FECL 21 (December 1993/January 1994):

EUROPEAN CIVIC FORUM LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN IN SUPPORT OF DESERTERS FROM YUGOSLAVIA

On 28 October, the European Parliament voted its remarkable "Resolution on deserters from armed forces of states of former Yugoslavia" calling the member states to grant protection to all those refugees from former Yugoslavia who actively resist the criminal war, by refusing service in one of the armed forces of the states of former Yugoslavia. Some of these men are seaking protection in Western European states. But while Western governments are unanimous in their condemnation of the war, some of them send back war resisters to former Yugoslavia.
Well aware of the little attention both European governments and the media tend to pay to initiatives of the European Parliament, the European Civic Forum has launched a grass-rout campaign in support of the European Parliament's fairly unorthodox demand.

In its resolution, the European Parliament emphasises, i.a., that "among the hundreds of thousands of refugees from former Yugoslavia there are many deserters and draft evaders". Many of them "who have taken refuge in countries of the EC face deportation back to their country of origin where they would risk severe repercussions, in flagrant violation of the European Convention of Human Rights".

"Recalling the statement of the UNHCR that anybody refusing to take part in 'an internationally condemnded war action' is deserving of 'international protection'", and "regarding the encouragement of draft evasion and desertion from the Serbian and Montenegrin armed forces as in accordance with the policy pursued by the EC and its Member States...", the European Parliament, i.a. calls on "the Member States to provide deserters and draft resisters from the former Yugoslavia with a legal status, instead of allowing them to be deported back", and "to weaken the military power of the aggressors in former Yugoslavia by encouraging desertion and draft evasion by making clear that they will grant asylum to deserters and draft evaders from the armed forces of the aggressor states".

Presenting the draft resolution to the EP, the British Labour MEP, Glyn Ford, said, among other things:

"We have spent many hours over the last months and years in this parliament talking about the horrors of former Yugoslavia - the mosaic of civil wars, great and small, putting neighbour against neighbour, village against village and community against community. And this civil war could certainly spread even further into Kosovo, into Macedonia. We have called time and time again for people to have the courage and try to stop the killing going on, the rapes, the murders and the mutilations. While it is farly easy for us from outside to call for moral courage, thera are a few people inside former Yugoslavia who actually have that moral courage - those who have refused to be drafted and those who after drafting have refused to take part in the killing and have deserted. We should be honouring those people because when this war finally ends it's these people who will build the new links between communities and will be the people with whom we will have to engage dialogue. But what is happening? We are threatening to send these people with the moral corage we demand back to face death and destruction in Croatia, in Serbia, in Montenegro, in Bosnia. It is appalling that we are not accepting these people as political refugees. And I call on... [all governments] to actually recognise desertion and draft resistance in former Yugoslavia as a reason for giving political asylum. The UNHCR called in September particularly for people not to be sent back to Croatia because those who have been sent back risk being sent to the front line. Without this committment most of our debates here will be hypocrisy. It is not good enough just to talk about moral courage, we have to help people to find it."

On 9 December, the European Civic Forum (ECF) presented its campaign in support of the EP's resolution at a press conference in Brussels.

The campaign will be launched in 16 countries (the 12 member states of the EU, and Austria, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland). The objective is to collect one million signatures under an appeal of the ECF and to create a European wide network of active support to Yugoslavian deserters and draft evaders.

The European Civic Forum's appeal is based mainly on the European Parliaments above resolution. Among the first fifty signatories of the appeal are:

the writers Breyten Breytenbach (South Africa), Ismail Kadaré (Albania), Günter Grass (Germany), the actor Senta Berger (Austria), Anker Joergensen (former Prime Minister, Denmark), Joaquim Ruiz-Jimenez, president of the International Commission of Jurists (Spain), the painter Ernest Pignon Ernest (France), the musician Yehudi Menuhin (Britain), the writer Umberto Eco (Italy), peace researcher Johan Galtung (Norway), General Ramalho Eanes (former president of Portugal), and the author of children books, Astrid Lindgren (Sweden).

 

For copies of the appeal and further information on the campaign contact:
ECF, B.P. 42, F-04300-Forcalquier, France; Tel: +33/92 730598, Fax: +33/92 731818