See and hear World War One and Two conscientious objectors recalling their experiences on the Voices for Peace interactive CD

Information for members of the BRITISH armed forces
Supplied by AT EASE 28 Commercial Street LONDON E1 6LS Telephone Sundays only 5pm-7pm 0207 247 5164 email

AT EASE is a free, independent advice service for members of the Armed Forces. It is completely confidential. You do not need to tell us your name. We will not attempt to influence your decision.

The following notes on procedure apply to UK Armed Forces only.


Reservists from all three Branches are liable to be called up during the present situation in Iraq but the call-up is selective. Those recently discharged or with medical, nursing or certain other qualifications or experience are most likely to be called up.

Reservists called up will receive a letter which addresses you by your military rank ordering you to report to a base on a specific date as your services are now required. As soon as you receive that letter you are legally again a serving member of the Armed Forces and subject to military law. If you fail to report as ordered, then you may be regarded as a deserter.

Some Reservists may have problems (health, employment, family commitments, conscientious objection)in responding to this order. If so, you are advised to contact the AT EASE confidential helpline 0207 247 5164 on Sunday 5pm-7pm.

If, for any reason, you think you should not be sent to Iraq you need to state your reason as soon as you report. A panel will consider all applications for exemption on all grounds. Unless there are extremely strong grounds, you are unlikely to be granted exemption . immediately. You will probably be given a deferment and another date to report at a later date when your case will be considered further.

If you have a sincere religious, political or moral objection to war on Iraq or to any other use of the Armed Forces then you are a conscientious objector.

You are legally entitled to an honourable discharge as a conscientious objector but the procedure can be difficult and prolonged. You are advised to keep in touch with AT EASE.

You need to write a letter stating your objection and post it in reply to the person ordering you to report. Keep two copies.

This letter should be a truthful statement of your own beliefs in your own words. You need to make clear whether you now object to any form of military service or just to this particular war. This is very important.

If you object to any form of military service then you should ask to be discharged on the grounds of conscience. You should ask for this reason to be stated on your discharge papers.

If you would be willing to remain in the Reserves and be called up in case of national emergency but object to fighting in Iraq in the present circumstances then you need to state that clearly.

If possible, post your letter before the date on which you have to report. Take a copy with you and hand it in when you report.

You may have a preliminary hearing that day , so you need to think about possible questions and decide your response beforehand.

Would you be willing to serve in this country to take the place of someone else who could then go and fight in Iraq?

Are you willing to put on any sort of military uniform? Are you willing to put on desert uniform?

You will be offered a payment for reporting. If you intend to refuse to serve in Iraq you are advised not to accept this payment. If they insist on giving you the money then you might state that you will donate it to a suitable good cause. It is helpful to decide in advance what this will be.

If you are not satisfied with the decision on your request you should ask to be referred to the ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS

This is a committee appointed by the Lord Chancellor , comprising three civilians chaired by a barrister, to question you and decide on your sincerity.

You should be given a deferment until this Committee is convened.

For further information about this procedure contact AT EASE - address below

If you have a sincere religious, political or moral objection to the war on Iraq, or to any other campaign, then you are legally entitled to an honourable discharge as a conscientious objector.

The procedure can be prolonged and difficult. You are advised to contact the AT EASE helpine for further advice on a Sunday 5pm-7pm. 0207 247 5164 EMail

Your first step is a letter to your Commanding Officer stating your position.

If you would be willing to remain in the Armed Forces provided you were not required to serve in Iraq then you should state this clearly. You should ask, at first, for an alternative posting.

If, because of your objection, you wish to leave then you should ask, in this letter to be discharged as a conscientious objector. The procedure is the same whether you object to all warfare or just object to one aspect of military service such as Iraq or strike-breaking.

You should ask for a posting to non-combatant duties whilst your case is considered.

In either case your letter should be a truthful statement in your own words about your own beliefs.

Your Commanding Officer will usually ask the Chaplain for an opinion of your sincerity. You may speed the process up by seeking an interview with the Chaplain yourself.

You may be asked to provide evidence. That could be a statement about your sincerity from someone who knows you such as a Minister of Religion, teacher or Member of Parliament.

If your objection is political, ask your referee to be careful about what he or she says. Members of the British Armed Forces are allowed to be members of non-subversive political organisations such as CND but are not allowed to be active members. That means you are not allowed to join marches, demonstrations, make speeches, talk to journalists or collect petitions. You may wear a badge when not in uniform and you may attend indoor meetings.

If your objection is just in your own mind and you don't have any witnesses then you can provide evidence in the form of an affidavit, that is a statement by yourself sworn or affirmed before a solicitor.

You will be informed verbally whether or not your Commanding Officer has recommended your discharge as a conscientious objector.

You will later be informed in writing whether the Ministry of Defence has agreed to your discharge. If the MoD has refused your discharge as a conscientious objector you should be told of your right to appeal to the Advisory Committee on Conscientious Objectors (ACCO). Even if you have not been told of this right, you still have the right to appeal to ACCO.

This is a hearing before a panel of three civilians, chaired by a lawyer, who will ask you questions about your sincerity. You may bring witnesses who may include family or friends. You may, if you wish have a solicitor or you may if you wish represent yourself.

The ACCO hearing is usually in London and, if posted overseas, you are supposed to be returned to the UK in time to consult a solicitor and/or your witnesses.

You can, if you wish, wear civilian clothes for the hearing.

You will not be told the result on the day as it has to be confirmed by the Secretary of State for Defence.

If you wish, an AT EASE counsellor can offer advice about the procedure at any stage. Please ring us on a Sunday (5-7pm) 020 7247 5164

Note to journalists and peace activists

Please remember that members of the British Armed Forces do not enjoy the same rights to free speech, civil liberties and choice of employment that you do. They do not even have rights enjoyed by members of other European or USA Armed Forces.

It is a heavily punishable offence for any member of the British Armed Forces to communicate with the media directly, indirectly or anonymously, to take part in any demonstration or speak in public on any controversial issue. In overseas operations and conflicts absence without leave is counted and punished as desertion (maximum penalty now life imprisonment). They are committed to harshly enforced, long contracts and can no longer "buy themselves out".

So before you urge them to any action that will incur penalties you will never face, consider advising them to consult AT EASE instead.

AT EASE counsellors will not incite, manipulate or exploit them. We will not ask them to do anything they don't want to do. We will try our best to respect their own decisions and support them in carrying them out.

Peace Pledge Union, 1 Peace Passage, London N7 0BT. Tel +44 (0)20 7424 9444   contact     |   where to find us