United Kingdom: Conscientious objector refused recognition
His application for CO status, a few months ago, submitted via his commanding officer, was turned down. Thanks to information from the military counselling group At Ease, he found that he had a right to appeal against this decision to an Advisory Committee on Conscientious Objectors (ACCO) - an official body outside the Ministry of Defence which was last convened in 1996.
He presented his case to an ACCO hearing this morning, supported by people from At Ease and the Peace Pledge Union. (The MoD rules require that the PPU is informed of any case going before ACCO.) There were also observers from ForcesWatch and the Stop the War Coalition.
Michael explained, with obvious commitment and sincerity, how he had come to view the sort of work he would be expected to be involved in in Afghanistan as going against his conscience. Those attending the hearing were convinced that his appeal to be granted CO status would succeed.
The three tribunal members - a judge and two lay assessors - said that they would try to reach their conclusion, and announce it, as soon as the hearing was finished. After an adjournment of an hour or so, they returned and said that their recommendation to the Secretary of State - the senior government minister at the MoD - would be that the appeal be turned down, and the original decision by the military to refuse to recognise him as a CO be upheld.
The precedent is that the minister - though formally responsible for the decision - always accepts the tribunal’s advice.
Michael Lyons and his family are taking time to consider what to do next.
Although there is no other prescribed legal route laid down to allow him to take the issue further, it is clear that Michael is not someone who will be able to pretend he believes other than what he does. Whatever happens to him next might be something that requires support from peace campaigners, nationally and internationally.
War Resisters‘ International: eMail December 18, 2010.