Several days ago the Munich Admi­nis­tra­ti­ve Court issued a for­mal decisi­on to request that the Euro­pean Court of Jus­ti­ce in Luxem­burg cla­ri­fy several fun­da­men­tal ques­ti­ons per­tai­ning to the asyl­um request case of the Ame­ri­can deser­ter André She­pherd. The Court of Jus­ti­ce is asked to exami­ne “the degree to which an invol­ve­ment in mili­ta­ry hos­ti­li­ties is necessa­ry, in order to offer the right of refu­gee sta­tus to a mili­ta­ry deser­ter, who will be punis­hed for his deser­ti­on”. The case befo­re the Munich Admi­nis­tra­ti­ve Court has been post­po­ned until the Euro­pean Court of Jus­ti­ce issu­es a decisi­on on the­se matters.

André Shepherd’s lawy­er Rein­hard Marx obser­ved: “Here for the first time the case of an AWOL-sol­dier from the United Sta­tes will be tried at the hig­hest Euro­pean court. This shows the tre­men­dous signi­fi­can­ce of my client’s case.”

Rudi Fried­rich from Con­nec­tion, an inter­na­tio­nal net­work for con­sci­en­tious objec­tors, com­men­ted that “André Shepherd’s refu­sal to con­ti­nue par­ti­ci­pa­ting in war cri­mes in the Iraq War and request for asyl­um in Ger­ma­ny rai­ses the ques­ti­on whe­ther a deser­ter or AWOL sol­dier deser­ves our pro­tec­tion. Inter­na­tio­nal law and the Qua­li­fi­ca­ti­on Direc­ti­ve of the Euro­pean Uni­on that She­pherd is appe­aling to affirm his right unequivocally.”

The legal expert from PRO ASYL, Marei Pel­zer, affir­med: ”We will con­ti­nue sup­port this case with our legal aid ser­vices until the fun­da­men­tal legal issue has been cla­ri­fied by the Euro­pean Court. We hope that the Court will ack­now­ledge that deserters like Mr She­pherd should be give refu­gee sta­tus. That would be of immense value for many other cases as well.”

In his app­li­ca­ti­on for poli­ti­cal asyl­um filed in late 2008, André She­pherd reli­ed on the Qua­li­fi­ca­ti­on Direc­ti­ve of the Euro­pean Uni­on, which is inten­ded to pro­tect tho­se who eva­de a war or other acti­vi­ties that vio­la­te inter­na­tio­nal law, and who may expect per­se­cu­ti­on as a con­se­quence. Thus Shepherd’s request for asyl­um con­sti­tu­tes a pre­ce­dent invol­ving EU law. The orga­niz­a­ti­ons hope that cla­ri­fi­ca­ti­on by the hig­hest court of the Euro­pean Uni­on of the ques­ti­ons under con­si­de­ra­ti­on will make it clear that draft resis­ters and deserters are to be given con­si­der­ab­ly more pro­tec­tion, espe­cial­ly if they have cho­sen not to par­ti­ci­pa­te in war crimes.

35-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 serious­ly deli­be­ra­ted the effects of U.S. mili­ta­ry action on the civi­li­an popu­la­ti­on in Iraq. Final­ly, he went „absent without offi­cial lea­ve“ (AWOL) and app­lied for poli­ti­cal asyl­um in Ger­ma­ny. The Bun­des­amt für Migra­ti­on und Flücht­lin­ge (Federal Bureau of Migra­ti­on and Refu­gees) rejec­ted his asyl­um app­li­ca­ti­on on 31 March 2011. André She­pherd filed suit against this decision.

“It is good to see that the­re is pro­gress in the case”, decla­red André She­pherd today. “We hope that the Euro­pean Court not only has the will, but the cou­ra­ge to take a stand for the right to free­dom of con­sci­ence. Other sol­di­ers should feel assu­red that their decisi­on not to par­ti­ci­pa­te in wars or cri­mes in vio­la­ti­on of inter­na­tio­nal law will be supported.”

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