Urgent Action for Colombian Conscientious Objector Jhonatan Vargas

URGENT ACTION

On behalf of Conscientious Objector Jhonatan David Vargas Becerra, youth leader of the Central Foursquare Church of Barrancabermeja, Santander who was forcibly recruited by the 34th Battallion of Barrancabermeja

“But with righteousness he shall judge the poor, 
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.” 
Isaiah 11:4a NRSV

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

In Colombia military service is mandatory for all men who have turned eighteen. Yet the Colombian Constitutional Court established in Sentence C-728 of 2009 that conscientious objection to mandatory military service is a fundamental right, in accordance with international norms and treaties on conscientious objection. In spite of this the Colombian Military does not respect this and does not guarantee this right.

As Justapaz, Mencoldes and the CEDECOL Peace Commission we have accompanied several young men who have gone through the process of claiming Conscientious Objector (C.O.) status – young men who for reasons of conscience do not want to serve in the military. We are aware of the irregularities committed by the Armed Forces and to the difficulties C.O.s face when they refuse military service.

We want to share with you Jhonatan David Vargas’ case and request your solidarity.

On March 16, 2013, 18-year-old Jhonatan David Vargas of Barrancabermeja went to the 34th Battallion of Barrancabermeja to establish his military status. Despite verbally communicating his status as a C.O. – that for reasons of conscience he could not provide military service – he was enlisted against his will in the 34th Batallion. He was sent from Barrancebermeja, Santander to a military district of Tolima and later sent to the 28 ASCP Bochica Battallion in Puerto Carreño, Vichada where he currently remains. To date he has refused to swear allegiance.

Since arriving at the Bochica Battallion he verbally communicated to the sargeants and lieutenants that for reasons of conscience and his religious training he firmly believes in God’s word as his guide and faithfully follows God’s command to not kill and therefore he will not carry weapons, will not learn to use them and will not kill. Jhonatan David believes that learning to use weapons and combat techniques violate his religious beliefs. The Bochica Batallion officers have threatened to court martial him for insubordination and disobedience. They have also made fun of the fact that he is a Christian.

Jhonatan David is a university student and is also studying to be a pastor at the Central Foursquare Church of Barrancabermeja’s school of theology.

Colombia’s Military Recruitment Law (Law 48 of 1993) establishes that persons who are in training for religious life or priestly service may request to postpone their military service (line d, article 29). This could apply for Jhonatan, though we seek that his right to conscientious objection, as established in the Constitutional Court’s sentence C-728 of 2009, be recognized.

Requests:
1. Share this information with your organizations and congregations and pray for Jhonatan and his family.
2. Write the Colombian Government demanding the following:

  • That they protect the fundamental right to conscientious objection to military service as established in Sentence C-728 of 2009. That they protect the right to freedom of conscience and religious freedom as established in articles 18 and 19 of the Colombian Constitution which are currently being violated by the National Army’s 28th ASCP Battalion.
  • That they release Jhonatan David Vargas Becerras and grant him C.O. status ending his need for military service.
  • That Jhonatan be immediately returned to Barrancabermeja.

3. Send copies of any letters to justapaz@justapaz.org

Download a sample letter.

Brothers and sisters, your support is crucial because the Colombian government is sensitive and responsive to national and international public opinion, perhaps more than anything else.

We thank you in advance for your support.

Fraternally,
JUSTAPAZ, of the Colombian Mennonite Church
Mencoldes Foundation
Peace Commission of the Evangelical Council of Colombia

Please send letters to:

Dr. Juan Manuel Santos
President of Colombia
secretaria.privada@presidencia.gov.co
Edificio Administrativo: Calle 7 No.6-54. Bogotá, Colombia –
Telefax: (57 1) 562 9300

Dr. Angelino Garzón
Vice-president of Colombia
contactovicepresidencia@presidencia.gov.co
Carrera 8a No.7-57.
Telephones (57 1) 444 2120, 444 2122

Dr. Juan Carlos Pinzón
Colombian Minister of Defense
juan.pinzon@mindefensa.gov.co
Carrera 54 Nº 26 – 25 CAN
PBX 3150111

Juan Carlos Mejía Gutiérrez
Director of Recruitment and Reserves
Av. El Dorado Cra. 52 Can
Conmutador (57) (1) 3150111
atencionalusuario@reclutamiento.mil.co

ASPC Battalion 28 “BOCHICA”
Barrio Mateo Kilometro 1 vía Villavicencio
Teléfono: 0985654504

Dr. Jorge Armando Otálora
Human Rights Ombudsman.
Calle 55 Nº 10 -32 Bogotá, Colombia –
PBX: [57 1] 3147300
defensoria@defensoria.org.co

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