Soldiers must have the right to say no
CLAUSE 8 of the Armed Forces Bill is important because it introduces a new definition of desertion: Soldiers who go absent without leave AWOL and intend to refuse to take part in a military occupation of a foreign country or territory can be imprisoned for life.
When MPs voted for the Bill, including Anne Snelgrove, they voted to try to legitimise occupation, and undermine soldiers' and everyone's right to say no to illegal and immoral orders, a right won after the Second World War, when Britain, the United States and other allies insisted that soldiers who obeyed Nazi orders were war criminals (the Nuremberg Principles).
The right to say no does not depend on whether you are conscripted or volunteer. How voluntary are you if: l You're recruited at 16 years of age (a child soldier) l Your conditions of service are a kind of slavery l Your right to conscientious objection is hidden from you l It's illegal for two or more soldiers to make any complaint together l You're tried at court martial in front of three officers rather than by an independent jury of 12 people?
How voluntary is joining the military if all the factories or mines in your area have closed down and there are no other financial options?
MP John McDonnell called Clause 8 barbaric, and so is the rest of the Bill far behind most EU countries' legislation on the military.
The Bill is still going through Parliament. Join us in lobbying MPs and peers against this militarization of our legislation.