Amnesty International declares Travis Bishop a “prisoner of conscience,” launches international letter writing campaign

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URGENT ACTION APPEAL – From Amnesty International USA

To read the current Urgent Action newsletter, go to
http://www.amnestyusa.org/urgent/newslett.html
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For a print-friendly version of this Urgent Action (PDF):
http://www.amnestyusa.org/actioncenter/actions/uaa22109.pdf

24 August 2009

UA 221/09 – Prisoner of conscience/Conscientious objector

USA       Travis Bishop (m)

Travis Bishop, a sergeant in the United States army, is serving a one-year prison sentence for refusing to serve with the army in Afghanistan because of his religious beliefs. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for his conscientious objection to participating in war.

Travis Bishop’s sentence was imposed by a court-martial on 14 August, even though the US army was still considering his application for conscientious objector status. In a statement made at the court-martial, Travis Bishop explained that he discovered he could apply for this status only days before his scheduled deployment to Afghanistan. He went absent without leave on the day of his deployment to give himself “time to prepare for my [conscientious objector] application process”. He was away from his unit for about a week, during which he drafted his application and sought legal advice. He returned voluntarily, and on his return to the unit he submitted his application.

Travis Bishop has served in the US army since 2004. He was deployed to Iraq from August 2006 to October 2007. According to his lawyer, he had doubts about taking part in military action since then, but it was only in February 2009, when his unit was ordered to deploy to Afghanistan, that he considered refusing to go. In the period before he was due to be deployed, Travis Bishop’s religious convictions became stronger, and led him to conclude that he could no longer participate in any war.

At the court martial, Travis Bishop was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for going absent without leave, suspension of two-thirds of his salary and a bad conduct discharge. He is imprisoned in Bell County Jail in Texas. His lawyer has pledged to appeal against the conviction.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Amnesty International has recognized as prisoners of conscience a number of US soldiers refusing to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan because of their conscientious objection. They included Camilo Mejia (see http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/092/2004/en), who was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for his objection to the armed conflict in Iraq in 2004, and Abdullah Webster (see http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/137/2004/en), who refused to participate in the same war due to his religious beliefs and was sentenced the same year to 14 months’ imprisonment. Another, Kevin Benderman (see
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/123/2005/en), was sentenced in 2005 to 15 months’ imprisonment after he refused to re-deploy to Iraq because of abuses he allegedly witnessed there. Agustin Aguayo (see
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/041/2007/en) was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment for his refusal to participate in the armed conflict in Iraq. All four have since been released.

Some of these conscientious objectors have been court-martialed and sentenced despite pending applications for conscientious objector status, others were imprisoned after their applications were turned down on the basis that they were objecting to particular wars rather than to war in general.

Amnesty International believes the right to refuse to perform military service for reasons of conscience is part of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as recognized in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the USA has ratified.

Amnesty International considers a conscientious objector to be any person who, for reasons of conscience or profound conviction, either refuses to perform any form of service in the armed forces or applies for non-combatant status. This can include refusal to participate in a particular war because one disagrees with its aims or the manner in which it was being waged, even if one does not oppose taking part in all wars.

Wherever such a person is detained or imprisoned solely for these beliefs, Amnesty International considers that person to be a prisoner of conscience. Amnesty International also considers conscientious objectors to be prisoners of conscience if they are imprisoned for leaving the armed forces without authorization for reasons of conscience, if they have first taken reasonable steps to secure release from military obligations.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:
– Stating that Amnesty International considers Travis Bishop to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for his conscientious objection to participate in war;
– Explaining that, although Travis Bishop went absent without leave, he did so to complete an application for conscientious objector status and seek legal advice, thereafter returning to his unit to submit the application;
– Urging that Travis Bishop be released immediately and unconditionally.

APPEALS TO:
Commanding Officer of Travis Bishop’s Unit
Lieutenant General Rick Lynch
Commanding General
III Corps HQ
1001 761st Tank Battalion Ave.
Bldg. 1001, Room W105
Fort Hood, TX 76544-5005
Salutation: Dear Commanding General

Military Commander
Colonel James H. Jenkins III
Headquarters, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade
Building 10053, Battalion Avenue
Fort Hood, TX 76544-5068
Salutation: Dear Commander

COPIES TO:
Travis Bishop’s lawyer
James M. Branum
Attorney at Law
3334 W. Main St., PMB #412
Norman, OK 73072

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.
Check with the AIUSA Urgent Action office if sending appeals after 5 October 2009.

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Tip of the Month:
Write as soon as you can. Try to write as close as possible
to the date a case is issued.

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Amnesty International is a worldwide grassroots movement
that promotes and defends human rights.

This Urgent Action may be reposted if kept intact, including
contact information and stop action date (if applicable).
Thank you for your help with this appeal.

Urgent Action Network
Amnesty International USA
600 Pennsylvania Ave SE 5th fl
Washington DC 20003
Email: uan@aiusa.org
http://www.amnestyusa.org/urgent/
Phone: 202.544.0200
Fax: 202.675.8566

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7 Responses to “Amnesty International declares Travis Bishop a “prisoner of conscience,” launches international letter writing campaign”

  1. Larry Egly Says:

    I will get some letters off this weekend. I was at Travis’s trial, and it was a kangaroo court.

  2. This guy is a discrace to soldiers. He is a pussy and deserves to do every second of those 12 months.

    • Noah Bridges Says:

      Sherri is on point on this one. Being a good friend of Trav I know first hand that he will grasp at every string to get out of this, but the fact of the matter is you sign a contract you fulfill. He is aware of the consequences, and should pay out. I am pretty sure he’d much rather be in aphgan then run the risk of a butt-pounding. money says he tries to re-join the service within a year of being released.

  3. James Reddenfield Says:

    wow 12 months in prison for failing to go to a war zone? That’s funny I hoped it would be more time. Here’s the problems I see with this case as a soldier, one I know everybody i have ever met in the Army knows you can become a conscientious objector because I’m pretty sure Vietnam solved that problem. Two HE WENT TO WAR ALREADY, yes he may have had a change or religious experience since than im not doubting that we all have them sometime, but your telling me he couldn’t tell that he didn’t want to go to go to another war zone and start asking questions once he had this experience? All soldiers know they are going to be deployed again and again so why didn’t he look into this once he got home from Iraq? So basically what you are telling me is he’s fine with being in the military as long he doesn’t have to go to war? okay that’s cool and all but guess what the U.S. Army does? its in a war right now and just going to look real quickly here in history but oh yea when a country is at war, as the war on terrorism is a justified war, every country in history has guess what? sent its Army. So why did he join in the first place? well you will say patriotism okay sure if you want that cope out excuse use it but i know why he joined, he didn’t have anywhere else to go in life and the army was probably the only job he could get. I regress sorry this boy who I wont even call a soldier knew he was being deployed at least three to five months in advance at a minimum but he chose the day he was supposed to leave to come forward and fill out these papers? lets equate this to another job, stripping, say you go out and strip once on a Monday, which we will equate to his first deployment, now she doesn’t strip for a whole week until she gets the new schedule and see’s she strips on the Thursday of the next week, is she going to wait till Thursday morning to figure out she doesn’t want to do it again and still expect some kind of job afterwords? Now I know your going this doesn’t equate to how the Army put him in jail for 12 months well lets add this in, now that unit is going to a war zone with one less man, that means a four man shop is now running at three man strength in a heightened environment, they now work longer and get stressed more because this one guy decided last minute he couldn’t go, he just failed three people and potentially put their lives at risk, explain that to their parents if something happened to them. This isn’t about being liberal or for or against the war this is about one boys single belief that he doesn’t have to follow the rules and that he could try and change the system when that system is already in place to help people like him otherwise there wouldn’t be any papers to fill out. I wish no man to lose their balls in life, but this guy never had them to begin with it looks like!

  4. Larry Ebersole Says:

    Update! I understand that Travis has been relocated to Ft Lewis’ detention facility. If so, those of us in WA will be able to mobilize even more letters.

    I will also, await confirmation that Travis is indeed at Ft Lewis. I do not know if this means redirect letter writing or simply add more to the ongoing appeal letters. Thanks.

  5. He is getting a light sentance and everyone wants to complain. He could have been sentance to death!

    Seriously. We are a country at War. No one wants to see war. No one wants to see the destruction that can come from it. It is hard to deal with and many may seem to change their mind. They must be willing to face the consequences if they are not going to perform their sworn duties. I don’t like the idea of a deployment to Afghanistan either, but I will not let those I serve with down. I will go…if for nothing more…than to protect my brothers and sisters that stand shoulder to shoulder with me.

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