|I've started to disagree with what the army / navy / air force does, or with a specific operation/order - what can I do?|
If you have started to feel that warfare in general or a specific operation is morally wrong you could be experiencing a 'conscientious objection'.
Everyone in the UK armed forces has a right of conscientious objection and the UK is one of the few countries in the world that has a procedure for responding to it. However, the rules for conscientious objection are complicated - you would need to demonstrate honestly that war in general or a specific military operation or order was in conflict with your conscience. You could do this informally or formally.
It may be possible to make a claim for conscientious objection informally to your commanding officer. It is thought that most cases of conscientious objection are dealt with in this way. If your commanding officer accepted your informal claim you could be discharged quickly. Alternatively and depending on the nature of your conscientious objection, you could be moved to a new role away from the front line. However, you might not be offered this and, strictly speaking, there is no role in the armed forces that could exempt you from the liability to fight if called upon to do so.
If your case were dealt with in this informal way (and you were to be discharged as a result) you should ask to be released from your reserve service liability. You should also try to ensure that your discharge would be an 'honourable' one - on 'compassionate grounds' for example, rather than 'unfit for further service'. This is because the type of your discharge can affect your employment opportunities afterwards. If you were not released from your reserve service and/or you could not be discharged on honourable grounds, then you might feel that a formal claim for conscientious objection would be necessary.
If your informal claim for conscientious objection were rejected, or if you wanted your objection to be formally recognised, you would need to apply in writing to your commanding officer - this would then be judged by those higher up the chain of command. If they rejected your application you would still have a right to appeal to a special committee called the Advisory Committee on Conscientious Objectors; their decision is normally final.
If your formal claim was accepted, you would be discharged from the army on 'compassionate grounds' and you would not have to serve in the reserve. If your claim was ultimately rejected, you would be legally obliged to continue to obey all lawful orders. If there were fresh evidence to support your claim you could re-apply, however.
A formal claim takes time. You would have no right to disobey lawful orders - including combat orders - while your claim was being settled but you could ask your commanding officer to remove you from combat duties for the duration - this is at his or her discretion.
Absence Without Leave
Some conscientious objectors have gone Absent Without Leave because they felt they could not take part in military duties any longer and yet were not aware of their right to make a claim. If you were to go AWOL, you could lose your right to make a claim, you may be punished with a prison sentence and your minimum term of Regular Service would be extended.
It's important to understand conscientious objection properly and, if you feel you have an objection, to make your claim in the right way. You can get advice and information from the independent and confidential service that At Ease provides. Their web site - www.atease.org.uk - describes the process for formally claiming a conscientious objection. You can also ask your padre for advice on this.
If you don't have a conscientious objection but want to leave the armed forces anyway
If you don't have a conscientious objection but want to leave the armed forces anyway then the ordinary rules for leaving apply - to see these, click on the link below and then on the article starting 'I want to leave...'.
|Last Updated on Monday, 18 January 2010 22:27|