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Army Cannot Deploy Soldier Applying For Conscientious Objector Status, Federal Judge Rules

A federal district court has ordered the U.S. Army not to deploy to Afghanistan a soldier who has a pending application for Conscientious Objector (C.O.) status.

Corey D. Martin is a Sergeant who is currently stationed at Fort Drum, New York. He applied for discharge from the Army as a Conscientious Objector in December 2005 after realizing that he is ethically opposed to war. The Army granted first-level approval to Martin’s application for C.O. status, but in the meantime, with two more levels of approval still pending, it informed Sergeant Martin that he would be deployed to Afghanistan on March 14, 2006.

The Army had previously decided not to deploy Sergeant Martin, after his C.O. application was granted first-level approval, but then changed its mind and ordered that he be deployed on March 14 for reasons that were retaliatory and punitive. That deployment date was postponed when Judge David N. Hurd issued a Temporary Restraining Order on March 10, 2006, in response to a New York Civil Liberties Union lawsuit on Sgt. Martin’s behalf. Today the same judge signed a Stipulation and Order by which the United States Army agreed not to deploy Sgt. Martin to Afghanistan at any time before his Conscientious Objector application is fully processed, and any district court review of that process is completed.

“Today’s Stipulation and Court Order ensures that Corey Martin’s right to fair and constitutional treatment of his Conscientious Objector application will be protected,” said NYCLU Cooperating Attorney Deborah H. Karpatkin of New York City. “The court will continue to protect him from retaliation and punishment as the Army processes his C.O. application.”

“The Army has now agreed not to deploy Corey Martin to a zone of military conflict, which would be punitive and in conflict with his Conscientious Objector beliefs,” said NYCLU Cooperating Attorney Samuel C. Young, of Syracuse, NY.

Corey Martin joined the Army in 2001, received excellent performance evaluations as a soldier, and was promoted to Sergeant. But beginning in the winter of 2002 he began to have personal doubts about war, and he undertook a personal study of texts on war and peace. By the fall of 2005, Sergeant Martin realized that he opposed all war morally and ethically and that he could no longer participate as a soldier in the U.S. Army.

The Army Investigating Officer, who reviewed Sgt. Martin’s C.O. application in the first round of the three step process, recommended that the application be approved. He determined that Sergeant Martin “is sincere in his beliefs of conscientious objection … with the underlying belief as his opposition to all wars and the unintentional consequence which war produces, which is casualties and suffering it produces to innocent civilians.” The officer concluded that “SGT Martin’s chain of command believe that SGT Martin would struggle … with his beliefs about war and the harming of innocents, jeopardize the mission and put themselves and their soldiers in danger.”

The Army has also agreed to process Martin’s C.O. application in a timely fashion. The District Court will stay involved in the case as needed, through the Army’s C.O. process and afterwards.

The New York Civil Liberties Union was pleased with the decision.

“We are gratified that the Court has signed an order that requires the military to follow the law,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU.

Click here to read the court’s order. (Requires the free Adobe Reader.)

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