believing war in all forms is immoral and useless, and I am guilty of believing that as a service member I have a duty to refuse to participate in this war because it is illegal." From Pablo Paredes statement during sentencing.
"I think the government has successfully proved that any seaman recruit has reasonable cause to believe that the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal." - Lieutenant Commander Bob Klant (presiding judge at court martial) comments after a difficult cross examination (by the prosecution) of International Law expert Marjorie Cohn.
"He is trying to infect the military with his own philosophy of disobedience. Sailors all over the world will want to know whether this will be tolerated. Sailors want to know whether doing what he did is a good way to get out of deployment." - Prosecutor Lt. Brandon Hale.
"a stunning blow to the prosecution. This is an affirmation of every sailor's and military person's right to speak out and follow their conscience," - Defense lawyer Jeremy Warren describing the judges final sentence.
Paredes based his defense on his belief that the war in Iraq is illegal, and that he had a duty to avoid participating in it. He said that he wanted to "put the war on trial." This defense was not accepted by the judge.
However, during the sentencing portion of the hearing, the judge did allow testimony about the legality of the war, about the "reasonableness" of Paredes' opinion in that regard, and about his sincerity as a conscientious objector to war.
Paredes' lawyer, Jeremy Warren, called Prof. Marjorie Cohn as an expert witness on international law. Cohn testified that the war in Iraq is illegal because it meets neither of the two standards incorporated into the United Nations Charter. The two standards are self-defense, collective or individual, and authorization by the Security Council. The U.N. Charter has been ratified by Congress and, thus, is the "law of the land," Cohn testified. She testified further that the overwhelming preponderance of opinion among international law experts is that the war in Iraq is illegal.
During a lengthy and testy cross-examination, Cohn was repeatedly asked by the prosecutor whether it was her opinion that "any seaman recruit" could decide for themselves whether such wars as Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal and, thus, have a duty not to serve in them. Cohn responded that none of those wars met either of the standards in the U.N. Charter that would confer legality upon them, and, so, were illegal. Since they were illegal under the Charter ratified by Congress, participation in them would constitute a violation of the "law of the land."
At the conclusion of Cohn's testimony, the judge, exasperated by the prosecutor's efforts, said, "I think the government has successfully proved that any seaman recruit has reasonable cause to believe that the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal.
Paredes' supporters in the courtroom were astounded at the judge's remarks and left the courtroom elated. When court re-convened today, the previous day's elation had turned sober in anticipation of Paredes' sentencing. During the sentencing portion of the court martial, the prosecution had proposed 9 months confinement, maximum forfeiture of pay, reduction in rank to the lowest pay grade, and a bad conduct discharge. But when, after an hour of deliberation, the judge returned and pronounced the sentence, Paredes' supporters' joy re-emerged. According to Paredes' attorney Jeremy Warren, the sentence was an "affirmation" of the right of members of the military to speak out publicly on issues like the war in Iraq. Larry Christian, who testified on Paredes' behalf, said, "This is a huge victory. It recognizes, even if only by implication, the legitimacy of acting against an illegal war based on sincere and reasonable beliefs."
The sentences of restriction and hard labor are to run concurrently and will begin when appropriate paperwork is completed, which is expected to take up to a month. Until then, Paredes will operate on a normal schedule at the Temporary Processing Unit to which he is assigned.
Paredes currently is awaiting the NAVY's final decision on his request for Discharge based on Conscientious Objection. Despite positive recommendations from the NAVY chaplain and psychiatrist, the investigating officer recommended his request be denied. Pablo has submitted a rebutal and
is awaiting the final decision.
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“The pioneers of a warless world are the youth that refuse military service.”