Historic Ruling for Conscientious Objection in Colombia

Jan 31, 2015 | Anti-militarization, Conscientious Objection, News, War and Conflict

We share the English press release on the ruling T-455/2014 published by ACOOC-Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia on the 28th of January 2015. Para español, haz click aquí.







The Constitutional Court of Colombia, through its T-455 of 2014 decision, has given a decisive step towards the protection and effective application of the right to object the compulsory military service on grounds of conscience.

Being a conscientious objector in the second most belligerent country in the region-home to the second largest army in the continent and with a national defense budget which for the past ten years has surpassed the one allotted to education and health- has never been an easy task.

Youth who have decided to defend this right have often been ignored and/or threatened by members of the police and army forces as well as by State authorities in general.

Our cases enter a legal limbo that can drag out for years without the reaching of any real resolution, therein violating our fundamental rights to education, work and the subsistence minimum.

Despite international recommendations and the existing constitutional jurisprudence since 2008- given the fundamental nature of the right to object and the ban on arbitrary detention for recruitment purposes[1] (raids)- violations to the rights of conscientious objectors and youth seeking to settle their military status are numerous and consistent.

The army’s illegal and irregular actions, in this regard, are well documented in the a variety of forms and formats: filed complaints; reports, like the one recently published by the Ombudsman[2];congressional debates on political control as well as those which have played out in the municipalities of Bogota and Medellin; and, finally, through tutela protection writ (the Colombian version of the amparo), like the ones that triggered this landmark decision by the Constitutional Court which now requires the military to respect for once and for all this right and to effectively disseminate it as a real and executable alternative.

T-445/14 orders the army to:

  • Attend all conscientious objection requests regardless of the moment at which they are submitted. The requests of young men – whether they find themselves within the recruitment process, in military service or even drafted in a battalion- must be resolved by the military authorities.
  • The requests must be resolved in depth and within fifteen working days. Statements made ​​by objectors cannot be discriminated against on the grounds they raise. That said, high-ranking military officials have the power to undermine the reasons raised in the statements if- and only if they- they consider that these are not fixed, profound and sincere; in such cases, objectors may utilize the resources offered by the law to appeal an adverse the military officials’ decision.
  • If the conscientious objector is recognized once having been recruited, military authorities must order his immediate release and proceed to the issuance of his military card. In no case may they deny the exemption for conscientious objection arguing the lack of legal regulation of this fundamental right.
  • The director of recruitment is ordered to abstain from advancing, authorizing or permitting indiscriminate raids with the objective of leading youth to military units; the violation of this order, beginning 48 hours after the notification of the Court’s decision, will lead to the investigations and the respective disciplinary sanctions that may apply.
  • Lastly, the army is obliged to print a booklet in which the grounds for exemption and deferral are explained, including a detailed explanation of conscientious objection and of the legal mechanisms to enforce and formalize it. Said booklet must be given to all youth in the process of defining their military status and to recruitment officers. In addition, a digital version of the booklet must be provided on the army´s website. Six months after the implementation of the aforementioned changes, the army must submit a detailed report to the Court on the army’s compliance with the orders issued by the Court.

The importance of this decision as a way strengthening the foundations of a real and lasting peace is essential; the only way of overcoming the current state of militarization and its devastating human, social and economic consequences is through real and effective initiatives that demilitarize our lives. Only through real and effective initiatives to demilitarize our lives will we overcome the current state of militarization and its devastating human, social and economic consequences.

We believe it is of the upmost importance to express our gratitude to the following entities for the role they have played in reaching this landmark decision: the Ombudsman’s Office, several district offices[3], select councilors and members of Congress[4], international organizations[5], independent media outlets who have supported us, and, above all others, the conscientious objectors as well as their organizational processes [6]and their families, who have for accompanied our work for entire decades of resistance.

All of this said, there is still a significant way to go in our struggles, including the full elimination of the military card as a requirement to access work, the abolition of obligatory military service, the reduåction of the country’s excessive military spending, the analysis and design of concrete actions to transform the impact of militarization on women’s lives, and the drafting of a proposal to build social services for peace. With the support of all Colombians who dream of a country where peace reins, our hope is to celebrate many more achievements, like this one, in the future.

[1] Ruling C-728/09, Ruling C-879/11 and T-018/12

[2] Obligatory Military Service in Colombia: Incorporation, recruitment and conscientious objection. Advocacy delegate for constitutional and legal affairs. Bogotá 2014

[3] Secretariat of Social Integration, Secretariat of Government, IDIPRON, IDPAC and other entities that are part of the Conscientious Objection District Process.

[4] Alirio Uribe, Iván Cepeda, Angelica Lozano, Angela Maria Robledo, Alberto Castilla, Victor Correa and the ad hoc committee of the council.

[5] For Peace Presence, War Resisters’ International (WRI), Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO), the Campaign for Fiscal Objection to Military Spending (Spain), Terres des Hommes (Switzerland and Germany), Peace Works (Sweden) and other members of the National and International Support Network RANI.

[6] District Process for Conscientious Objection (PDOC in Spanish): [Tejuntas-Bacatá, Colectivo La Tulpa, Justapaz, ANDES, ACEU, Amaranto, Meleoc Rafael Uribe, Contravía, Disentir, Juventud en Marcha, Collective of Objectors in Usme, BOOM of Fontibón, Hijas del Pueblo, Red Somos]; Organizations that fall under the National Assembly of Conscientious Objectors (ANOOC in Spanish): [Tejido Antimilitarista of Medellín, Objetarte de Cali, Campaign “No soy arma de guerra” of Pasto, Conscientious Objections Group of Huila, Quinto Mandamiento de Barrancabermeja, Colombia Joven de Villa Rica Corporation, Indigenous Youth Movement Alvaro Ulcué Chocué, Corporación Casa Amazonía of Putumayo]; Processes and organizations that have historically supported the work: CPDH, Coalition Against the Vinculation of Children to the Armed Conflict, MOVICE, Sons and Daughters for Memory and Against Impunity, Congreso de los Pueblos, Marcha Patriótica, Creciendo Unidos Foundation, Juventud Trabajadora Colombiana, CINEP, Vínculos Corporation, Movimiento Ciudadano por la Noviolencia, Red Feminista Antimilitarista of Medellín, Rojinegro Distribuidora Libertaria and church organizations such as the Mennonite church and the Inter-ecclesiastical Commission of Justice and Peace.