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U.S. AWOL soldier Shepherd appeals against the rejection of his application for political asylum
Severe criticism of the decision of the Federal Bureau from peace and refugee-aid organizations
by Connection e.V., Pro Asyl and Military Counseling Network
The U.S. AWOL soldier André Shepherd today instructed his attorney to institute legal proceedings against the negative ruling on his application for asylum by the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge [Federal Bureau of Migration and Refugees] that was served two days ago. At a press conference held by Connection e.V., PRO ASYL, and the Military Counseling Network in Frankfurt am Main, he commented at length.
At the same time, peace and refugee-aid organizations that support André Shepherd denounced the decision of the Federal Bureau, and announced that they would continue to support him in his suit. “This shows that the German authorities are seeking to avoid any conflict with the USA, at the expense of those who put their bodies on the line to oppose the war in Iraq, which even the Federal government at the time considered to be in violation of international law,” said Rudi Friedrich of the support network for conscientious objectors, Connection e.V., today. Attorney-at-law Reinhard Marx stated: “With this rejection and its interpretation of the EU Qualification Directive, which is contrary to European law, the Federal Bureau is attempting to destroy the protection for deserters and conscientious objectors envisaged by the Directive. The background for this is obviously the intention of the German government to give priority to German legal principles over European law.”
“A war in violation of international law is being legitimized retrospectively by Germany by this,” added Chris Capps of the Military Counseling Network, “at the expense of those who feel bound by their conscience and act according to international law. It is absolutely intolerable that German authorities flout international law like this when it really counts.”
André Shepherd himself showed himself to be disappointed, but also willing to keep up the struggle. “I hoped that the Federal Bureau of Migration itself would accept my application for political asylum. I am still not willing to participate in a crime against humanity, and consider it my right to do so without threat of prosecution. The U.S. military gave me no choice but to go AWOL and seek protection here in Germany.”
33-year-old André Shepherd joined the U.S. Army in 2004, and after training, was deployed to Iraq as a mechanic for Apache helicopters for six months. After returning to his unit, stationed in Katterbach, Bavaria, he gave a lot of thought to what the U.S. military is doing to the civilian population in Iraq. “Finally, I knew,” Shepherd said, “that if I go back to Iraq again, I will be responsible for the death and misery of others. So for me, the path was clear: I had to get out of the military.” On 26 November 2008, André Shepherd applied for political asylum in Germany. In his application, Shepherd relies on the Qualification Directive of the European Union, which has been in force since October 2006. This is intended to protect those who evade a war or activities that violate international law, and must expect persecution.
For his application for asylum, André Shepherd also submitted documents proving actions in violation of international law by the Apache helicopters. Nevertheless, he also pointed out that the pilots are subject to security restrictions, so that he was not informed about the specific missions. However, the publication of what is called the “Collateral Murder” video on 5 April 2010 enabled a clear connection between André Shepherd’s work and criminal actions by missions in Apache helicopters to be established, even though the specific unit which the helicopter used there came from cannot be identified.
In its negative decision, the Federal Bureau writes, “But whether the helicopters he maintained and their crews actually participated in specific illegal actions (contrary to international law) has neither been stated sufficiently, nor can it be determined specifically otherwise. According to the applicant’s statements, he himself was also not able, during his first Iraq deployment, to find out details on the missions of the helicopters serviced by him or his unit. Accordingly, the applicant’s deliberations on the potential participation of ‘his’ helicopters in possible illegal acts and war crimes constitute at most conjectures or a hypothetical possibility.”
“This in effect imposes the burden of presenting specific proofs on the applicant,” said Bernd Mesovic of PRO ASYL, “which is absolutely unacceptable for an asylum hearing, in which that is specifically not required. The Federal Administrative Court has stated clearly that a prima-facie case must be completely sufficient. Against the backdrop of German history, the question of how deserters who do not want to take part in violations of international law are protected, is of eminent importance.”
“We will keep on,” André Shepherd said in conclusion. “Other soldiers should also feel sure that their decision not to participate in wars or crimes in violation of international law will be supported. They must be able to count on receiving protection in case of doubt.”
Connection e.V., Pro Asyl and Military Counseling Network: Press release, April 7, 2011. Translation: Tim Slater.