CPTI News Number 1 - May 2005

Welcome to the first of a series of occasional (perhaps two or three times a year) e-mail updates, not just on the doings of Conscience and Peace Tax International, but also passing on some of the news we have had from Peace Tax campaigns around the world.

This first edition has been almost a year in the hatching. It is therefore probably rather longer than those which will follow, as there is a lot of news which must be included before it is out of date. The newsletter is being sent to selected addressees with whom CPTI has been in contact over recent months; also to all participants in the 8th, 9th and 10th International Conferences of War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns and in the 2004 meeting of the European Network for Peace and Human Rights. Please feel free to forward it to others you think may be interested.

If you do not wish to receive future news mailings, please just let us know in a brief reply to this address (dubrett@talk21.com). Your name will immediately be taken off the list.

What is CPTI?

Briefly, CPTI (Conscience and Peace Tax International) is the international NGO (non-governmental organisation) which works to obtain recognition of the right to have a conscientious objection to taxation for military purposes.

Want to know more? Visit our website: www.cpti.ws

How can I help CPTI? To find out scroll to the end of this page.

The first 10 years

CPTI was founded at the Fifth International Conference of War Tax Resisters and Peace Tax Campaigns at Hondarribia, Spain in 1994.

It celebrated its tenth birthday at the Tenth International Conference in Brussels last July.

In the course of those ten years CPTI has become formally incorporated in Belgium as an international non-profit association, and has been granted Special Consultative Status by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

CPTI representatives now regularly lobby at the UN in both Geneva and New York. CPTI was well represented at the Tenth International Conference and, as has been the custom, used the opportunity of the broader gathering to hold its General Assembly. With great sadness the Board said farewell to Erik Hummels, who has Chaired for many years, and to Bart Horeman, also from the Netherlands. In their place we welcomed to the Board Ricardo Esquivia, of the Colombian movement, and Carla Goffi, of Mouvement Chrétien Pour la Paix in Belgium. Marian Franz has agreed to Chair the Board ad interim, with Hannelore Morgenstern-Przygoda as Vice-Chair. 

On to 2005

Research Grant

CPTI has received a grant of £8740 (approximately $15000 at current rates) from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust for a systematic thematic compilation of information on recruitment policy and practice world-wide, with a particular emphasis on provisions for conscientious objection. The results will be available in booklet form and on the CPTI website in Autumn this year. Although the central focus of the research is not on our specific concern with objection to military taxation, the project is explicitly intended to consolidate CPTI's reputation by providing a major input to the discussion of conscientious objection in general, and to the process of standard setting which should (UN reforms permitting) continue in 2006 at the 62nd.

United Nations Commission on Human Rights

Meanwhile, as in previous years, CPTI participated actively in this year's 61st Session of the Commission, which took place in Geneva during March and April. We sent a delegation of seven; to the formal business CPTI contributed a written statement, and an oral statement in Spanish delivered by Pedro Otaduy.

Texts of both statements are to be found on www.cpti.ws in English and Spanish; the written statement (English, Spanish and French) can also be obtained from the website of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights www.ohchr.org; the UN document reference is E/CN.4/2005/NGO233.)

In addition, CPTI co-operated with Friends World Committee for Consultation (Quakers) and with the International Federation of Reconciliation in the organisation of two parallel events on conscientious objection, one of which we formally hosted. Speakers at these meetings included conscientious objectors Emanuel Matondo from Angola, Abraham Gebreyesus from Eritrea, Adam Maor from Israel and Andrey Kuvshinov from Russia, Jaechang Oh of MINBYUN (Lawyers for Human Rights), which does so much to support objectors in South Korea, and Cristoph Bierwirth from the UN High Commission on Refugees, who spoke on the right to refugee status of those who have left their country because their conscientious objection to military service is not recognised. Marian Franz of CPTI introduced the issue of conscientious objection to taxation for military purposes to a diverse audience, some of whom were hearing of the concept for the first time.

Future Meetings

On 11th June 2005, at New York City Hall, there will be a public hearing into the Resolution in favour of the Peace Tax Bill being proposed by in the City Council by Councilman Bill Perkins. CPTI Chair Marian Franz and Rosa Packard, Representative to the UN in New York, will be among the speakers.

Look out for us also at the Mediterranean Social Forum in Barcelona next month, and the ENPHR conference in Brussels in October.

News from Around the Globe

Belgium

A Proposition de loi reconnaissant les objections de conscience à l'égard de l'affectation d'une partie de l'impôt à des fins militaires et créant un Fonds fiscal pour la paix (Roughly: A Bill recognising conscientious objection to the use of a proportion of tax revenues for military purposes and creating a peace tax Fund) was introduced in the lower house of the Belgian federal parliament on March 16 over the names of all the MPs of SPIRIT (Flemish liberal nationalist). The MPs of the francophone Green party ECOLO, which in 2002 introduced a similar Bill, are expected to add their support when the new Bill reaches discussion in the Commission on Finances of the Parliament. The full text (in Dutch or French) can be read on the Belgian Parliament website www.lachambre.be. It is document 1671 of the 51st Législature; to find it from the home page (French version) follow projets de lois et propositions.

Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro

CPTI was represented at the regional conference To Europe through Conscientious Objection and Civilian Service held in Sarajevo from 20th to 22nd September last year.

The conference was sponsored by the Council of Europe and run by a network of objectors' organisations, with prigovir-bih acting as hosts, but it was attended also by Government representatives from each of these four countries and from the two Bosnian entities (the muslim-croat Federation and the Republika Srpska) and the separate Serbian and Montenegrin governments. Along with other countries in Eastern Europe, all have been bringing in new laws recognising conscientious objection and setting up civilian alternative service. Satisfactory progress in this respect was part of the accession criteria imposed when they all joined the Council of Europe. The conference went a long way towards establishing a common regional standard (which is in fact higher than that attained in practice by some established members of the Council of Europe, most notoriously Greece and Turkey!). In this first dialogue involving the full spectrum from radical alternative movements to Ministry of Defence hardliners, there was obviously more urgent business on the table than the implications of conscientious objection to taxation for military purposes. Even so, it was clear that there is considerable interest in the issue of fiscal objection. It would be wrong to rule out the possibility that the breakthrough might come in countries such as these which have such recent and bitter first-hand experience of the results of military expenditure. In particular, some vigorous debates are going on about how alternative service is to be funded. Ministries of Defence are reluctant to see their budgets used - or reduced - in order to fund conscientious objectors to perform alternative service. But other ministries have no spare funds, either. To use specifically-earmarked tax receipts might seem an obvious solution...

Canada

A bill respecting conscientious objection to use of taxes for military services is being brought forward in Canada. As part of the lobby effort, Marilyn Hébert has compiled from Conscience Canada 12 Arguments and Counter-Arguments regarding peace tax legislation. Copies of this document can be received from Marilyn at hebert.hetu@sympatico.ca. She would also welcome feedback and copies of similar arguments and counter-arguments from other movements.

Colombia

In Colombia, as in Bosnia, people know all too well from personal experience what military expenditure means. All parties to the long-standing conflict are pouring resources, which are much needed elsewhere, into the purchase of arms and ammunition and the other necessities for warfare. Other countries, too, are contributing. And what does all this buy? Horrors like the massacre in February of eight members of the peace community of San José de Apartado, of which CPTI told in our oral statement at the UN Commission on Human Rights. With the courts refusing to recognise the rights even of conscientious objectors to military service, the prospects for a tax objection movement might not seem good. However, as we heard at the Tenth International Conference, new taxes are frequently justified by the need to pay for the war effort - and a movement to resist them is beginning to stir. Watch out for further news.

Eritrea

Eritrea is another country where the rights of conscientious objectors are completely disregarded. The Government is in a constant state of preparation for war, and insists that all men and women from the age of 18 to 40 must serve in the military. At the meeting we organised in Geneva on 1st April we heard vividly from Abraham Gebreyesus (a past winner of the Reebok Prize for his work in the campaign against land mines, but now forced into exile) about the objectors who refused on grounds of conscience to participate in the 1994 war against Ethiopia and are still languishing in prison, and of tortures such as forcing conscientious objectors to lie all day without shade or water in the burning desert sun. Here too the government itself is carrying the debate into the realm of taxation; a new tax on property transfers a few years ago was explicitly introduced as being for the needs of the military. We look forward to hearing further news of the Anti-Militarist Initiative of Eritrean refugees in Germany which Abraham has helped to found.

Europe

In April this year the Quaker Council for European Affairs introduced in the Human Rights NGO Group attached to the Council of Europe the draft of what it is hoped will eventually become a resolution of the Council's Parliamentary Assembly, recognising the right of conscientious objection to military taxation. This project was introduced in a session at the Tenth International Conference. The wording was carefully based on the Parliamentary Assembly's previous resolution on conscientious objection to military service, also initially brought forward by QCEA. The potential value of such a resolution when eventually agreed by an intergovernmental body cannot be overestimated.

Germany

Will we have a miracle in Cologne?

Marietta Winkler von Mohrenfels sends this translation of a press release issued by Netzwerk Friedenssteuer - the German peace tax campaign:

It has taken three years for the Fiscal Court of Cologne to admit the law suit of Yan-Christof Pelz, in which he had asked to be paid back part of his tax. On Tuesday, 12th April, the relevant parties discussed his case at a court hearing. The Fiscal Court has announced to publish its ruling in May.

Yan-Christoph Pelz has been working as free-lance interpreter since 1995. He had filed two suits against the Revenue Office of Cologne in April 2002 (File numbers 8 K 1254/02 and 8 K 1255/02). He requested to be paid back 11.5 % of income tax and of turnover tax. According to Netzwerk Friedenssteuer this percentage corresponds to the share of military spending in Germany's budget. Yan-Christoph Pelz justified his cause with article 4, paragraphs 1 and 3 of the German constitution (inviolability of conscience and right to conscientious objection). In his view, the tax law contradicts these regulations. Therefore Yan-Christoph Pelz had also requested the Fiscal Court to submit his suit directly to the German Constitutional Court. His written statement specifically referred to the deployment of NATO troops in Afghanistan, which violated international law.

The committee of judges at this hearing consisted of a woman president, an associate judge, a rapporteur and two lay judges. Yan-Christoph Pelz confirmed that he indeed requested direct referral of his case to the Constitutional Court instead of merely suggesting it. In case of a request the Fiscal Court is held to justify its decision whereas a suggestion is only included in the minutes of the hearing.

The presiding judge mentioned that this case was not the first on this subject, adding that the Fiscal Court of Dusseldorf as well as the Constitutional Court itself had dealt with this in the past. She did not give any details, though. She emphasised that her colleagues and herself would consider the case very seriously, knowing that Yan-Christoph Pelz was not after simply saving money but stating his moral conflict. She continued, however, by saying: I cannot give you much hope. Furthermore, she pointed out that it was not the Fiscal Court's responsibility to decide on how tax money was to be spent. 

Yan-Christoph Pelz suggested that for submitting his suits directly to the Constitutional Court the Fiscal Court's doubts on the tax law's compatibility with the constitution would suffice. The presiding judge assured that they would take this into account. It is uncertain that the Fiscal Court of Cologne will create a judicial precedent by submitting the two law suits directly to the Constitutional Court. But as the presiding judge remarked herself at one point: Miracles do happen.

Greece

Greece and (see below) Turkey seem to vie for the distinction of having the worst treatment of conscientious objectors in Europe. In March this year Greece reported to the Human Rights Committee which oversees the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In their questioning of the Greek delegation, the distinguished international lawyers who comprise the Committee had many reservations to express about the provisions for conscientious objection to military service and about the way in which these and the alternative civilian service are implemented in practice. In their concluding observations the Committee stated that they were concerned that the length of alternative service for conscientious objectors is much longer than military service, and that the assessment of applications for such service is solely under the control of the Ministry of Defence and recommended: The State party should ensure that the length of alternative service to military service does not have a punitive character, and should consider placing the assessment of applications of conscientious objectors under the control of civilian authorities.

Listserve Launched

One of the decisions taken at the 10th International Conference was to accept an offer from Gea Meijers of Euros voor Vrede (Euros for Peace) in the Netherlands to set up a listserve which War Tax Resisters and Peace Tax Campaigns could use to communicate news and ideas with each other. This duly came into existence at the end of 2004. To subscribe, go to http://lists.eurosvoorvrede.nl/mailman/wtr-ptc/ or follow the link on the CPTI website. (Update: 5 June 2007 - The listserve is not functioning)

Each edition of this CPTI newsletter will go out on the wtr-ptc listserve, as well as to those who are individually subscribed; we will try to avoid anyone receiving it twice, but please let us know if this does happen!

Next International Conference

The planning committee set up in Brussels has decided that the Eleventh International Conference of War Tax Resisters and Peace Tax Campaigns will be held between October 26th and 29th 2006 at Woltersdorf on the outskirts of Berlin. Friedrich Heilmann (friedrich.heilmann@web.de) will be co-ordinating arrangements. More details will be available early in 2006. 

Non Proliferation Treaty Review Conference

Whether there will be any outcome from the conference being held in New York this month is uncertain, but the preparations have certainly inspired a number of memorable achievements for the wider movement for peace and against militarisation of which we are a small part. On the 21st April the Belgian Senate passed a resolution which instructed the Belgian Government to work at the review conference and elsewhere for the complete withdrawal of American nuclear weapons from Europe. This is the first time that a Parliament in any European country has endorsed such a goal.

And on 29th March the court in Koblenz, Germany overturned on appeal the convictions by a local court of Johanna Jaskolski and Hermann Theisen for distributing leaflets to personnel at the air base of Buechel which urged that orders to participate in the maintenance and preparation of Tornado aircraft on nuclear assignment were contrary to the German constitution and international law and should therefore not be obeyed. The presiding judge ruled that such a case could be reasonably argued and that the leaflets concerned were therefore covered by the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression. (A fuller account - in German or English - is available from the Committee for Basic Rights and Democracy, in Cologne - info@grundrechtekomitee.de.)

More generally, what national governments are still not prepared to say is being said by the increasing number of their local counterparts who have subscribed to the Mayors for Peace campaign, chaired by Akiba Tadatoshi, Mayor of Hiroshima. And as already mentioned, a resolution backing the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill is shortly to be introduced in the City Council of New York.

Progress by way of local government is being made also in Norway, from where Bjorg Berg sends this update:

Following the defeat of the Peace Tax Bill in Parliament in 2000 the campaign has relaunched. A new law has made it possible to make direct input to the agenda of local council meetings: when 300 signatures are collected in support of an initiative the local council is obliged to discuss and vote on it. Councils in turn have the ability to refer issues for the consideration of Parliament. Three hundred voters in the town of Tonsberg signed a petition asking the local council to recommend to Parliament that it again discuss a peace tax law.

Bjorg has sent us a cutting from the local paper showing the petition being handed to a rather grimly smiling mayor of Tonsberg (not, we gather, himself a mayor for peace!).

Peace Across the Atlantic

A quick mention of this new monthly newsletter distributed by e- mail in German or English, which reports on grassroots peace activities in the USA. It is produced in Germany by Bridges of Encouragement; an organisation co-ordinated by Dorie Wilsnack and Eric Bachman, themselves US Americans. Contact transnationalbringes@gmx.org.

Turkey

No, sadly we do not yet know of a Turkish peace tax campaign! This item is just to pass on an urgent action appeal. Conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan appeared in court on 26th April and his trial was adjourned until 9th June. Other declared conscientious objectors have now been ordered to report for military duty and it is feared that further trials will follow. Meanwhile much evidence is emerging that Mehmet Tarhan himself is suffering serious physical abuse at the hands of his fellow prisoners with the connivance of the prison authorities, and there are real concerns for his personal safety. Full details, together with indications of how to help with letters, faxes, or e-mails can be read on the War Resisters International website - http://wri-irg.org.

UK

At the latest update of their website (http://peacetaxseven.com), lawyers for the Peace Tax Seven, a group of seven ordinary people who are challenging current UK tax policy with regard to military expenditure, had lodged papers with the High Court but were still waiting for the judge's decision as to whether their case could proceed.

Individually, each of the seven has already challenged the law as it stands, facing prosecution and legal penalties, sometimes repeatedly, and sometimes over a period of many years. Some have been to court for non-payment of taxes, only to see their defences ruled out; one was told that his defence was logical, but not legal. Now they have joined forces as a group, to seek a judicial review of current policy, in order to overturn current practice, and establish the legal right for individual taxpayers to direct a relevant proportion of their tax away from unaccountable military uses, and towards peacebuilding, non violent conflict resolution, international development, and the many alternatives to war. Full details, including all documents and an extensive review of the history and the arguments, can be found on their website.

The Seven intend to seek a pre-emptive costs order, which would limit their liability for the government's costs should the case go against them. Such an order has only been granted once before, when Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers (legal advisor to the Seven) successfully argued that the attempt by CND (the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament) to stop the government going to war in Iraq was in the public interest and could only proceed if such an order were granted. (See http://www.inlap.freeuk.com/case.htm)

The early day motion in the British House of Commons, which the Seven were sponsoring in support of their cause, lapsed with the calling of the General Election, but there are plans to bring a similar motion forward in the next Parliament.

Meanwhile, the individual cases proceed. Joe Jenkins appeared again in Hereford Magistrates Court on Monday 24th January for refusing to pay taxes that contribute to the war in Iraq. The Revenue are taking him to Court for his refusal to pay £639.64 - 10% of his latest tax bill - which will go to fund the ongoing war in Iraq. Spending on the war is currently £6 billion. In his defence Joe argues that the defining feature about rights, including the right to life, is that they are absolute and not justified by utilitarian arguments or ‘collateral damage’. He believes that there is a categorical imperative that calls all taxpayers to accept that a single person's life, including an Iraqi civilian, has intrinsic value and worth and cannot be traded off against the security of the majority; particularly when other avenues have not been exhausted.

USA

By coincidence, a completely different Jenkins, Daniel Jenkins, is currently fighting a case in the USA. He has discovered that back in the 18th Century, before the federal constitution and Bill of Rights were drafted, the State of New York exempted conscientious objectors not just from bearing arms but also from supplying them, and is arguing that nothing in the documents establishing the Union took away this pre-existing right.

There is much more to report from the United States; but it must be saved for CPTI News Number 2. Derek Brett, our representative at the UN in Geneva, has just returned from a twelve-day visit making contact with many of those in the USA working on behalf of objectors to military taxation and to military service. Look out for a full report of the visit and of other developments in the next edition of this newsletter...

How Can I Help CPTI?

First, if you are not already a member, join your local or national War Tax Resisters or Peace Tax Campaign organisation. You can find a  full up-to-date directory on our website: www.cpti.ws .

Second, become a Friend of CPTI

Our lobbying work at the United Nations is not cheap. New York, and even more so Geneva, are expensive cities. Also, as an international ngo we function very economically, making extensive use of e-mail, and most of our conferring is done that way. But not everything can be done electronically. Some travel is essential if we are to keep in touch with other and function effectively at the international level. In the past a lot of travel on CPTI business has not been charged to CPTI. We cannot however go confidently forward to the future depending on our members always being willing - or indeed able - to subsidise us in this way.

For a donation as little as five Euros or US dollars (or as large as you wish!) you can be listed as a Friend of CPTI: just make sure that your name and contact details accompany your donation or are sent in an e-mail entitled Friends of CPTI to this newsletter address.

How to give:

In the USA and Canada:

Make out your check to: Peace Tax Foundation - CPTI Account

and send it to:

  • CPTI, in care of NCPTF,
  • 2121 Decatur Place, NW, Washington, DC 20008-1923, USA.

(The Peace Tax Foundation (PTF) is a registered non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization)

In the rest of the world: (no checks please)

Send payment to:

Within the euro zone you may pay by bank or by IPMO
Outside of the euro zone it is best and cheapest to pay by IPMO
  • CPTI, Bank van De Post (agency: Diestsesteenweg, Kessel-Lo)
  • IBAN (International Bank Account Number): BE12 0001 7098 1492.
  • BIC (Bank Identification Code): BPOTBEB1

International Postal Money Order (IPMO): At your local post office in any country you can send an IPMO in euros to CPTI.

Please DO NOT send checks to our office in Belgium.

Third, this newsletter needs your input. Please send or forward news of what is happening - good or bad - in your part of the world to Derek BRETT, CPTI's permanent representative to the United Nations Geneva office, on dubrett@talk21.com or by post to him at :

Avenue Adrien-Jeandin 18, CH 1226 Thônex, Switzerland


As the complier, Derek Brett takes full responsibility on behalf of CPTI for any inaccuracies or other shortcomings. But all our readers benefit from us getting it right. So as well as fresh news, please do not hesitate to send in any corrections.

To subscribe or unsubscribe to this newsletter, contact dubrett@talk21.com.

It is also possible to subscribe through the website www.cpti.ws.