to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights,
57th session, 2001
agenda item 11
delivered by Bart Horeman, on 5 April 2001, 19.26 hrs.
My name is Bart Horeman and I speak on behalf of Conscience and Peace Tax International. This is the first time that a representative of Conscience and Peace Tax International has the opportunity to speak to the Commission on Human Rights. I thank you for this opportunity.
When I am speaking on behalf of Conscience and Peace Tax International, I represent several thousand people around the world, who have one thing in common: we object to pay for war. We are conscientious objectors. We are conscientious objectors because we are forced by our governments to pay taxes that are spent for military purposes. Our governments force us to take part in war preparation. We cannot contribute to war or war preparation, neither with our bodies, nor with our money. This is a matter of conscience, of our deepest beliefs. However, we are not allowed to have freedom of conscience in this respect, we are not allowed to live according to our deepest beliefs and to commit ourselves to be completely peaceful. Governments force us to pay for war and war preparation. We are forced to contribute our tax money to bombings, to killings, to the upkeep and further development of weapons of mass destruction. Thus we are made accomplices in the killing of fellow human beings and our right to be peaceful and to live according to our consciences is denied.
If we object to pay taxes for war and war preparation, we may be imprisoned, our bank accounts and our properties may be confiscated, and even our homes may be seized. This is not fiction.
Several conscientious objectors have been imprisoned for refusal to pay taxes for war. Roger Franklin from the United Kingdom has been imprisoned two times.
Several conscientious objectors have had there properties confiscated and were forced to buy them back. Mr. and Mrs. Kehler in the United States have had their house seized by the US Internal Revenue Service. Only thanks to large local support they have been able to buy back their home and to try to remain to live according to their deepest beliefs.
We do not question the right of a state to impose taxes on its citizens. But we do question the right of a state to make its citizens accomplices in killings and in war preparations. We want to stand up for our rights as human beings not to be forced to pay for war, because it is our sincerest belief that neither we ourselves have the right to kill, nor that we have the right to pay others to kill in our names.
Not only do we see this as our human right, moreover we feel that it is part of our human duty to work for peace and to pay for peace. In front of the Commission of Human Rights we want to stress the importance of the link between human rights and human duties. We have welcomed the resolution of the UN to declare the first decade of the new millennium as a Decade of a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World. Indeed, we all have a duty to teach our children how to live peacefully. However, we must make sure that this call for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence is not an empty phrase. We cannot teach our children to be nonviolent and at the same time force them to take part in military training and other war preparations. How can we tell our children that it is their human duty to be peaceful, when at the same time our governments deny them the right to be completely peaceful?
Mr. Chairman, we welcome the resolutions that the Commission has adopted on conscientious objection to military service. We also welcome the Commission's decision to have a report of best practices of national legislation. We hope that this will encourage countries to bring their legislation in line with the Commission`s standards on conscientious objection to military service. We feel that eventually this will provide room for people who are determined to be peaceful, not to be forced against their conscience to take part in war and war preparations.
Yet there is not one single country in the world that has recognised the right of its citizens not to pay for war. Therefore Conscience and Peace Tax International turns to the Commission on Human Rights to request full legal recognition of our right not to pay for war and not to be made accomplices in killings.
I thank you for listening, Mr. Chairman.