The Right to Refuse to Kill




This Commemorative Stone is in Tavistock  Square, Bloomsbury, London, where every 15 May at 12 noon  supporters of the right not to fight and kill gather to celebrate this right, and to recognise the courage of those who have maintained and still maintain this right, despite, in many cases, harsh imprisonment and sometimes even death by shooting or beheading.





The White Poppy is the Symbol of Peace

The White Carnation the symbol of Conscientious Objection



We assert the right for every person to refuse to kill other people, and on 15 May, International Conscientious Objectors' Day, we remember men and women Conscientious Objectors to military service all over the world and in every age.

For the story of International COs’ Day, click here
For a brief history of conscientious objection, click here

For the Order of Ceremony (tba)



The Right to Refuse to Kill

The Right to Refuse to Kill is the name of a group of people, individuals and representatives from a wide variety of organisations, from Pax Christi to the National Secular Society, from Amnesty International to the Unitarian Peace Fellowship. On 15 May each year, International Conscientious Objectors' Day, at midday, a short, simple ceremony, planned by the RRK group, is held around a rock, of  400 million-year-old Cumbrian slate, in Tavistock Square, central London.  The roughly hewn rock with inset plaque, commemorates the courage of those who claimed, and suffered for, the right - not even yet universally recognised - to refuse to kill. It further stands for the demand that such refusal should not be the occasion for recrimination, vilification, or other indirect punishment. Those commemorated range from Israeli soldiers refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories, to the World War One British absolutists who not only refused to kill, but also refused to carry out any work which might release another to fight.

    The ceremony includes a minute's silence which follows the laying on the Stone of some seventy white carnations, each bearing the name of a CO representing a particular country; as the flower is being laid brief details of the nature of that CO's experience are read out.   

 The History of RRK

 I am the niece of Joe Brett, a WW1 absolutist, at whose funeral Bill McIlroy, then Secretary of the National Secular Society, said there should be a commemoration in every town, as there is for those who fought, for those who refused to fight.  Courage has many faces.

    I made the original proposal for a commemorative stone, dedicated to all COs, to my fellow Members of the Greater London Council in 1985.  The proposal was accepted by the Council, whose abolition the following year nevertheless prevented its early implementation.

    Three years later, the Peace Pledge Union took up the proposal; and in May 1993, a letter to the Guardian newspaper, signed, with others, by the composer, Sir Michael Tippett, himself imprisoned as an Objector, brought support from many.  The present monument, designed by Hugh Court, sculptor Paul Wehrle, was unveiled by Sir Michael on 15 May 1994.

    We hope that, by so commemorating those who have practised the right to refuse to kill in the past and in our own time, we may emphasise alternative responses to conflict, and that more RRK groups will encourage the same commemoration among the communities and nations of the world, and so help to foster the cause of universal peace.  A commemorative stone was dedicated in Cardiff, outside the Temple of Peace, in 2005.

    We know that it is not easy to get funding to set up a plaque, or a stone, or whatever the commemorative object may be - indeed, sometimes there may be hostility to the idea. We found that bringing together representatives from several relevant groups was useful.  It may be easier to use something which has significance, for whatever reason, in an area - a tree, fountain, bench, maybe - at least, initially. And then, perhaps, to begin to obtain funding to set up a plaque, stone, or whatever the commemorative object may be.

    Edna Mathieson

    For further information, contact  -   tel. 020 7237 3731.



Statement by Idan Halili, a woman liable for call-up to the Israeli Army in 2005

"The army is based on “masculine” values, considered normal and desirable in that context. If they want to be part of it, both men and women have to accept and internalise such values: power, violence, and a superior and excluding attitude towards others.

I do not want to prove that I am able to serve “just like a man”. It is absurd to look for equality within an orgamsation which is fundamentally not equal, and which sharply contradicts my own principles and conscience. I wish to be a valuable member of a society not based on hierarchy and control, and not part of an organisation especially oppressive towards women and to populations not included in the hegemonic group.

I resist being in the army not only on theoretical grounds. Once I understood the tight connection between all forms of women’s oppression in society, I saw that the only way for me to live as a feminist would be to watch out for the social factors that make the abuse of women possible, to oppose these, and to work for their re-alignment with alternative values. Army service would impose on me a way of life deeply contrary to my moral values and beliefs. I would have constantly to deny and suppress my most fundamental persuasions. I cannot live in such flagrant denial of my conscience and I cannot serve an organisation that tramples on the values on which my whole moral outlook is built.

I ask you to discharge me from military service on grounds of conscience, and to allow me to appear before the military committee authorised to grant such exemption."

Tried by a military court, Idan Halili was sentenced to two weeks in military prison. She later appeared before the Conscience Committee, who refused to recognise her conscientious objection, but a few days later she was exempted as “unsuitable for military service”.


    Charles Titford, statement to Tottenham Tribunal, London, 13 March 1916. Later, court-martialled and imprisoned:

    "The whole of the military organisation has but one purpose in view, i.e. killing... Because it is found more effective to divide the labour - one man specialising in using a rifle, another in carrying food and ammunition, another in tending the wounded, another in making out consignment notes, and so on - it does not by any process of reasoning relieve any one of them of the responsibility for the ultimate act - the actual killing, apart from which their work has no meaning or utility. I am not prepared to shoulder that responsibility. Let it be understood, therefore, that I refuse either to undertake what is termed `combatant duties' or any other work (`non-combatant', so called) that has as its ultimate object the taking of human life. I do not undertake to convince the members of the Tribunal that this view is the correct one merely affirm that I believe it to be such, and that I shall obey my conscience, which tells me that it is my duty to refuse to participate in war work. I claim the right to make (and do make) such a refusal by virtue of my preparedness to accept the consequences, whatever they may be."




Peace Pledge Union:

    The Peace Pledge Union is creating a database of all British COs, (names to date.) To contribute names or find out more, contact the .PPU CO Project:   020 7424 9444   

Conscience - Taxes for Peace not War

Amnesty International


War Resisters International:   020 7278 4040


The Right to Refuse to Kill is supported by the following organisations:Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, British Humanist Association, Christian CND, Conscience -The Peace Tax campaign, National Secular Society, Pax Christi, Peace Pledge Union, Unitarian Peace Fellowship, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.


Initiated by Edna Mathieson