Call for support for US conscientious objector

By Hannah Brock

War Resisters International are urging people to take action to support Kimberly Rivera, who served with the US Army in Iraq before developing a conscientious objection, and who was taken into military custody in late September.

Having joined the army voluntarily, Kimberly later came to believe that the war in Iraq was incompatible with the teachings of the Bible, and went absent without leave between deployments in 2007. She travelled to Canada with her husband and children, and claimed refugee status. In January 2009 this was rejected, and she was ordered to leave the country or face deportation. She appealed this decision, but on Monday 16 September a Canadian Federal Court judge denied her request for a stay of removal, finding the possibility of her arrest and detention in the U.S. to be only “speculative”.

Kimberley presented herself at the border between Gananoque in Ontario and Fort Drum in New York, according to the War Resisters Support Campaign.

She is now being held at Fort Carson, Colorado, awaiting information on her case. She is likely to face a court martial and be jailed for between two to five years.

War Resisters’ International, an international antimilitarist network, is calling for the immediate release of Kimberly Rivera.

You can write a letter of protest to the American authorities here.

If you would also like to write to Kimberly, sending a letter or card of support, you can reach her at:

Mrs. Kimberly Rivera
c/o All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church
730 North Tejon Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80903 USA

The right to refuse to perform military service for reasons of conscience is part of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as recognised in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States of America is a state party.

This includes those who have joined the armed forces voluntarily, since the freedom to change one’s religion or belief is recognised in Article 18 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This was also specified in the Human Rights Committee General Comment 22, paragraph 5.

2 thoughts on “Call for support for US conscientious objector

  1. I am quite unsure about this. While there can be do doubt that Kimberley Rivera was entitled to change her mind about serving in the military, the fact that she deserted instead of applying for early release, suggests that the authorities are proceeding according to the rules. I should be interested to hear why War Resisters International considers that she is being treated unfairly before adding my support.

  2. Dear John,
    Thanks for your comment. Firstly, just to clarify, Kimberly went absent without leave rather than deserting (very different in the eyes of the military, with desertion regarded as much more serious).

    As to your main question about procedure: in the USA, it can take two years, or even longer, for an application for CO status to be granted. While the application is pending, you are not freed from future deployments. So Kimberly, who had decided that this war was against her beliefs, would still have faced a further two years or more of military service in Iraq or elsewhere.

    Once you have gone AWOL (and therefore have a disciplinary proceeding against you), you are not able to file a CO application. This leaves people in the military who develop a conscientious objection very few options.

    Incidentally, most people who go AWOL are not harshly punished (possibly there would be a less than honourable discharge, for example). However this is not the case for people who openly speak out, like Kimberly has done. It is her conscientious objection and her openness about it that is likely to result in a prison sentence, of between 2 – 5 years.

    I hope this answers your question.

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