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Extra resources for Conscientious Objection to Military Service in International Human Rights Law
54 On examining these applications, the legal arguments made can be gathered under two headings: first, these conscientious objectors announce that in being coerced to take part in a war or conf lict that contradicts their conscience, their freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is violated. This argument will be examined in detail in part II. 55 According to Principle VI, “[p]lanning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances” and “[p]articipation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under [above]” are defined as crimes against peace under international law.
Therefore, the conundrum for states is how to ascertain whether a conscientious objector’s decision is a matter of conscience or not. It would appear that there are two existing approaches. One approach involves direct testing of the conscience. This is a difficult proposition for states to carry out as the correct methodology is open to question. A different and preferred approach, which has been adopted by many states, is to test the sincerity of conscience in an indirect way by making the duration of unarmed military service or alternative civilian service longer than the duration of regular military service.
20 Historically, unarmed military service was initially provided during the First World War as a method of gathering together in one place conscientious objectors who opposed the system of compulsory military service. 21 Noncombatant conscientious objectors do not refuse to join the army nor to wear a military uniform. Like other soldiers, they do not object to saluting or taking orders; the one aspect that distinguishes them from other soldiers is that they neither use weapons nor take part in armed combat, nor do they take part in military training.