-8pm, Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House
WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT THE BILL
Barry Ross, Gulf war vet:
“No doubt this will be counter-productive and send more AWOL soldiers even more underground and for longer. As a Gulf veteran and someone who deserted because of PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] I understand the pressure. Police will hunt you down as if you were a mass murderer. I served six months in MCTC [Military Correction & Training Centre] Colchester for the same thing. It was a nightmare. Afterwards to prove a point I was sent to Ireland. Went AWOL again. Can't believe Blair and John Bully Reid are treating our Armed Forces this way. It must be stopped. What next, the firing squad just to enforce discipline?”
Ben Griffin, UK refusenik, resigned from the SAS, and refused to go back to Iraq
"Not only does this bill fly in the face of all that was set out during the Nuremberg trials, It is also a radical change in the relationship between the state and its volunteer forces. Under Section 8 of The Armed Forces Bill 2006 a soldier could face life imprisonment for refusing to serve in a military occupation of a foreign country or territory. Even if that occupation is illegal and instigated by a foreign 'ally', or that the conduct of the occupation is criminal and against the will of the indigenous people of that country".
Osman Murat Űlke, CO from Turkey who won his right in the European Court not to be repeatedly jailed for his refusal, said of Section 8
“I noticed with growing concern that the UK Parliament is preparing to pass a renewed Armed Forces Bill, which threatens soldiers who refuse to join occupation of foreign territory with life-long sentences.”
This undertaking is an alarming step towards incapacitation of citizens, degrading them to tools of an authority which is allegedly in the position to decide on the common good and to replace the conscience of the individual.
A soldier is still a human and no mechanical extension of the military apparatus. No contract, no vow and no law can change this.
I urge the UK Parliament to reconsider. Authoritarianism surely is not a valid path to pursue neither for the British society, nor for humanity in general.”
Rose Gentle whose son Gordon was killed in Iraq, and who now campaigns with Military Families Against the War:
“It’s heartbreaking for a parent when a son stands up for his rights and may be locked away for life. It’s not just him, it’s his whole family that’s sentenced.”
Pablo Paredes, Pablo Paredes, US Navy refusenik who publically refused to go to Iraq", and at whose court-martial trial the judge admitted soldiers are justified in believing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be illegal:
“A Life sentence in Prison is argued for, with some difficulty, by lawyers in cases of Multiple murders, Murder in conjunction with sexual abuse, Violent acts of terrorism and inhuman acts that mirror these in their hideousness. The day a Government considers punishing a human being who refuses to be a party to the greatest weapon of mass destruction in our world (War) with that same sentence of life in prison is the day in which that government hands in its humanity and returns to the savagery of persecution based on beliefs.”
Yesh Gvul (“There is a limit !”) Israeli peace group campaigning against the occupation by backing soldiers who refuse duties of a repressive or aggressive nature:
“The good British men and women who are refusing to participate in senseless wars deserve applause and not imprisonment, and their conscientious act should at least be respected. A government that sends such people to long years in prison is a cowardly government on its way to tyranny.
“We, Israeli citizens who refuse to take part in the occupation of the Palestinian people and territories, would like to convey our solidarity with British refuseniks who are facing oppression.
“Good Luck, and looking forward to joint activism.”
“IMAGINE THAT THERE IS A WAR.... AND NOBODY GOES
“Only war makes it possible to mobilise all of today's technical resources while maintaining the property system. [...] Instead of draining rivers, society directs a human stream into a bed of trenches; instead of dropping seeds from airplanes, it drops incendiary bombs over cities”... Walter Benjamin, German Jewish philosopher
Union Pacifiste, French section of War Resisters International, campaigning for a Europe without an army.
“We support your initiative against the Armed Forces Bill. The abolition of our armies is the royal way to suppress all the wars. Our duty is to claim tirelessly this message: nobody have to be forced to bear arms, everybody has the duty to refuse to kill !
“Un Ponte per”, Italian non-governmental organization in support of soldiers who speak out against military occupation:
“We wish to express our full solidarity with members of the British Armed Forces such as Ben Griffin and Malcolm Kendall Smith who have spoken out against the illegal war and occupation of Iraq and refuse to be instruments of an American foreign policy which aims at the domination of sovereign countries.
“The aim of our association is to build ‘Bridges of peace’ between the West and the Middle East, of co-operation, solidarity, cultural exchange and free political discussion regarding alternatives for our future and international relationships free from fear and domination, in opposition to the ‘Clash of Civilizations’ promoted to justify military conquest, racism and aggression.
“Italy is a country which takes part in the illegal occupation of Iraq, despite Article 11 of its constitution which “repudiates war as a means of resolving international disputes”. Therefore we consider the stand taken by British soldiers against the war in Iraq to be a shining example which we hope will be followed by Italian soldiers”
Shimri Zameret, one of 500 high school refuseniks who was repeatedly jailed and then won his right to refuse to serve the Israeli occupation:
Matan Kaminer, with Shimri, one of the “five” who very publicly won their right to refuse:
“Soldiers are common people who pay the highest possible price for the imperial policies of economic, military and political elites. Resistance inside the military, whether among conscripts or volunteers, is vital for the struggle against imperial war and for world democracy. Israeli refusers stand in solidarity with our British sisters and brothers.”
Grupa Spoleczenstwo Aktywne, Active Society Group Wroclaw, Poland
“No punishment for choosing peace!
“As grassroots activists from Wroclaw, Poland, struggling for human rights, peace and social justice, we would like to express our strong opposition to the UK government’s attempts to rewrite military law that would legitimise occupation and pre-emptive military action in the proposed Armed Forces Bill 2006. In particular, we condemn section 8 of the Bill, which assumes that soldiers who refuse to take part in a ‘military occupation of a foreign country or territory’ can be imprisoned for life.
“We speak as residents of Poland, the country which was the first in Europe to experience the horrors of the Nazi occupation with the destruction of six million members of population, including genocide on almost the entire pre-WWII Poland’s Jewish minority. We speak as descendants of generations that suffered fear and loss of human dignity resulting from Hitler’s imperialist policy and the military aggression. We find it outrageous that the UK Parliament is about to vote the legislation, which undermines the Nuremberg Principles of 1950 that established international recognition of each individual’s responsibility to refuse to obey illegal and immoral orders from any government. Such a vote should not even be proposed in the world so painfully experienced by wars and state-sponsored violence.
“We recognise the universal and irrefutable right of every human being, including every soldier of any army, to refuse to kill or refuse to be an occupier. No one may be punished for opting for peace and respect for human life. We demand that the UK government withdraws the proposal of this shameful Bill and urge the British political leaders to act in accordance with international law. We also urge the UK government as well as all other governments involved in the criminal occupation of Iraq to withdraw troops immediately and completely.
“We demand that the governments invest in caring not killing!”