Army Rejects CO Claim of Camilo Mejia

Army Rejects C.O. Claim of Camilo Mejia, Wrongly
Claiming that It's Based Solely on His Political Opposition to Iraq War

Pvt. Camilo Mejia, the first Iraq war veteran to base his combat refusal on his conscience and international law, was informed by the Army's CO hearing officer on August 20, 2004 that his CO claim had been denied since it was "based solely on his view of the war in Iraq."

Captain Michael W. Johnson, the hearing officer, conducted a one day CO hearing at the Ft. Sill, OK stockade in late June. Mejia presented several witnesses who attested to his sincerity and integrity.

Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit and a CO counsellor, Louis Randa of the Peace Abbey, Boston, both testified about the centrality of Mejia's religious beliefs and their centrality to his CO claim.

Louis Font, of Brookline, MA., Mejia's civilian defense attorney stated; "This ruling flies in the face of both the facts and the law. Camilo is entitled to hold political views about the war in Iraq as long as he meets the CO legal standard of opposing participation in all war. The Army just didn't want to keep a GI behind bars whom its own commanders had found to be a CO."

Tod Ensign, of Citizen Soldier, who has sponsored Mejia's defense, observed; "This nonsensical ruling may explain why the Army has been reporting that the number of CO applications is down during the Iraq war.

If CO claims of other GIs are being handled in the same manner, it's no wonder that GIs would be discouraged from filing them."

Once the hearing officer's recommendation has been reviewed by Ft. Stewart Commanding General William Webster, it will be forwarded to the Army's Conscientious Objector Review Board in the Pentagon for the final decision. It's likely that both will be happy to rubber stamp this recommendation.

Contact: Citizen Soldier (212) 679-2250