The Domino Effect and the Axis of Evil

A Matter of Recognition

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

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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.” ( 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.



Una cuestión de reconocimiento

por Alejandro Parra de ACOOC

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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


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Una vez más se verifica que no existen garantías para ejercer el derecho a objetar en el ejército.


El pasado viernes 11 de julio, a las 2:30 pm, dos integrantes de la Acción Colectiva de Objetores de Conciencia y dos acompañantes internacionales de FOR (Peace Presence), nos reunimos con el Coronel Zambrano, el Teniente Alarcón y el Mayor Medina, todos integrantes del Batallón Reveíz Pizarro ubicado en Saravena Arauca.

Los objetivos de la reunión eran 1. Verificar la situación y las condiciones en las que está ejerciendo su derecho fundamental Jefferson Shayanne 2. Notificar a los responsables del batallón, sobre el acompañamiento que se le viene dando 3. Notificar a los responsables del batallón sobre las recomendaciones nacionales e internacionales para el ejercicio del derecho que deben respetar 4. Realizar la entrega del material de intendencia que le fue asignado a Jefferson Shayanne, toda vez que en su calidad de objetor de conciencia, no puede ser forzado a portar uniforme o portar un arma.

Con relación a estos objetivos a partir de nuestra visita podemos concluir que:

Las condiciones en las que está ejerciendo su derecho Jefferson Shayanne, son claramente adversas a su situación como objetor y no generan ninguna garantía para su derecho. En primer lugar, desde que Jefferson manifestó su condición de objetor e hizo pública su declaratoria, su derecho ha sido coaccionado y Jefferson ha sido cuestionado en virtud de sus razones constantemente. Aún en presencia de nosotros, el Coronel Zambrano inquirió a Jefferson preguntándole que haría si “el enemigo” atacara el batallón justo en ese momento; “Yo me escondo” fue la respuesta de Jefferson, afirmación que desconcertó a los militares presentes, mientras nosotros les recordábamos precisamente con base en dicha afirmación, que Jefferson en estos momentos no es un soldado, sino un objetor de conciencia, que está siendo retenido contra su voluntad en una instalación militar.

Dentro de la coacción al derecho, también verificamos que el trato que se le ha dado a Jefferson ha sido el de un soldado, omitiendo las constantes interlocuciones en las que Jefferson ha buscado dejar clara su negativa a estar en el batallón por ser objetor de conciencia. En palabras del Coronel Zambrano, “Jefferson es soldado desde el momento mismo que lo inscribieron en el registro como tal y no puede ser tratado de otra forma”.

Una vez fueron verificadas las condiciones adversas que no permiten la garantía del derecho, los militares presentes, fueron notificados de nuestro acompañamiento y de las recomendaciones nacionales e internacionales que existen para la protección del derecho, sin embargo, pese a la notificación, el Coronel Zambrano dejó claro que ellos solo respetarán dichas recomendaciones hasta cuando les llegue una orden certificando que Jefferson es objetor de conciencia y que por lo tanto debe ser desacuartelado.

Dentro de las recomendaciones internacionales, una de las más importantes es que el objetor de conciencia no puede ser obligado a portar y manipular armas o intendencia de tipo militar, cuestión que en este caso no se ha respetado, pues cuando Jefferson ha intentado entregar el fusil, la respuesta que recibe es que ellos no pueden recibírselo y que en caso de que él lo dejara por ahí, el arma podría perderse y el tendría que asumir las graves implicaciones que eso acarrearía. Por esta razón, propusimos hacer un acta de entrega del fusil y el uniforme, que firmaríamos como testigos un representante de ACOOC y una representante de FOR, pero el Coronel Zambrano y los militares presentes, se negaron a acoger dicha opción, argumentando que “hasta no recibir una certificación de Jefferson como objetor de conciencia, seguirá siendo tratado como un soldado, por eso debe conservar el arma, la intendencia y el uniforme”.

Por último, la postura de los militares presentes en la reunión, fue la de no darle ningún trato de objetor a Jefferson hasta que no llegue un documento oficial que lo certifique como tal, a su juicio las razones alegadas por Jefferson no lo hacen inmediatamente objetor, ya que las creencias religiosas y humanitarias que el manifiesta, según ellos también están presentes en otros integrantes del batallón, además, en palabras del Teniente William Ovaldo Romo, en una conversación que sostuvo con Jefferson le dijo: “Uno puede matar una persona, luego va a la iglesia, reza y pide perdón, y no pasó nada… la religión no es excusa para no prestar el servicio militar”.

Como ACOOC, a partir de este comunicado, queremos dejar clara nuestra preocupación por las condiciones bajo las cuales Jefferson está haciendo su ejercicio del derecho fundamental a objetar. Consideramos que la presión que recibe constantemente Jefferson (que se manifiesta en hechos como pararlo un día a las 3am, obligarlo a que se ponga el uniforme, sentarlo solo a él en un salón y explicarle porque debería desistir de su convicción, basándose en todas las ventajas que tiene ser un soldado) no le permite ejercer plenamente su derecho.

También consideramos que los efectivos que hablaron con nosotros, omiten todas las recomendaciones internacionales, al declarar que solo hasta cuando haya una “certificación oficial” le darán a Jefferson un trato de objetor de conciencia. La ausencia de una certificación o documento similar no es excusa para violar un derecho fundamental, ninguna de las otras formas de objeción de conciencia reconocidas en la constitución depende de un documento para ser respetada, es evidente el desconocimiento de la norma por parte de los militares y en consecuencia, la ausencia total de garantías para ejercer el derecho dentro de las instalaciones militares.

Instamos entonces, a las organizaciones de Derechos Humanos, a los medios de comunicación, y a las redes y plataformas sociales organizadas, a manifestar su apoyo a este joven, que decidió rehusarse a hacer parte de un espiral de violencia, en uno de los batallones más cuestionados del país.


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Once again it is confirmed that there are no guarantees to exercise the right to object in the army.

Last Friday, July 11, at 2:30pm, two members of Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors (Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Consciencia, or ACOOC) and two international observers from FOR Peace Presence met with Colonel Zambrano, Lieutenant Alarcón, and Major Medina, all members of the Reveíz Pizarro Battalion located in Saravena, Arauca.

The objectives of the meeting were: 1) To verify the status and conditions in which Jefferson Shayanne is exercising his fundamental right to conscientious objection; 2) To notify those in charge of the battalion of the accompaniment that he is being provided; 3) To inform those in charge of the battalion of the national and international recommendations for the exercising of this right that they should be respecting; 4) For Jefferson to be able to turn in the military equipment that was assigned to him, given that in his position as a conscientious objector he cannot be forced to wear a uniform or carry a gun.

With regard to these objectives, we conclude the following from our visit:

The conditions under which Jefferson Shayanne is exercising his right are clearly adverse to his position as an objector, and do not establish any guarantee of his right. Firstly, since Jefferson expressed his status as an objector and made his declaration public, his right has been suppressed and he has been questioned constantly about his reasons. Even in our presence, Col. Zambrano askedJefferson what he would do if the “enemy” were suddenly to attack the battalion. “I would hide” was Jefferson´s response, a statement that baffled the soldiers present. We reminded them that based on that statement, Jefferson is a conscientious objector, not a soldier, being held against his will at a military facility.

Based on this suppression of his rights, we also confirmed that Jefferson has and continues to be treated as a soldier, despite his constant dialogue and communications to make clear his refusal to be in the battalion because he is a conscientious objector. In the words of Colonel Zambrano, “Jefferson was a soldier from the moment they recorded him in the registry as such, and he cannot be treated any other way.”

After verifying the adverse conditions impeding the guarantee of Jefferson’s right, the military officials present were notified of our accompaniment and of the national and international recommendations that exist for the protection of this right. Nevertheless, Colonel Zambrano made it clear that they will only respect these recommendations when they receive an order certifying that Jefferson is a conscientious objector and therefore must be discharged.

One of the most important international recommendations is that a conscientious objector cannot be forced to carry or handle weapons or military equipment. In Jefferson’s case, this has not been respected. When Jefferson has tried to turn in his weapon, the response he gets is that they cannot take it, and should he leave it with them, the weapon could be lost and he would then have to assume the serious implications that would follow. For this reason, we proposed that he be able to turn in his gun and uniform, and that one member of ACOOC and one member of FOR PP would sign as witnesses.  Colonel Zambrano and the other military officials present refused to accept that option, arguing that “until receiving certification that Jefferson is a conscientious objector, he will continue being treated as a soldier, and therefore must keep his weapon, equipment, and uniform.”

In the end, the position of the military personnel present in the meeting was to not treat Jefferson as an objector until receiving an official document that certifies him as such. In their judgment, the reasons given by Jefferson do not immediately make him an objector. According to them, the religious and humanitarian beliefs that he holds are also held by other members of the battalion, and furthermore, in the words of Lieutenant William Ovaldo Romo to Jefferson: “Someone can kill a person, then go to church, pray, and ask for forgiveness, and nothing happens… religion is not an excuse not to perform military service.”

As ACOOC, from this statement on, we want to be clear about our concern for the conditions under which Jefferson is exercising his fundamental right to object. We consider that the pressure that Jefferson constantly receives (demonstrated by acts such as waking him up one day at 3 AM, forcing him to put on his uniform, and sitting him alone in a room to explain to him why he should give up his convictions based on all the advantages that being a soldier has) does not allow him to fully exercise his right.

We also consider that their communication with us, in which they declared that only when there is an “official certification” will they give Jefferson the treatment of a conscientious objector, omits all of the international recommendations. The absence of a certification or similar document is not an excuse to violate a fundamental right. None of the other recognized forms of conscientious objection in the constitution depend on a document to be respected. It is evident that there is a lack of recognition by the military, and consequently a total absence of guarantees to exercise this right within military facilities.

We urge human rights organizations, through means of communication, networks, and organized social platforms, to show their support for this young man who decided to refuse to be part of a cycle of violence in one of the most questionable battalions in the country.


Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors

FOR Peace Presence

The Domino Effect and the Axis of Evil

Dec 30, 2012

By Doug Hostetter

Forty years ago, as a conscientious objector, I worked for the Mennonite Central Committee in Tam Ky, Vietnam, organizing literacy classes for Vietnamese children whose schools had been destroyed by theU.S. Air Force. As a Mennonite, I had a strong personal commitment to biblical nonviolence, but also a naïve belief in the honorable intentions of my government’s military efforts in Indochina.

My Mennonite faith did not permit me to participate in the U.S. war in Vietnam, but as a U.S. citizen, I felt I could understand why my government stated that we needed to defend our nation against the rising tide of atheistic, godless communism. Communism had started in Russia, spread to China, and was now sweeping through Vietnam. It was like falling dominos, we were told: the first domino strikes the second, which falls against the third, and so on, until the entire world becomes communist.