Monday, May 23, 2005

Amnesty International announces support for war resister Jeremy Hinzman

Elaine wanted us to highlight an item from Democracy Now! today.

From Headlines, here is the item:

Amnesty International To Support War Resister Jeremy Hinzman
Amnesty International has announced it will support a U.S. war resister who fled to Canada to avoid fighting in Iraq. The international human rights group said it would consider Jeremy Hinzman to be a prisoner of conscious if he is deported back to the United States and jailed. Hinzman has sought political asylum in Canada but his refugee claim was rejected two months ago. He is now appealing that decision to the Canadian federal court. If Hinzman was forced to return to the United States he would face up to five years in jail.

And for any Spanish readers (and to note that Democracy Now!'s Headlines are now available in Spanish, "NEW FEATURE: Democracy Now! is now offering the program's daily news summary translated into Spanish. Los Titulares de Hoy" -- that's audio and text), we'll note the item again:

Amnistía Internacional apoyará opositor a la guerra Jeremy Hinzman
Amnistía Internacional anunció que apoyará al estadounidense opositor a la guerra que viajó a Canadá para evitar combatir en Irak. El grupo internacional de derechos humanos afirmó que consideraría a Jeremy Hinzman como un preso de conciencia en caso que sea deportado a Estados Unidos y enviado a prisión. Hinzman buscó asilo político en Canadá pero su solicitud de refugiado fue rechazada hace dos meses. Ahora apela la decisión ante un tribunal federal canadiense y si es obligado a regresar a Estados Unidos, puede enfrentar hasta cinco años de prisión.

To help get the word out on Democracy Now!'s Headlines now being available in Spanish, we'll try to note one item each day this week and we'll go with the recommendations of members Francisco, Maria, Juan, Lorenzo, Miguel, and Sabina since they e-mailed this site that they were really excited by this new offering.

As Amy Goodman reported this morning, Amnesty International has issued a statement on Jeremy Hinzman -- "USA: Jeremy Hinzman – Conscientious objector seeking refuge in Canada:"

Amnesty International considers Mr. Jeremy Hinzman to have a genuine conscientious objection to serving as a combatant in the US forces in Iraq. Amnesty International further considers that he took reasonable steps to register his conscientious objection through seeking non-combatant status in 2002, an application which was rejected. Accordingly, should he be imprisoned upon his return to the United States, Amnesty International would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience.
Mr. Hinzman enlisted in the United States military on November, 27 2000 and during his course of training and service gradually came to the conclusion that he could not participate in offensive military operations as it would be contrary to his beliefs. He applied to the army for non-combatant status as a conscientious objector in August 2002. A few months later he submitted a second application as no action had been taken on the original one. While this was pending, he was deployed to Afghanistan where he had a hearing on his application for non-combative status in April 2003. His application was refused on the basis of a statement he made under questioning that, while not willing to conduct offensive operations, he was prepared to undertake defensive operations in certain circumstances. US law recognizes the right to conscientious objection only on grounds of opposition to participating in all war.
In December 2003, when he was back in the US, Mr Hinzman received notice of his unit’s deployment to Iraq and decided to leave the military without leave as he considered that his participation in the war in Iraq would be a violation of his conscience, religious principles, and international law. In early January 2004, he went to Canada together with his family where he submitted an inland refugee claims on January 22, 2004. The Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board denied Mr Hinzman asylum in March 2005.
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). In its general comment No. 22 on article 18 of the ICCPR, the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations has reaffirmed that the right to conscientious objection to military service is a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. 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. It is thus the view of Amnesty International that conscientious objectors can adopt selective forms of objection which should be used not to undermine the conscientious nature of their objection.
Amnesty International considers a person to be a prisoner of conscience when s/he is detained or imprisoned solely because s/he has been denied or refused his/her right to register an objection or to perform alternative service. S/he would also be prisoners of conscience if s/he is imprisoned for leaving the armed forces without authorization for reasons of conscience, if s/he has taken reasonable steps to secure release from military obligations.
Following this Amnesty International opposes the forcible return of a rejected asylum seeker if s/he is a conscientious objector and upon return would risk becoming a prisoner of conscience or would risk other serious human rights violations for reasons of his/her conscience. Amnesty International considers that the circumstances and evidence presented in the case of Mr Hinzman strongly indicates that he is a conscientious objector. Several factors form the basis for this conclusion: he has comprehensively described the process during which he gradually came to the conclusion that he could not participate in offensive military operations as it would be contrary to his beliefs, a process manifested through his formal application for conscientious objector non-combatant status, his deployment in Afghanistan on non-combatant duties before his claim was rejected and his consistent assertion that he believes the war in Iraq to be contrary to international law and waged on false pretences, that the use of force is immoral and counterproductive and that he is not willing to kill or be killed in the service of ideology and economic gain. The US authorities’ rejection of his earlier application for conscientious objector non-combatant status, and the limited grounds on which such status can be sought under US regulations, make it reasonable to believe that had he submitted another application specifically focusing on his objection to the war in Iraq it is likely to have been rejected..
Mr Hinzman has argued that if he is returned to the USA he would risk imprisonment for having left the army without authorization – an action he took because of his conscientious objection. Amnesty International considers that there is a significant risk that he would be imprisoned for 1 to 5 years for having left the armed forces without authorization, despite the fact that he had taken reasonable steps to obtain exemption from combatant duties on the grounds of his conscientious objection. If he is forcibly returned and imprisoned, Amnesty International would adopt him as a prisoner of conscience.

That is Amnesty Internation's statement in full and since it's labeled "press release," I'll assume it's in public domain. I'll also add that the date on the statement is May 13th but until Amy Goodman reported it today, I hadn't heard anything of it. (It's not on Amnesty's home page, you have to go to the "news" to find it.)

As Goodman pointed out, they interviewed Jeremy Hinzman at Democracy Now!:

July 15, 2004: "Echoes of Vietnam: Soldier Fights Extradition in Canada:"

JEREMY HINZMAN: Pretty much what it came down to was-- I mean, I won't go into the false pretences and everything that we know about, but being in an illegal war, it would be being complicit and a criminal enterprise, and you may say that, oh, well, you're not a policymaker or a general or whatever, that the Nuremberg principles wouldn't apply to you. But in light of what's happened since Abu Ghraib, when they scapegoated like the lower enlisted soldiers for simply carrying out what the policy was from the upper echelons, I think it's pretty fair to say that we made the right decision. Because I was in the infantry and there is a good chance that I would have-- I would have been pretty active in a negative way. And so I'm-- that's why we came here pretty much is that I wasn't-- I don't want to shoot people. I would have been happy to go to Iraq as a port-a-potty janitor or operation human shield. I just don't want to shoot people.

From October 15, 2004: "From Vietnam to Iraq: American War Resisters Seek Refuge in Canada:"

AMY GOODMAN: Well, why don't we start with Jeremy Hinsman, tell us your story.
JEREMY HINSMAN: Well, it's – it's rather long, but I enlisted in the Army in January of 2001, shortly after the Supreme Court awarded Bush the Presidency, and I did so for the same reasons that Brandon probably did. We both came from lower middle class backgrounds and were looking for a way to attend university without becoming saddled of debt. I was looking for structure and focus in my life. I wanted to do something more than make a buck. The Army definitely fit the bill. – in all of those regards.
AMY GOODMAN: What did you think you would be doing in the Army?
JEREMY HINSMAN: Based on U.S. history, I thought I would be being deployed to places like Grenada or Panama or Honduras or whatever. And I wasn't naive to what I was getting into. What I was really naive to, however, was that I really have a – and most other sane people really have – a really ingrown inhibition against taking human life. I mean there's a lot of systematic processes and training that have to take place in order for you to overcome those barriers and kill. And no matter how hard I tried, and God knows I did, because I really enjoyed the Army and the people that I worked with, and I wanted to be a part of it. I couldn't bring myself to be convinced that killing could ever be justified.

From December 13, 2004: "U.S. Army War Resister Jeremy Hinzman: 'I Have a Duty to Disobey:'"

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you back on. We had you in the studio up at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation when we broadcast from Toronto. Can you tell us about the hearing last week.
JEREMY HINZMAN: Well, before the hearing even commenced, we had our hands tied a bit. As you have stated, the solicitor general of the Canadian government intervened in our case, and that's only done in about 5% of cases. Anyway, they raised the issue that they felt that the legality of the war in Iraq was irrelevant to our refugee claims. So, we were unable to argue that in any way.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what that means.
JEREMY HINZMAN: Well, basically, they said whether the war is legal or whether it's illegal, it's irrelevant to what you are trying to do here. Which, I mean, I would argue is pretty ludicrous, because that was almost my entire rationale for coming here in the first place.

Please note, the above are excerpts. Utilize the Democracy Now! links to watch, listen or read.

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