Conscientious objection and Ukraine

Amid the horrifying situation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I was concerned every time I heard that Ukrainian men aged 18 – 60 were banned from leaving the country.

I studied war resistance and conscientious objection extensively while a student at Scattergood Friends School. All males in the US were required to register for the draft at the time of their eighteenth birthday. I was a Senior at Scattergood then (1969). I went through the process of applying for and was granted conscientious objector status while I tried to prepare my family for my decision to turn in my draft cards. Which I did.

This is a bit ironic because Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee discussed conscientious objector counseling at our recent meeting. That was brought up in part related to the war in Ukraine. Also, as an opportunity to engage our youth in discussions related to war and peace. And because of the writings of a member of the yearly meeting. John Griffith and Draft Resistance.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered a general military mobilization.

In a declaration signed late Thursday, Zelensky said that “in order to ensure the defense of the state, maintaining combat and mobilization readiness of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations,” a broad-based mobilization was ordered, including in the capital, Kyiv and all Ukraine’s major cities.
It ordered the “conscription of conscripts, reservists for military service, their delivery to military units and institutions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine” and other state security services.

At the same time, Ukraine has banned all-male citizens 18-60 years old from leaving the country, according to the State Border Guard Service.

The statement said that following the introduction of martial law in Ukraine, a temporary restriction had been imposed.

“In particular, it is forbidden for men aged 18-60, Ukraine citizens, to leave the borders of Ukraine,” the statement said. “This regulation will remain in effect for the period of the legal regime of martial law. We ask the citizens to take this information into consideration.”

Ukrainian males aged 18-60 are banned from leaving the country, Zelensky says in new declaration From CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi and Caroll Alvardo, February 24, 2022

A New York Times podcast tells the story of an animator named Tyhran, who unsuccessfully tried to cross the border into Poland.

I can’t imagine myself doing military stuff […] I have no experience in it. I’m afraid of holding a gun […] I cannot imagine myself holding a gun.

Tyhran says he was shamed at the border by guards and others seeking to cross, but may try again to cross illegally.

They are bombing and people are dying. Everyone is running […] They are not going to stop. They just want to destroy.

In Ukraine, the Men Who Must Stay and Fight. As hundreds of thousands of citizens flee the Russian advance, the country’s government has ordered men ages 18 to 60 to remain. New York Times podcast, March 1, 2022

What international law says

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief. Although it does not specifically guarantee a right to conscientious objection to military service, the UN Human Rights Committee has confirmed this right derives from the protection under the convention.

This means that if a person’s conscience, religion or beliefs conflict with an obligation to use lethal force against other people, their right to conscientious objection to military service must be protected.

Some human rights can be suspended or limited during a public emergency. But the right to freedom of conscience is specifically excluded from this category.

Why banning men from leaving Ukraine violates their human rights by Amy Maguire, The Conversation, March 7, 2022

What should Ukraine do?

The government of Ukraine should cancel its ban on men leaving the country. To maintain it will violate the freedom of conscience of any man who wishes to flee due to a conscientious objection to killing others.

In relation to LGBTQI+ people, the ban could also be regarded as preventing people with a well founded fear of persecution from fleeing to seek refuge outside Ukraine.

More broadly, repealing the departure ban would protect Ukraine from allegations it is failing to protect civilians, as required by international humanitarian law. It is one thing to conscript men into military service, providing training and appropriate equipment (although, even in that case, a right to conscientious objection must be respected).

It is another thing entirely to prevent civilians from escaping a war zone.

Why banning men from leaving Ukraine violates their human rights by Amy Maguire, The Conversation, March 7, 2022

2 thoughts on “Conscientious objection and Ukraine

  1. Reblogged this on Some View on the World and commented:
    Not wanting to go under arms does not mean that people of a certain age could not commit themselves to helping in a country at war.
    As conscientious objectors, Christadelphians or Brothers in Christ are bound by the Laws of God whereby the killing of others is not an issue. War is to be avoided, but if it does occur, there are opportunities even for conscientious objectors to serve and show the love of God to others in trouble.

    Fleeing a country because one is afraid is more likely to show a different reason than “conscientious objection” to the right cause. Of course, one must also take into account everyone’s state of mind, but not wanting to stand up to help others in difficulties does not really testify to love for one’s neighbour or love for a fatherland. (Not that the latter should be essential).

    But where people are in need, one must dare to come to their aid. Even if a Christian will not and should not take up arms, he can in many ways come to the aid of his neighbour in a war zone.

    Liked by 1 person

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