On March 3, 1988 – Conscientious objector Dr Ivan Toms was sentenced to 640 days’ imprisonment for refusing to serve in the SADF. Yesterday, a Royal Air Force doctor was jailed for refusing to serve in Iraq. A case of history repeating itself?
LONDON: A Royal Air Force doctor has become the first serving British military officer to be dismissed from service and jailed for refusing to serve in Iraq on grounds that he believed it was an illegal war.
But Flt Lt Malcolm Kendall-Smith (37), maintained that he was justified in refusing to participate in a military campaign which, he argued, fell into the “category of criminal acts”.
“I have been convicted and sentenced… .but I still believe I was right to make the stand that I did and refuse to follow orders to deploy to Iraq ‘” orders (that) I believe were illegal,” he said after a court martial sentenced him to eight months for disobeying orders to go to Basra last June.
Dr. Kendall-Smith said there were “many others” in the army who shared his view. Describing the Iraq invasion as a “campaign of imperial military conquest”, he said: “To comply with an order that I believe unlawful places me in breach of domestic and international law, something I am not prepared to do… .I would have had criminal responsibility vicariously if I had gone to Iraq.”
Dr. Kendall-Smith, who served in Iraq twice before, said he decided the war was illegal after reading books and articles on the subject. The court martial ruled that obeying orders was at the “heart” of any disciplined force and an officer could not “pick and choose” which orders to obey.
Dr. Kendall-Smith was praised by anti-war groups and rights campaigners for taking a “courageous stand”.
“Many people believe the war in Iraq was an illegal war and therefore we would consider he was quite within his rights and it was indeed commendable to stand up to what he considered to be an illegal instruction to engage in an illegal war,” said Kate Hudson, chairperson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Recently, an SAS soldier Ben Griffin resigned from the army protesting that the Iraq war was illegal.