A Matter of Recognition

A Matter of Recognition

by Alejandro Parra of ACOOC, translated by Gale Stafford of FOR Peace Presence

Para español, haz clic aquí

Mariopremio

Mario (third from right) with the other winners of the 2014 Muhammad Ali Award

On Saturday, September 27 in Louisville, Kentucky, 22-year-old Colombian conscientious objector Mario Andrés Hurtado Cardozo received the Conviction Award granted by the Muhammad Ali Center. This recognition is given to young adults under 30 years old who stand out for their work in social justice and the defense of human rights in diverse countries of the world.

Mario was selected among many others nominated in Latin America, due principally to his decision to refuse to be trained for war and to work for the rights of young people from working-class areas. These youth are the main target of recruiting by all of the armed groups in Colombia, including the country’s own army, the force which most ropes young people into the war in the form of obligatory military service.

Mario refused the obligatory military service; instead he opted to work for Hip Hop con Jóvenes (“Hip Hop with Young People”) of Soacha, the municipality of Colombia that receives the largest population of people displaced by violence. He also accompanied the denouncements of mothers who lost their children as a consequence of “false positives,” a practice of the army that consists of killing innocent civilians and then dressing them in uniforms of the armed guerilla faction in order to present them as “killed in combat” and therefore claim rewards. These types of actions have left 4,200 victims in the country, of which only 14% have been recognized as such and been financially compensated by the State[1]. After his work in Soacha, Mario joined the Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia (Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors), where he currently works as a legal counsel and defender of youth in risk of recruitment who, like him, denied military service.

However, there is a serious irony in Mario’s recognition, as in cases of many conscientious objectors throughout history. While other countries recognize his conviction and contributions towards constructing a peaceful society, in his own country, Mario is far from being recognized, and is rather ignored to the point that legal action is necessary in order to guarantee his right to conscientious objection. And now that he is finally able to practice this right, Mario is ostracized for his decision, as if the State wishes to sanction him for claiming that he can serve the country without needing to carry a weapon and be trained for war.

Just like the rest of Colombia’s conscientious objectors, because he has denied military service, Mario cannot claim his Law degree, nor can he practice as a lawyer. This is due to the fact that Mario has refused to carry a military booklet. In Colombia, military booklets are a type of mandatory identification young men are required to have, defining their military status and service. Because Mario has refused to carry one, no business or social entity can contract him, given that the State would impose economic sanctions for hiring a young person without said document.

It is contradictory that a government that says it is going for peace not only continues recruiting thousands of young people for the war, but furthermore, makes civil sanctions through the denial of fundamental rights to education and work to those who decide not to take part in it. “In Colombia it is much more profitable to have a gun than a professional title,” affirms a conscious objector who does not understand how the State offers higher education, economic grants and places of work for guerrillas or paramilitaries who, after having been part of the war, decide to demobilize. This is all while the very same State takes away the fundamental rights of the young people who have never shot against another Colombian and refuse to be trained to have to do it. Instead, it applies quantitative fines that, in the majority of cases, turn out to be impossible for conscientious objectors to pay because with their condition as objectors, they cannot even count on having a decent job.

However, conscientious objectors believe that it is more than the fact that the State does not want to recognize their political right and sanction to those who manage to be recognized as such. Really this is what they say that hides the profound fear that one day, the number of young people who make use of the right to objection will grow exponentially, obligating the State and the military forces to recognize something which they have always tried to deny: that the majority of young Colombians don’t want to take part in the war, and don’t believe in an anachronistic, discriminatory, and obsolete model of obligatory military service.

The amount of young Colombians linked with the public forces are around 412,000[2], at the same time the Army Recruitment Command proposes that the number of draft dodgers is around 800,000[3]. In any other social State of law, the military forces would have admitted that there is a serious problem that exists with the model of military service by now, given that the number of young people who disobey the law are double those who see themselves as obligated to submit to it. In Colombia they insist on treating those who refuse to take part in the war as delinquents, but they recognize and prize the combatants with all kinds of privileges and options for the citizens’ army.

What would Austrian suffragist Berta Von Suttner think? With her book Lay Down Your Arms!, she not only inspired the creation of the Nobel Peace Prize, but also was the first woman to receive said recognition. What would she say upon seeing that 100 years later the same Prize was awarded to the President of the most potent military power of the world? Upon learning that today, from the same office where the Prize is exhibited, he ordered the bombing of innocents with the excuse of controlling a fabricated enemy as the means to his necessities?

The recognition that today they give to this Colombian objector on an International level is an important deed –  it seeks to focus the attention on the necessity of transforming the absurd military logic that reigns in society, hoping that one day those who seek peace will be the model to follow, and not the citizens that the State insists on sanctioning and pursuing.

 

FOR Peace Presence provides protective and political accompaniment to ACOOC, and nominated Mario to the Muhammad Ali Center for the award in Conviction.

 

 

[1]Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2014 notes that, “as of June 2013, the Human Rights Unit of the Attorney General’s Office had been assigned investigations into 2,278 cases of alleged unlawful killings by state agents involving nearly 4,000 victims, and had obtained convictions for 189 cases.” (http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2014/country-chapters/colombia?page=2) In early 2014 the Attorney General’s office stated it is investigating cases involving 4200 victims. Many additional cases are being pursued in the regional offices of the Attorney General’s offices and unknown numbers of other cases.

[2]http://www.elpais.com.co/elpais/conflicto-armado/graficos/infografia-cuanto-le-cuesta-conflicto-armado-pais

[3]http://www.senalradiocolombia.gov.co/noticia/en-el-pa-s-cerca-de-800-mil-j-venes-evaden-el-servicio-militar

Una cuestión de reconocimiento

por Alejandro Parra de ACOOC

Click here for English

Mariopremio

Mario (tercero de la derecha) con las otras personas premiadas en 2014 por el Centro Muhammad Ali

El sábado 27 de septiembre en la ciudad estadounidense de Louisville Kentucky, Mario Andrés Hurtado Cardozo, objetor de conciencia colombiano de 22 años, recibió el Premio a la Convicción otorgado por el Muhammad Ali Center. Este galardón se entrega a jóvenes menores de 30 años que se han destacado por su trabajo en defensa de la justicia social y los derechos humanos en diversos países del mundo.

Mario fue seleccionado entre numerosas nominaciones provenientes de Latinoamérica, debido principalmente a su decisión de rehusarse a ser entrenado para la guerra y trabajar por los derechos de jóvenes de sectores populares, los cuales son el principal objetivo de reclutamiento de todos los grupos armados en Colombia, incluyendo las fuerzas militares que son en el ejército que más jóvenes vinculan a la guerra en el país bajo la figura del servicio militar obligatorio.

Mario se rehusó a prestar el servicio militar; a cambio optó por trabajar desde el Hip Hop con Jóvenes de Soacha, el municipio de Colombia que más recibe población desplazada por la violencia; también acompañó las denuncias de madres que perdieron a sus hijos como consecuencia de los falsos positivos, que han dejado en el país 4200 víctimas de las cuales solo el 14% han sido reconocidas como tal y reparadas por el Estado[1]. Luego de su trabajo en Soacha, Mario se vinculó a la Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia, en donde actualmente trabaja como asesor jurídi

Tormentas en La Unión, Comunidad de Paz

Click here for English

De repente, la vida en La Unión, parte de la Comunidad de Paz, puede convertirse en turbulenta. Las cosas han estado muy tranquilo recientemente, entonces la mayoría de los disturbios vienen en la forma de una manada de caballos quienes han organizado sus propias carreras corriendo por la casa, o intentando a ubicar el helicóptero encima pero encontrando solamente un colibrí o dos bien ruidosos. Pero a veces los disturbios cambian en huracanes y son un poco menos maravillosos.

El miércoles pasado y hasta el jueves golpeó una tormenta enorme en La Unión. La lluvia caía en cortinas en los techos de zinc y creaba un enrejado de quebradas miniaturas entre todas las casas. Los vendavales arrancaron por el caserío, sacando cosas y tumbándolas, mientras que los relámpagos golpearon por lo menos dos secadoras. La Unión ya sigue sin luz por más que 13 días.

El mismo miércoles, una tormenta de otra variedad llegó cuando los primeros diecisiete soldados de la Brigada Móvil 24 pasaron por La Unión. Ni unos minutos después, más llegaron a través, y más. En total, sobre 50 pasaron por el caserío.

La Comunidad de Paz se fundó hace más que diecisiete años por principios específicamente removiendo a los miembros de la Comunidad del conflicto. Incluye no provenir ningún apoyo logístico a ningún actor armado ni tenerlos dentro de espacios comunitarios, no tener ni apoyar armas de ningún tipo y decir “no”a la injusticia y la impunidad. En el medio de una de las zonas más calientes, más combativos de Colombia, la Comunidad se unió y declaró que los miembros eran afuera, y respetuosamente pidieron que desde allí, los actores de cualquier grupo armado eviten el área. Se consedó medidas primero cautelares, y entonces provisionales de la Corte Interamericana que las protegen y validan este estándar. La última vez que demoraban unas fuerzas militares en frente de las casas de La Unión fue hace sobre seis años.

Esta vez los soldados pasaron justamente como otro hurracán. Cuando representantes de la Comunidad y acompañantes de FOR, quienes también viven en La Unión, fueron para hablar con unos de ellos, sus líderes hablaron en tonos respetuosos mientras reconocer que aunque habían visto las vallas de la Comunidad antes (que marcan la tierra y listan los principios de la Comunidad), eligieron de todos modos caminar por allí. Dijeron que estaban esperando apoyo de uno de sus soldados, quien estaba enfermo, y que lo habían dejado en el otro lado del caserío. No importa que esta era todavía la tierra que trabaja la Comunidad, y que no eran permitidos estar allí incluso antes de que se enfermaba. Cuando uno de los grupos más pequeños paró para descansar cerca de la malla, pero todavía dentro, y de nuevo les hablaron, unos soldados se disculparon por estar en la Comunidad. Otros se negaron de disculparse y declararon, “¡Este es Colombia!”y “Lo que pasa al enfermo es responsabilidad de ustedes.” Cuando otro soldado empezó a cruzar, después de la mayoría de su tropa había ido, y se acercaron aún más miembros de la Comunidad, postuló, “Bueno, los otros pasaron por aquí, entonces yo, también,” y así hizo.

La Comunidad de Paz significa justo eso – un espacio por la no guerra. Según la teoría de la Comunidad, donde hay un grupo de actores armados, incluso militares, seguro que siguen los otros grupos armados. Para evitar el conflicto, la Comunidad ha escogido evitar los actores armados totalmente, y en vez de eso convivir y trabajar juntos, para crear la paz que ven por este mundo. Y después de diecisiete años de declararse así y vivir sus principios, todavía hay violaciones de sus esperanzas y sus derechos.

Storms in La Unión, Peace Community

Para español, haz clic aquí

10320506_3475925776566_9061500698343788894_nLife in La Unión, part of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, can quickly become turbulent. Things have been fairly quiet recently, so most of the disturbances come in the form of a pack of horses blasting by, or trying to locate the chopper overhead, only to find an incredibly loud hummingbird or two. But sometimes the disturbances turn into hurricanes and are a little less delightful.

Last Wednesday and into Thursday struck a whopping storm upon La Unión. Rain fell in sheets on the tin roofs and created a lattice of miniature rivers between all of the houses. Gales tore through the village, picking things up and knocking them over, as lightning hit and struck down at least two of the cacao-drying racks. La Unión now continues without power going on 13 days.

That same Wednesday afternoon, a storm of a different variety arrived when a group of seventeen soldiers from the 24th Mobile Brigade of the Colombian Armed Forces marched through La Unión. Not a few minutes later, more trickled through, and then more. In all, around 50 soldiers passed through the neighborhood.

The Peace Community was founded over seventeen years ago on principles pointedly meant to protect Community members from further involvement in the war. These are individuals from regions near and far that came together with a common goal after having been displaced, persecuted, and threatened. Their principles include not providing logistical help to any of the armed actors, maintaining all Community spaces as zones which are free of the presence of armed actors, not possessing or supporting arms or weapons of any kind, and saying “No” to injustice and impunity. In the middle of one of the hottest, most combative zones in Colombia, the Community came together and declared that they were not going to take part in the war. They respectfully requested that from that moment on, actors from any armed group, legal or illegal, avoid the area. They were first granted precautionary, then provisional measures from the Inter-American Court on Human Rights which protect them and validate this standard. The last time military forces hung out in front of the houses of La Unión was six years ago.

This time the soldiers passed through like just another hurricane. When representatives from the Community and FOR accompaniers, who also live in La Unión, went to speak with some of them, their leaders spoke in respectful tones while acknowledging that although they had seen the Community signs earlier (marking the land and listing Community Principles), they chose to walk through anyway. They said that they were waiting for support for a sick soldier who they had left on the other side of the neighborhood. Never mind the fact that this was land on which the Community lives and works, and that as armed forces, the military were not permitted to be there regardless of the circumstance. When one of the smaller groups of soldiers stopped to rest toward the edge of the village, we again approached them to speak further and reiterate that they respect the Community’s space. Some soldiers excused themselves for being within the bounds of the Community. Others refused to excuse themselves and declared, “This is Colombia!” and “Whatever happens to the sick soldier is your responsibility.” When another soldier started to cross through, after most of his troop had already gone, he was approached by still more Community members and posited, “Well, the rest of them went through this way, so I’m going here, too,” and he did.

The Peace Community means just that – a community space which intends to strive for peace even while surrounded by war. According to the theory of the Community, where there is one group of armed actors, including military, other armed groups are sure to follow. In order to avoid conflict, the Community has chosen to avoid armed actors altogether, and to instead live and work together, constructing their own alternatives to the ever-present conflict around them. After seventeen years of declaring themselves as such and living their principles, there are still violations on their wishes and their rights.

International Court Investigates Colombia for “False Positive” Killings

By Susana Pimiento

International Court Investigates Colombia for “False Positive” Killings
On November 15, the International Criminal Court gave Colombia a clear warning that the Court expects accountability at the senior level for the serious crimes that fall under its jurisdiction, or else it may pursue a formal investigation. The warning came in the first interim examination report ever issued by the Court’s Prosecutor Office.

Colombia joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) in November, 2002 and is one of only eight countries formally under ICC examination. The other countries are Honduras, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Georgia, Guinea, South Korea (for war crimes committed by North Korea), and Mali.
READ MORE >>>