ACOOC – (Colombian Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors)

ACOOC – (Colombian Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors)

acoocACOOC works with young people between the ages of 16-30 from marginalized urban neighborhoods where the conflict is both intense and particularly risky for youth.  Young people in Colombia are victims of recruitment from both legal (the national Colombian army) and illegal groups (the guerrillas and paramilitaries). Colombia is the only South American nation where military service is obligatory, requiring all 18-year-old young men to serve for one to two years. ACOOC supports conscientious objectors in their struggle against discrimination and to achieve recognition by the Colombian government. ACOOC also supports young people who are victims of illegal recruitment practices by the military.

The United Nations recognizes the right of conscientious objection to military service since 1987 as part of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion enshrined in both the Universal Declaration on Human rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

ACOOC is working towards the recognition of conscientious objection by the Colombian government. On the basis of their commitment to nonviolence ACOOC works towards demilitarization of society by using creative means such as films and street theatre to highlight the degree of militarization of Colombian society: in 2002 statistically there were 3,8 soldiers for every 1000 citizens, today the statistic has risen to 5,5 soldiers, whereas there is only one doctor per 3870 citizens. Through various campaigns the group tries to find national (universities, civil society organizations) and international political support for their concerns.

ACOOC is educating young men about their rights concerning conscientious objection; in cases of forced recruitment of a conscientious objector by the state military, ACOOC activates a network to seek his release from the battalion/military prison. ACOOC also organizes both young men and women to develop critical positions in Colombian society and create cultural spaces that challenge militarization and recruitment by both legal and illegal groups.

FOR is the only international accompaniment organization working to accompany and protect youth whose rights are systematically being violated by the Colombian armed forces.