|USA: James Corey Glass
has right not to serve in Iraq
06 June 2008
Amnesty International believes James
Corey Glass to have a genuine conscientious objection to serving as a
combatant in the US forces in Iraq, and would consider him to be a
prisoner of conscience if imprisoned on his return to the USA. He is
facing deportation from Canada on 12 June.
James Glass joined the army in 2002, enlisting in the National Guard
where he was assigned to non-combatant duties in the USA. His unit was
later ordered to deploy to Iraq, where he served five months of active
service in 2005.
According to his statement, he had concerns about the legality of the
war before his deployment to Iraq. While serving there, he developed
further serious objections to the war, including what he saw as the
abusive treatment of civilians by the US military and failure within the
system to address such abuses. He stated that, whilst in Iraq, he
reported his concerns to his superiors and asked to be relieved of duty.
His request was denied but he was granted a two-week leave. He refused
to return to his unit and went absent without leave (AWOL) in February
Since being in Canada, James Glass has become a member of the “War
Resisters Campaign” and has spoken out publicly about his objection to
the Iraq war.
US law recognizes the right to conscientious objection only on grounds
of opposition to war in any form. James Glass was therefore unable to
seek a claim for discharge from the army on grounds of his objection to
the Iraq War. Other similar cases where US soldiers have sought to
register their conscientious objection and apply for non-combatant
status have been turned down.
If returned to the USA he faces a possible court-martial, where he could
be imprisoned for between one and five years.
Some US military personnel who have refused to deploy to Iraq or
Afghanistan due to their conscientious objection to US policy and
practice in the “war on terror” have been imprisoned solely for their
beliefs. Amnesty International has considered some to be prisoners of
conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally.
Some of these conscientious objectors have been court-martialled and
sentenced despite pending applications for conscientious objector
status, others were imprisoned after their applications were turned down
on the basis that they were objecting to particular wars rather than to
war in general.
Amnesty International has declared a number of conscientious objectors
in the USA to be prisoners of conscience. They included Camilo Mejia,
who was sentenced to one year's imprisonment for his objections to the
war in Iraq, and Abdullah Webster, who refused to participate in the
same war due to his religious beliefs. Another, Kevin Benderman, was
sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment after he refused to re-deploy to
Iraq because of the scenes of devastation he witnessed there. Agustín
Aguayo was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment for his refusal to
participate in the war in Iraq. All four have since been released.
Amnesty International is of the view that the right to refuse to perform
military service for reasons of conscience is inherent in the notion of
freedom of thought, conscience and religion as recognised in Article 18
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 18 of
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Amnesty International considers a conscientious objector to be any
person who, for reasons of conscience or profound conviction, refuses
either to perform any form of service in the armed forces or applies for
non-combatant status. This can include refusal to participate in a war
because one disagrees with its aims or the manner in which it was being
waged, even if one does not oppose taking part in all wars.
Wherever such a person is detained or imprisoned solely for these
believe, Amnesty International considers that person to be a prisoner of
conscience. AI also considers conscientious objectors to be prisoners
of conscience if they are imprisoned as a consequence of leaving the
armed forces without authorization for reasons of conscience, if because
of those reasons; they have taken reasonable steps to secure release
from military obligations.