The Ukrainian Pacifist Movement Gathered on International Conscientious Objection Day

By Yurii Sheliazhenko, World BEYOND War, May 16, 2024

On 15 May 2024, Ukrainian Pacifist Movement gathered on the International Conscientious Objection Day. Pacifists participated in the global campaign #RefuseWar, discussed the annual report of the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection and challenges to human right to conscientious objection in Ukraine and the world, adopted several statements, and settled organizational matters. Serhii Vedmediv and Timur Kukharets solemnly proclaimed the War Resisters’ International Declaration and joined our movement.

Participation in the global campaign #RefuseWar

The Ukrainian Pacifist Movement supports the global campaign #RefuseWar and calls on conscientious objectors to come out to the world. We understand that in non-democratic states people are afraid to declare their conscientious objection due to fear of repression, we support the courage of those who dare to do so, and we will help privately those who resist militarism silently. As for Ukraine, conscientious objectors are well represented on the map of Europe and our (we hope) democratic state.

Challenges for human right to conscientious objection in Ukraine and the world

The Ukrainian Pacifist Movement will work independently and jointly with other human rights defenders to overcome challenges to human right to conscientious objection to military service in Ukraine and the world, outlined in the annual report of the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection.

We reaffirm our firm intention to preserve pacifist identity, which gives hope for better future without wars, and to uphold our right to refuse to kill.

In human rights work in Ukraine, we will consider a priority to protect the rights of consistent pacifists, victims of serious violations of human rights due to repression for a clearly stated and sincere conscientious objection. When providing legal aid to citizens of Ukraine, we will remind them of civic duty to contribute into non-violent resistance to Russian aggression. Violation of the legitimate requirements of the law or the principles of a non-violent lifestyle may be grounds for refusal in support from our organization.

In international human rights work, we will cooperate with those individuals and organizations that condemn Russian aggression and contribute into non-violent resistance to it.

We welcome the greetings of Elena Popova (Movement of Conscientious Objectors): “Huge greetings to you, I wish you strength in protecting human rights and the fastest end to this hell.” We will cooperate with the Movement of Conscientious Objectors in protection of the right to conscientious objection to military service, which is imposed by the Russian army on the temporarily occupied territories (TOT) of Ukraine in violation of international humanitarian law. At the same time, we take into account the information of Mykhailo Savva (Center for Civil Liberties) that lawlessness reigns in the TOT, constitutional norms regarding the right to alternative service do not apply, and attempts to invoke this right ended in pressure and threats in the military commissariats.

Political repressions against pacifists

We see as political repression and categorically condemn any persecution and punishment for the pursuit of peace by peaceful means and the conscientious objection to military service, provided that such pacifist beliefs are declared with respect for universally recognized human rights, international law and the democratic constitutional order.

We express solidarity and support to all victims of political repressions in every country of the world. We consider the victims of political repressions, who were illegally deprived of their freedom, to be prisoners of conscience. We will make efforts to stop the repressions and compensate for the damage.

We encourage restrained, smart non-violent resistance in the face of repression and do not welcome embitterment. All our lives, facing any challenges, pacifists should show a personal example of consistency in the honest pursuit of universal comprehensive peace.

We are concerned about political repressions against our civil society organization and our leader Yurii Sheliazhenko. We draw attention to the absurdity of the criminal proceedings illegally fabricated by the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) for clear purpose to punish human rights activism under the pretext of alleged “justification” of aggression in the statement “Peace Agenda for Ukraine and the World”, which condemns Russian aggression and all kinds of war, as well as the falsity of the SSU’s letter to the Ministry of Justice, on the basis of which a scandalously illegal lawsuit was filed which seeks prohibition and dissolution of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement.

We consider it absolutely shameful and unacceptable in a democratic state with rule of law the fact that the indicated political repressions began due to slanderous denunciations to the SSU against our human rights appeals from officials who were supposed to protect human rights, namely: Oleksandr Kononenko, Representative of the Commissioner of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for Human Rights, and Oleksii Dniprov, Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine. We note that later the Commissioner Dmytro Lubinets and the Deputy Head of the President’s Office Olena Kovalska distanced themselves from political repression, although they did not respond to our request to confirm in writing that the President and the Commissioner are not interested in political repressions against pacifists and do not object to non-violent resistance to Russian aggression, when it is carried out in accordance with the legislation of Ukraine. We also take into account that the President’s Office and the Commissioner repeatedly asked the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine to consider appeals of pacifists regarding protection of human right to conscientious objection to military service, always denied by the Ministry of Defense.

We note with sadness that despite some fair judgments in favor of conscientious objectors and pacifists and the readiness of lawyers to a certain extent to curb the arbitrary actions of the security and military forces, unfortunately, the majority of judicial practice in Ukraine illegally condones political repressions. In accordance with Article 55 of the Constitution of Ukraine, we will seek redress for violations of Ukraine’s international obligations to protect human rights using procedures envisioned in the European Convention on Human Rights, the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other international treaties of Ukraine.

Organizational matters

Change of legal address: the Kyiv City Council renamed the Tverskyi blind alley to Fortechny blind alley, so we make the same changes in the legal address of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement. Updated address is: Fortechny blind alley, 9, app. 82, Kyiv, 01042, Ukraine.

Also, participation in international events of peace movements was discussed.

P.S. In the beginning of the meeting a draft card was burned

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