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The Peace Tax Seven

NEWS IN 2006


Three Lord Justices delivered their judgement on 4th May. The news was dissappointing but not unexpected. They have refused our appeal to have a judicial review. However, their only reason for doing so is that they believe that they do not have the jurisdiction to overturn what they describe as 'clear and consistant line of jurisprudence in Strasbourg'. That is to say, because the European Commission turned away three similar cases 20 years ago, we must take our argument that their reasoning is wrong back to them. All three concur that 'They (European Commission) have taken what may be thought to be a rather strict or narrow line on the manifestation of religious and philosophical belief ... In some respects the reasoning may be legally and logically unsound'.

This makes in number, five High Court and Court of Appeal judges who think we may have an arguable case as far as part 1 of Article 9 is concerned ie. objecting to paying for the military through our taxes is a manifestation of our religious and philosophical beliefs. The fact that such emminent British judges think this, must surely persuade the Strasbourg authorities to hear our case.

All five, however, lay doubt on our likelihood of success in part 2 of Article 9 - that the Treasury has good reason to refuse to accommodate our consciences. They give all sorts of reasons why it would not be possible to set up a peace fund, which look like strong answers, but in fact they do not stand up to scrutiny. These were looked at in our appeal, but the Treasury failed to come up with evidence that we asked for. So it was only a review of evidence without substantial debate on the Treasury's objections. Shortly we hope to publish the skeleton arguments put forward by them as submitted to the Court of Appeal, side by side with our counterarguments.

We also expect in the very near future to launch our new campaign for Europe. This will be a significant step up in the campaign as we expect to involve the other peace tax groups in other member states of the Council of Europe. Watch this space.

*Our delay in reporting this decision is that our lawyers needed to request an appeal to the House of Lords in order to exhaust all remedies in the British courts. This appeal was denied which is a relief because we would only have been told the same thing at great expense and trouble. We do now need to take this case to the European Court of Human Rights. In fact bringing this issue to the whole of Europe is potentially of far greater value than merely bringing the case in Britain.


We Seven had a very encouraging and uplifting meeting with our lawyers in July (2006). The last two years have certainly not been in vain. We now have the means to open the door at Strasbourg and it is going to be hard for them to deny us a case in the face of grave doubts voiced by senior judiciary in Britain (see below). For a long time we have seen the greater possibilities of going to Europe, in that there are a great many peace tax campaigners around the continent and organisations like Conscience in nearly every EU country. This is an opportunity for all Europeans.

So, in the leafy grounds of Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, we formulated our new campaign:

To spend the next three years developing public awareness of the peace tax issue and our case.
Highlighting war tax cases wherever they happen
Staging events like the Wales gig
Public demonstrations including Aldermaston style walk
Giving more talks around the country
Bring Contempt of Conscience video up to date
Continue to try and get a full documentary made and aired on TV

To further develop the links we have already with other organisations around Europe to raise awareness there.
All seven to go to Berlin to the International Peace Tax Conference
Encourage the formation of sympathy 'Peace Tax Seven' groups in other countries
Develop assistance already available from larger organisations in Europe, ie. CPTI, QCEA
Put subtitles on Contempt of Conscience - Quakers in Europe to help with this and distribution

Do not ignore strong worldwide support which we already have from Australia, USA. Witness and support from outside Europe is very helpful.

Couple fundraising with awareness building and vise-versa
Set a target - £25,000 per year for the next three years
More articles in magazines with appeal leaflets inserted
Set up standing orders
Develop things to sell - t-shirts, badges, post cards, a book, a game, etc.
Local fundraising from each of the PT7, ie. cake sales, promises auction


Thanks to Mike Fordham and David Pievsky we have a strong argument to take our case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). They helped us achieve something in what always looks to most people like an impossible case. Having a ruling from the Court of Appeal to the effect that Strasbourg should perhaps look at their reasoning again is a valuable lever. However they have advised us to look for other barristers with more experience of ECHR court actions. We are very grateful to them for their careful painstaking work, resulting in a useful statement from the UK courts.

We have now appointed new barristers. Kier Starmer QC, has an impressive track record in human rights cases. Most notably he helped the McLibel pair prepare their case in defence of the libel action brought against them by MacDonalds. He then represented them before the ECHR and succeeded in establishing that aspects of libel law are contrary to the free speech rights in Article 10. He is assisted by Professor Nick Grief, who has a special interest in conscientious objection to military taxes and has written an extensively about it.

They have sent a formal letter of complaint to the ECHR and are gathering evidence to support our case. Various religious experts are being asked to submit evidence to show that conscientious objection to military taxes has a basis in religious conviction. In particular Quaker Peace and Social Witness from Britain Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends are committing significant resources to produce a comprehensive amicus brief to show the long track record Quakers have in opposing military conscription of all kinds including military taxation. David Gee says ‘(The) application to the European Commission on Human Rights (in 1981 was) deemed inadmissable under the European Convention on Human Rights, possibly because the nature of ‘freedom to manifest religion or belief in practice’ had not been fully explored as it applies to Quakers.’

Expert witness has been sought from a professor in Buddhist studies. Another expert witness from Anglican Peace Fellowship is giving the general Christian point of view. Conscience and Peace Tax International, a recognised NGO with the UN, is also offering to give evidence which puts credible international weight behind our case. Of course our own Conscience - The Peace Tax Campaign will be submitting a full statement outlining the campaign’s 30 year history and persistent efforts to change British tax law


Joe Jenkins and Simon Heywood have just completed the script for a full length documentary version of Contempt of Conscience. They signed a contract, giving them full editorial control over the final version, with Clarity Productions in April this year. Clarity are approaching TV channels in several countries to get the documentary shown. They have received a number of interested replies.

Couple this with the interest being rallied by other organisations like Conscience around Europe and the US (see below) and we seem set to make a wider public impact anytime soon. We are in the process of adding subtitles to our DVD in French, German, Dutch, Welsh and volunteers came forward at the international conference to translate it into Spanish and Italian. So the multilingual version of Contempt of Conscience will be distributed soon.

- in French, click here


A deputation from PT7 attended the 11th International Conference on Peace Tax and War Tax Resistance in Berlin at the end of last month. We made many good contacts with campaigners and resisters from 15 different countries including the USA and Canada. Among them were two war tax resisters who’s cases are currently under way. Dan Jenkins from New York is currently building a brilliant and comprehensive defence against an IRS legal action and has exchanged some useful information with us already. Jan Hellebaut who is alone in withholding taxes in Belgium and has had a long and gruelling journey through the courts. He is supported by his movement VRAK Aktie Vredesbelasting. We hope to maintain close links with all those we met.

We ran a busy workshop on the Friday afternoon, discussing the legal process and thinking of ways the other countries could join in. All saw our case as an opportunity to promote the peace tax cause around Europe. The possibility of PT7 affinity groups in each of the countries was suggested. As already mentioned we are currently making our DVD multilingual and our European friends will be helping us to distribute it around Europe.

Derek Brett of Conscience and Peace Tax International presented his newly published study - Military Recruitment and Conscientious Objection: A Thematic Global Survey. He made a very useful point which PT7 can use. Article 18 of the International Declaration of Human Rights, which is repeated verbatim in Article 9 of ECHR, says a state cannot drop the right of conscientious objection just because there is a war looming. One of the Treasury's arguments is that our right not to pay for military would threaten national security. Derek agreed that they cannot make this argument in order to remove our human right. CPTI are offering to provide an amicus brief for our case. Their contribution would be good because they are an officially recognised NGO of the UN.

CPTI held their AGM on the Saturday at which Robin Brookes was elected onto the board. They and we see the usefulness of having a PT7 member in the committee at this time in our campaign.

Also decided at the AGM was that Conscience in Britain will host the next conference in 2008. Again all agree that with PT7's case looming this would be most apt. The exact dates and venue has yet to be decided by Conscience, we will let you know when.

Some other useful snippets:
- The Final Statement of the conference is reproduced below.
- there are 8 - 10,000 war tax resisters in the USA and about 8,000 in Spain.
- A Dutch peace organisation, Euro’s vor Vrede, have been working on three computer games to interest younger people in peace tax issues. These might be adapted to go on the PeacePays website.
- We sold 5 ‘Taxman’ t-shirts to delegates


Final Statement of the 11th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns, which took place in Woltersdorf near Berlin from 26-29 October 2006. The topic was: War Tax. Responsibility. Peace Tax.

The participants reiterate their conviction that it is impossible to create peace through war and the use of violence. The responsibility of each of us is indivisible; war leads to the loss of humanity. Human beings are free to reject military violence. Therefore no person shall be compelled to participate in military violence, directly or indirectly. The participants hope that with every conscientious objection to serve with a weapon or to pay the military share of taxes, the total military potential for violence will decrease, and that with every euro spent on peaceful projects the military budget will shrink and more justice and peace will become possible.

The Conference deplores in the strongest possible terms the desecration of graves in Afghanistan by German soldiers. This is yet another demonstration of the danger to soldiers of becoming cruel and insensitive. The Conference demands an end to military action in Afghanistan and the deployment of civilian peace-keepers who have been trained for such purposes for a number of years.

"Conscience and Peace Tax International" (CPTI) introduced the study "Military Recruitment and Conscientious Objection: A Thematic Global Survey". We were not surprised to learn that to this day, rich men can still buy themselves out of military service, and that the right of conscientious objection is still not honoured in several countries. We were, however, surprised to learn that e.g. in Switzerland any man who does not perform his military service has to pay 2% of his income till the age of 40 - so alongside many indirect taxes there are also direct military taxes.

Seven British citizens who refuse to pay taxes for military purposes -"the Peace Tax Seven" -are in the process of bringing their cases to the European Court of Human Rights. The Conference assures them of their full support. And so at the invitation of "Conscience UK", the 12th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns 2008 will take place in the United Kingdom.

We heard from other continents, particularly from countries where armed conflict is linked with severe human rights violations, Nepal, Colombia, Eritrea and the eight other African countries where wars are currently going on. We were urged to defend everywhere the right to conscientious objection to military service, to support the granting of political asylum to objectors and deserters. The Conference supports the initiative "International Law Campaign" (Aktion Volkerrecht) started by students from a secondary school in Heidelberg, as well as the "Manifesto against conscription and the military system" from the Gandhi Information Centre in Berlin.

Marian Franz, departing Chair of CPTI, was given heartfelt thanks for her many years of work. The Board of CPTI having reached the end of its period of service, the General Assembly elected a new Board for CPTI. The new Chair for the next four years will be the former treasurer, Pedro Otaduy from Spain. Hannelore Morgenstern-Przygoda, Germany, is Deputy Chair. The day-to-day work will continue to be entrusted to the experienced hands of Dirk Panhuis from Belgium, and the new treasurer is Alan Gamble from the USA. They are joined on the Board by Robin Brookes(one of the Peace Tax Seven, UK), Ricardo Esquivia (Colombia), Angelo Gandolfi (Italy), and Carla Goffi, (Belgium).

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