The annual report 1998 of Militærnægterforeningen, the
Danish organization of conscientious objection
In 1998, MNF saw a new record : 142 members or an increase of approximately 10 per cent compared to the previous year (130 members).
At the end of the year, MNF was in funds. This was primarily due to a transfer of funds from 1997 but the higher member figure also added to the cash amount. The proceeds were, among other things, spent on a new laser printer and new furnishings embellishing the head office in Copenhagen.
MNF - always at its marks
The very reason of being for MNF, hence the principal task of the organization, is the diffusion of information about conscientious objection. In 1998, this information would come from the offices in Copenhagen (with office hours every Tuesday and Thursday between 6 and 8 p.m.) and Aarhus (with office hours every weekday between noon and 3 p.m.). At the head office in Copenhagen, the four MNF board members took calls from 390 people, compared to 334 in 1997. This increase can be seen as a reflection of the ever growing interest in conscientious objection which is also stressed by the fact that the number of COs in denmark has reached a figure of about 880 a year, i.e. 8,8 per cent of the total number of conscripts in Denmark.
Mostly the calls were addressing problems such as, "How do I get to be a CO," "How can I leave the army," "What kind of jobs does a CO perform?," "Where does the period of service take place," and so on; i.e. questions about the conditions of COs in Denmark; their rights as well as their obligations.
The counselling aside, MNF is the publisher of various types of information material such as for example Militærnægtervilkår, a pamphlet containing all the relevant information about the conditions of conscientious objection. Militærnægtervilkår 1998 was sold to a number of public libraries as well as forwarded to the student counsellors at schools and high schools. The pamphlet has been published for a number of years and it is revised every year.
MNF's homepages at FRED.dk/mnf has about 50 visitors every week. In it you will find information about e.g. the procedures of registering as a CO; a "column" where you can ask questions; news about conscientious objection, and articles from MNF's member magazine, NB.
It is possible to order the pamphlet Militærnægtervilkår or our famous t-shirt with the legend "Civilt område - Ingen militær adgang" ("Civil area - no military admittance"). MNF is pleased to see that there is a great demand for the t-shirt : 180 t-shirts were bought in 1998. MNF is continually trying to improve our website, but do take a look at the present 'edition' at the address mentioned above.
MNF and the secret services
In Denmark, 1998 was to become "year of the spies." In the spring of 1998, a lot of attention was given to the attempt of a former agent to "come in from the cold" : the "mole" told of participating in espionage as well as in the registration of legal political activity; revelations that paved the way for a wave of other information, such as for example the fact that MNF, seen as a "dangerous" peace-NGO, had also been under surveillance.
The Danish minister of defence, Hans Hækkerup (of the Social Democrats),has instigated an investigation of the army - by the army... - but the results of that investigation are yet to be seen. Nevertheless, MNF still prefers an impartial investigation of all the secret services that have been operating in Denmark from 1945 onwards.
MNF in Europe
During the past few years, MNF has increasingly been turning its attention to the world. In 1998, MNF thus participated in a number of conferences such as one in Budapest about conscientious objection as a human right arranged by EBCO, the European Bureau of Conscientious Objection. MNF also participated in a peace conference in Osnabrück, commemorating the 350 years' anniversary of the Westphalen peace treaty from 1648. Finally, MNF also experienced a strengthening of its international network at the European Future's Congress which also took place in Budapest. The theme of this conference was an exploration of alternative peace and security policies as well as opposition to the European Union. In the end of the year, MNF attended a Scandinavian top meeting on the issue of conscientious objection in Stockholm. On the agenda was a strengthening of the Scandinavian CO-network in the shape of a Nordic Organization of COs (Nordico). MNF is looking forward to enter the new millenium with a view to an even stronger Scandinavian co-operation.
The NB Magazine
The member magazine, NB, was published on a regular basis with two colours on the front page and a general lay out. As for the content, 1998 prooved most exhilarating indeed. With a budget of kr. 100,000.- NB1 presented the theme of the WEU with interesting articles by several prominent participants from the Danish political scene. This particular edition was printed in 7,000 copies, with 'fancy' pictures and in 4 colours. It was distributed to all the high schools and folk high schools in Denmark. It is still possible to order a copy of NB1 1998 as well as copies of other editions from the head office in Copenhagen.
Besides WEU, the most important and heated debate in NB in 1998 (especially in NB2) asked the question whether or not Denmark ought to abolish conscription in the present form and make way for the introduction of a professional army in stead. Other themes in NB in 1998 dealt with the secret services, with the increase in the number of conscripts choosing to become COs, with imprisones COs all over the world, and the threat to world peace that NATO continues to constitute. In 1998, the first national Peace Commission ever (NGO) published its report on peace and security; a report in which MNF as part of the Danish peace movement also played a part in writing.
As allways, MNF was present in front of the office in Hammerensgade in Copenhagen where the conscripts are to meet for examination. And the result, or so we would like to think, could be seen in the new record figures of conscripts turning COs.
In May, MNF sold t-shirts and distributed information about conscientious objection on Labour Day. On the 15th of May, the International day of conscientious objection, MNF showed its support with imprisoned COs around the world, in particular with the Turkish CO Osman Murat Ülke and the Serb CO Pavle Bozic. The activists of MNF collected signatures against the imprisonment of Pavle, and in the end of 1998, Pavle wrote to thank MNF for its support.
On December 10, the International Day of the Human Rights, MNF and several other peace and humanitarian organizations (e.g. AMK (No More War), FN-Forbundet (UN League, DK), Amnesty International + 80 other NGOs) were able to celebrated the 50th anniversary of the UN World Declaration on the Human Rights.
In other words, 1998 showed an increase in the number of members of the organization, an increase in the activities on a national as well as an international scale, plus revelations of the illegal activities of the Army's Secret Service (FE). MNF may thus be said to have accomplished the its tasks for the year according to the plan of activities set forth the previous year. The board of MNF hereby thanks for all moral and ecomic support to members, NB-subscribers, and various foundations.