AI Index: AMR 51/024/2007
News Service No: 023
2 February 2007
objector’s freedom of conscience must be respected
Pending the trial on Monday 5
February of Ehren Watada over his refusal to participate in the Iraq
war, Amnesty International stated that a guilty verdict would be a
violation of internationally recognized rights to conscientious
“If found guilty, Amnesty International
would consider Ehren Watada to be a prisoner of conscience and call for
his immediate and unconditional release”, said Susan Lee, Amnesty
International’s Americas Programme Director.
28-year-old Army Lieutenant Ehren
Watada faces a possible four year prison sentence on charges of “missing
movement” – due to his refusal to deploy to Iraq in June 2006 -- and of
“conduct unbecoming an officer” -- because of his public comments
regarding his objections to the war in Iraq.
Ehren Watada has stated that his
refusal is based on his belief that the Iraq war is illegal and immoral.
In a pre-court martial hearing held on 16 January, a military judge
ruled that he could not base his defence on the legality of the war in
However, the right to refuse to perform
military service for reasons of conscience, thought or religion is
protected under international human rights standards, including Article
18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 18 of
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which
the US has ratified.
Ehren Watada joined the army in 2003
for a three year term, which was due to end in December 2006. In January
2006, he submitted a letter to his army command outlining his reasons
for refusing to participate in the Iraq war and asking to resign from
the army. He did not formally apply for conscientious objector status
because US army regulations stipulate that applicants for this status
must be opposed to war in any form; they do not provide for
conscientious objector status on the basis of an objection to a specific
In his letter, Ehren Watada said: “I
believe so strongly in this cause that I would sit in prison or die for
that belief. I would accept any punishment and take solace in a clean
and clear conscience when the easier path, the safer path would have
been to serve my year in Iraq” He received a reply in May 2006 stating
that his request had been denied. He was ordered to deploy to Iraq with
his unit in June 2006, an order he refused.
Amnesty International has declared a
number of imprisoned conscientious objectors in the US 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. All three have since been released.
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in
London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web: http://www.amnesty.org