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Bermudians Against the Draft will continue its fight in courts
by Tim Smith
Anti-conscription campaigners will continue protesting through the courts despite Premier Paula Cox’s pledge to introduce an alternative national service.
Bermudians Against the Draft yesterday gave a cautious welcome to Ms Cox’s Throne Speech promise to “table legislation that makes provision for new alternatives to conscription, including the introduction of a national youth service”.
However, BAD founder Larry Marshall said until that idea becomes a reality his group will carry on fighting legal battles against conscription.
Yesterday, BAD was in the Court of Appeal, challenging Puisne Justice Norma Wade-Miller’s ruling in April that Government did not act unconstitutionally by conscripting Jamel Hardtman and brothers Larry Jr and Lamont Marshall.
The trio had argued their constitutional right to be protected from inhuman treatment would be breached if they had to do military service.
Speaking outside court, Mr Marshall Sr told The Royal Gazette: “I’m encouraged by Government’s step in the right direction in the Throne Speech. I feel it would be in the best interest of Bermuda if conscription was abolished.
“The alternative would be either a full-time or part-time army made up of volunteers, with proper pay, proper treatment and proper training. That’s always been our stance from the outset.
“However, during the interim, we must fight the judiciary way until it materialises. As long as we have conscription, we have to go through this.”
In Friday’s Throne Speech, Government announced it is formulating changes to the Defence Act 1965 which established the Regiment and conscription.
Governor Sir Richard Gozney, reading the Speech on behalf of Government,
said: “First, the Government will review a recent decision by the Privy Council to take account of any inconsistencies in any discrimination provisions.”
BAD has previously failed in Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council with a claim that the Island’s male-only draft is discriminatory under the Human Rights Act.
Sir Richard continued: “Second, the Government will table legislation that makes provision for new alternatives to conscription, including the introduction of a National Youth Service.”
Early last year, former Premier Ewart Brown announced a national service programme which would push young people into volunteering for 16 hours a month, with incentives such as better loan rates and reduced TCD fees.
The Governor also said: “Lastly, a comprehensive review has been completed and recommendations made to improve access to natural justice for those soldiers who find themselves subject to disciplinary procedures.
“An improved framework for internal military discipline will provide for an election of mode and trial venue in certain circumstances.”
The latest appeal hearing is expected to conclude today. During yesterday’s session, BAD lawyer Eugene Johnston discussed legal matters with the appeal court President Edward Zacca, and judges Sir Austin Ward and Sir Scott Baker.
Tim Smith: . Royal Gazette, Bermuda. November 8, 2011. Source: http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20111108/NEWS02/711089915/-1