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War Resisters' International, London, 27 March 2008

COLOMBIA: Conscientious objector Diego Yesid Bosa Rico on hunger strike

Colombian conscientious objector Diego Yesid Bosa Rico, who has been illegally recruited on 23 February 2008, began a hunger strike in protest against his recruitment and treatment on 26 March 2008. He is also refusing to enter the dormitories. In response, the military offered him to do his military service in an office, without the need to take up arms. However, on the morning of 27 March 2008, they threatened him with five soldiers.

Diego Yesid Bosa Rico was recruited in a 'batida' (raid of military in public places) on 23 February 2008, and initially brought to the Battalion Simon Bolivar in Tunja, about three hours from Bogota. He was then transferred to the Special Energetical and Road Batallion No 6 'Jose Maria Carbonell', where he is supposed to serve his military service as a regular soldier.

The Colombian military claims that this practice is legal. According to Article 50 of degree 2048, the recruitment authorities have the right to carry out patrols to find draft evaders and/or persons who did not define their military situation. While - according to the degree - it might be legal to check people's papers, what usually follows is certainly illegal, and does not meet neither Colombian nor international legal standards. According to the law, those who do not define their military situation in time can be compelled to do so. However, the practice of taking those without military ID to the barracks to process them there directly deprives those youth of their right to a proper legal process, as they have almost no chance to claim legal exemptions, to submit any prove or other papers supporting their right to exemption, and so on. That this kind of process is illegal has also been stressed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in a decision on a case from Guatemala in 1993.

Once recruited, Diego Yesid Bosa Rico maintained his position that he does not want to be part of any military, based on his conscientious objection and his belief in nonviolence. In his conscientious objector declaration he said:

"Violence only breeds evil, and therefore I don’t want to be involved in violence of any kind, not as a recruit of any army, legal or illegal, as they all say they want to achieve peace and justice, but under the crossfire of their weapons the life of many human beings is taken away and with them there is no hope for a better future." [...]
"I object to pressures that the recruiting authorities have put in a verbal form on me in order to renounce my rights signing the acceptance of the recruitment in a regular form, being a student. I make public my principles of conscience, and although I believe our country needs to be helped with service, it should be far away from a compulsory service of military character; a service should be used to reduce the huge social differences that exist actually in our country, and from a non-violent standpoint." [...]
"I expose my motives publicly, my principles before you as witnesses of my motives, as I have refused to do many things during my life and I have refused to do many things inside this battalion, and I will continue to keep refusing and won’t take arms. It’s highly probable that if my rights are not respected you will also be witnesses of a death in a state of total lack of possibilities to defend myself, only for the mere fact of one being coherent with what my conscience is ordering me to do. Whatever happens, I will not allow them to take away from me my principles of conscience, my rights, as all of it is a part of my life trajectory and life is a gift from God, and I’m ready to defend lives in all its forms, but only without using violence."

After the recruitment of Diego Yesid Bosa Rico in the batida, his mother, Alba Luz Rico, petitioned the National Recruitment Directorate, asking for the release of her son from military service on several grounds, including his right to conscientious objection and the illegal recruitment procedure. Now, the military turned down the petition, stating that the recruitment was legal and that there are no reasons for exemption. The military even claims that Diego Yesid Bosa Rico signed documents stating that none of the reasons for exemption mentioned in article 28 of the law 48 of 1993. However, Diego Yesid Bosa Rico did refuse to sign any papers, although he was under pressure to do so.

On 23 March 2008, Diego Yesid Bosa Rico refused to take a rifle. He also noted, i.e. from the response to the petition of his mother, that documents he refused to sign appeared with his signature. In his response to this, he decided to go on hunger strike.

War Resisters' International is deeply worried about the situation of Diego Yesid Bosa Rico.

Two important legal aspects are to be considered in the case of Diego Yesid Bosa Rico:

1.     The way of recruitment. Recruitment is regulated in Colombian law 48 of 1993. While this law requires to "clarify ones military situation when someone reaches the age of 18" (Art 14), failure to do so can only be punished with a fine (Art 41 and 42). The law does not specify that in such cases the normal recruitment procedure, as outlined in Articles 14-21 of the law, does no longer apply. The recruitment of Diego Yesid Bosa Rico is therefore illegal even under Colombian law. In addition, the forced recruitment of Diego Yesid Bosa Rico is a violation of the "right to personal liberty (Article 7), the protection of human dignity (Article 11) and the right to freedom of movement (Article 22), guaranteed in the American Convention on Human Rights, in connection with Article 1.1 of that same legal instrument", according to a decision of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in a very similar case from Guatemala (CASE 10.975, 6 October 1993).

2.     The right to conscientious objection. Colombia is signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The right to conscientious objection is recognised by the United Nations Human Rights Committee as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, as guaranteed by Article 18 ICCPR. In fact, in a recent decision on two cases of conscientious objectors from South Korea, the Human Rights Committee stated that not to provide for the right to conscientious objection is a violation of Article 18 ICCPR (see CCPR/C/88/D/1321-1322/2004 from 23 January 2007).

War Resisters' International considers the forced recruitment of Diego Yesid Bosa Rico as arbitrary detention. It constitutes a violation of Colombian law 48/1993, of articles 7, 11, and 22 of the American Convention on Human Rights, and of Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

War Resisters' International calls for urgent protest emails to:

Ministro de Defensa Nacional
Dr Juan Manuel Santos
Avenida El Dorado Carrera 52 OFI.217
Centro Administrativo Nacional (CAN)
Bogota, Colombia
Tel.: +57-1-2660179
Fax: +57-1-266 0351
A protest email (in Spanish) can be sent at

Defensoria del pueblo Bogota
Dirección: Calle 55 No. 10 - 46 (Bogotá - Cundinamarca)
Teléfono: +57-1-3147300
Correo electrónico:
Defensor del pueblo regional: Rubén Darío Montoya Mejía
A protest email (in Spanish) can be sent at

War Resisters' International calls for the immediate release of Diego Yesid Bosa Rico from military service.

Andreas Speck
War Resisters' International