Mejia, conscientious objector, sentenced to a year in prison
Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee
General William G. Webster,
22 June 2004
Re. Camilo Mejia, conscientious objector, sentenced to a year in prison for "desertion" on May 19.
We write again from Payday, an international, multiracial network of men working with the Global Women's Strike, in support of Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia of the Florida National Guard. We join with over 760 people around the world who have signed an international petition, as well as Amnesty International, in demanding that Mr. Mejia be immediately and unconditionally released, and that he be discharged as a conscientious objector, as is his right. We are appalled that Mr. Mejia, who denounced the torture of Iraqi prisoners, was given the same sentence as the US soldier who commited that very same torture.
As you are aware, the judge in Mr. Mejia’s court-martial trial refused evidence of his principled opposition to war, based on what Mr. Mejia witnessed of US troops’ treatment of Iraqi children, women, and men. Also he denied the defense motion that Mr. Mejia, as a Costa Rican national who has served over eight years in the National Guard, has a legal right to discharge. The rush to find Mr. Mejia guilty of desertion above all other considerations only underscores the political nature of the trial, designed to prevent him and other soldiers from speaking about the atrocities they have witnessed in Iraq.
We join with his aunt and mother in demanding that you immediately expedite the transcript of Mr. Mejia’s trial, now a month past, without which he cannot pursue his appeal for clemency. It is outrageous that he was first denied a fair hearing and now must sit in prison waiting on a bureaucratic detail before he can even appeal his sentence.
Finally, we demand to know why the media is being prevented from speaking with Mr. Mejia at Fort Sill, and demand that this ban be lifted during the hearing on his conscientious objector application.
in Nicaragua and a father of a three year-old girl, Mr. Mejia, like many
Latino and Black young people, was attracted to the military’s promise
to give him college assistance, and like many immigrants, as a shortcut
to getting US citizenship.
Mejia, speaking about his experiences of the military’s brutal murder
and humiliation of the people of Iraq, has made it clear that the
widespread torture of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in
Baghdad is no “exception” but the epitome of the daily disasters of
occupation. In fact, in his application for discharge as a conscientious
objector, Mr. Mejia provides details of the torture and abuse of
detainees which he witnessed at Al Assad, a year ago, in May 2003. We
urgently want to know why the Army isn’t investigating the abuses he
has brought to light. Instead, Mr. Mejia is the one facing
court-martial. Why should he be punished for refusing to be part of a
military occupation that is putting Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers
back in business?
Finally, it is important to note that Mr. Mejia surrendered to the military authority in March 2004 and claimed conscientious objection. In April 2003 US Marine Stephen Funk did the same and was also charged with desertion, but this charge was later rejected in court.