Hearing on Iraq War Resisters
(20.03.2006) The invited speakers were:
- Cindy Sheehan, USA
- Hart Viges, US conscientious objector
- George Solomou, UK conscientious objector
- Florian Pfaff, Germany, soldier who refused illegal orders to participate in Iraq war, and won his case at the German Federal Administrative Court
- Rudi Friedrich, Germany, Connection eV, on asylum for COs/deserters/AWOLs
Unfortunately, Cindy Sheehan couldn’t come, because she suffered from injuries from an arrest in New York, and her doctors recommended to her not to fly. She sent an 8 minutes video message, which was screened at the beginning of the hearing (and of the press conference prior to the hearing).
Hart Viges, a US CO who served in Iraq, told about his own experience in Iraq, and one of the examples he mentioned was when the US took Fallujah the first time, when the US forces entered Iraq. This was quite a good explanation why Fallujah erupted the second time round - the behaviour of the US forces back then probably contributed a lot to the anti-US feelings in Fallujah.
He told about his own experience in house raids - the arbitrary arrests, the abuse of families for hours - and of other quite stupid orders, such as "shoot every cab in town, no matter who is in there"... He also talked about his CO application, and how the authorities mislead papers, and basically tried to delay it.
Florian Pfaff talked about the not-so-secret participation/support of the German military in/for the war in Iraq: replacing US troops elsewhere, German military taking on to guard US bases in Germany, and freeing US personnel for duty in Iraq, German military staffing AWACS planes, etc...
He then talked about his own case: he was working on software for the more effective management of battlefield information, which will be used by the German military once finished - but also by the US military. The second aspect lead to his refusal to continue developing this software, as more effective battlefield management for the US military means a support to the war in Iraq, which Florian Pfaff views as illegal (which is the majority legal opinion in Germany). He was first sent to a psychiatrist, who examined him for a week, and declared him healthy. He was then threatened with prosecution, and an end to his career in the military. He took his case to the German Federal Administrative Court on the bases that German military law actually requires from a soldier not to follow an illegal order - and an order to participate/support an illegal was is illegal.
The court granted him the right to refuse this order, based on freedom of conscience, but stopped short of declaring the war in Iraq illegal - but it came pretty close. An English summary of the court decision is available here in English.
There are some more interesting details to his case, but I leave it at this stage.
Brief information on Florian Pfaff is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florian_Pfaff
George Solomou talked mainly about what lead him to declare himself a CO, after joining the Royal Medical Guards (or whatever they are called), a medical unit of the Territorial Army. He had been earmarked to go to Iraq a year earlier, but for some reason it didn’t happen (he was on a training or so - I don’t really remember). But he started thinking and did a lot of research - what was going on on the ground, the illegallity of the war, etc - and when he was earmarked again to go to Iraq, he declared his conscientious objection. The military never processed his CO claim, and just sat it out, as his contract expired soon after, and he wasn’t allowed to re-enlist.
George was pretty outspoken that every soldier in Iraq participates in war crimes. or supports war crimes. He clearly called the war a crime, and not just an illegal war.
Rudi Friedrich then talked about the need for asylum for conscientious objectors and deserters, which is regularly not granted, although the UNHCR Handbook on refugees and the European Council Directive on standards for recognition of refugees consider soldiers who refuse to participate in war crimes or in a war that has been condemned by the international community as refugees.
His presentation is available in English and German.