Category Archives: Legal support project

Helping provide legal counsel to resisting servicemembers during discharge proceedings

Army to deploy conscientious objector

Published by:

Christopher Munoz

Editor’s note: The lawyer representing PVC Munoz, James M. Branum, is legal director for OCC.

Private still scheduled for upcoming deployment to Afghanistan

Killeen, Texas – A soldier seeking a discharge from the Army based on a conscientious objection to war has been told by the command at Fort Hood that it still intends to deploy him to Afghanistan sometime in the coming weeks.

PVC Christopher MunozPrivate Second Class Christopher Munoz, 22, applied for a C.O. (conscientious objector) discharge on June 25, 2013. He has also asked for his deployment to be delayed until request for discharge would be given a fair hearing.

Servicemembers are eligible for C.O. status if they can prove to military authorities that they are opposed to all wars, and that the opposition is grounded in religious belief or moral conviction that is sincere and occurred at some point after enlistment. PV2 Munoz’s application asserts that he qualified for this status according to the provisions of Army Regulation 600-43.

As a C.O applicant, PV2 Munoz cannot be made to carry weapons or munitions if deployed.

“If deployed, PV2 Munoz will be at significant risk for harassment by his fellow soldiers since he will effectively be a ‘dead weight’ on the unit. Despite these very real risks, PV2 Munoz’s command has said that a delay of his deployment will not be considered,” said James M. Branum, an attorney who represents PV2 Munoz. Continue reading

War Resister Kimberly Rivera receives lengthy prison sentence “to send a message to the war resisters in Canada and their supporters”

Published by:


This press release was sent out a short time ago by the War Resisters Support Campaign of Canada. OCCPR Legal Director James M. Branum was the lead defense counsel on this case.


For Immediate Release
Monday, April 29, 2013

Iraq War Resister Kimberly Rivera sentenced to 14 months in military prison after deportation by Harper government

TORONTO—On Monday afternoon, during a court-martial hearing at Fort Carson, Colorado, Kimberly Rivera was sentenced to 14 months in military prison and a dishonourable discharge after publicly expressing her conscientious objection to the Iraq War while in Canada.

Under the terms of a pre-trial agreement, she will serve 10 months of that sentence.

Private First Class Kimberly Rivera deployed to Iraq in 2006 and sought asylum in Canada in 2007 because she decided she could no longer be complicit in the war. A mother of four young children—including two who were born in Canada—she was forced back to the United States of America by the Conservative government after receiving a negative decision on her pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA). A Federal Court judge denied her request for a stay of removal, finding the possibility of her arrest and detention in the U.S. to be “speculative.” Rivera was arrested three days later, on September 20, 2012, as she presented herself at the U.S. border.

“Kim is being punished for her beliefs and for her comments to the press while she was in Canada,” said James M. Branum, the defense attorney who represented Rivera during the court-martial proceedings. “Because she spoke out against the Iraq War, Kim’s sentence is harsher than the punishment given to 94 percent of deserters who are not punished but administratively discharged. In the closing arguments, the prosecutor argued that the judge needed to give PFC Rivera a harsh sentence to send a message to the other war resisters in Canada and their supporters.”

The tremendous public outcry related to Rivera’s case shows the deep and broad support that Canadians continue to express for Iraq War resisters. In a period of 10 days leading up to the Rivera family deportation, 20,000 people signed a petition ( supporting the family. Faith (, labour ( and human rights organizations spoke out, Amnesty International ( adopted Kim as a prisoner of conscience, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu published an opinion piece in The Globe and Mail newspaper ( calling the deportation order “unjust.”

In stark contrast to this outpouring of support, Conservative MPs cheered when the Rivera family’s removal was announced in the House of Commons.

“The Conservative government knew that Kim would be jailed and separated from her children when they forced her back to the U.S., yet they cheered her deportation,” said Michelle Robidoux, a spokesperson for the War Resisters Support Campaign. “They are out of step with the great majority of Canadians who opposed the Iraq War and who support allowing U.S. war resisters to stay in Canada.”

On February 1, 2013, the Federal Court of Canada issued a decision in the case of another U.S. war resister, Jules Tindungan, finding that the U.S. court-martial system “fails to comply with basic fairness requirements found in Canadian and International Law.” The Court also found that the Refugee Board failed to deal properly with evidence that soldiers who have spoken out publicly about their objections to U.S. military actions are subjected to particularly harsh punishments because of having voiced their political opinions. (

“The sentence Kim received today underlines the concerns we have been raising all along, and what the Federal Court now acknowledges, that soldiers who speak out against unjust wars face harsher punishment and have no recourse within the U.S. military justice system,” said Robidoux.

“Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney were ardent supporters of the Iraq War, and they want U.S. Iraq War resisters punished. But Parliament has voted twice to stop these deportations, and the majority of Canadians believe Kim and the other resisters did the right thing. We will continue to fight to make sure this injustice does not happen to any other U.S. war resister who is seeking asylum in Canada.”


For further information, please contact:
Michelle Robidoux, Spokesperson, War Resisters Support Campaign, 416-856-5008; or
Ken Marciniec, Communications Volunteer, War Resister Support Campaign, 416-803-6066,

Imprisoned US Army war resister needs your help today

Published by:

Justin Colby

Part of the work of the Oklahoma Center for Conscience is helping to provide low cost (and sometimes no cost) legal assistance to military war resisters. The following story is about one of the clients that our legal director has worked with. We urge you to read this statement and then to write a letter of support today so that this war resister can be release from prison.

Statement by SPC Justin Colby

This statement was written by SPC Justin Colby on the morning of March 22, 2013, just a few hours before he would be sent away to 9 months in military prison, reduction to the rank of Private, loss of all pay and forfeitures and a bad conduct discharge.

Justin Colby

My name is Justin Colby and I am an Active Duty soldier serving in the United States Army. I am writing today to talk about some of my experiences serving in the US Army. I was admit right up front that there were many positive experiences about my serving the Army (and I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for many of those that I served with), but for the purposes of this writing I will focus on the negative experiences that shaped my ability to participate in this organization.


I enlisted in May of 2003. My first duty station was South Korea. While I was in South Korea, I learned about the Iraq war. Glaring discrepancies became obvious. One professor said that Iraq never attacked the United States. As I talked to other soldiers about this, none of the people I served with could seem to explain why we should attack a country that never attacked us. When I asked at the command level why we were attacking Iraq I was dismissed completely.


Eleven months into my Korean tour I was notified that I would be going to Iraq. I started researching more and asking more questions. While my unit was in Kuwait getting ready to cross over the Iraq border I explained to my first sergeant that I did not think I could participate in offensive operations against a country that never attacked us. I asked to apply for conscientious objector status. The First Sergeant made me do pushups until I was completely exhausted and humiliated. He told me that we could take “this” as high up the chain of command as I wanted, but the only result would be that I would be labeled a “domestic terrorist.” This intimidation worked and I crossed the border as commanded.


Our destination was Ar-Ramadi, Al Anbar Province, Iraq – in the heart of the Sunni triangle. Immediately, I was terrified. Our base was attacked with mortars daily. Coalition forces and Iraqi resistance fighters came to our medical facility daily, wounded and killed in action. It was very difficult for me to watch mothers cry to us as we tried to save the lives of the women wounded by US forces. On multiple occasions, soldiers opened fire on vehicles carrying unarmed women and children. This happened for a variety of reasons (but most often happened because)if the soldiers commanded them to stop and they failed to stop ,lethal force was authorized. Regardless of the reasons, watching the life slip from a three year old toddler was devastating to both its mother and myself.


I can also remember the Marines being particularly brutal in the handling of the dead bodies of the Iraqis killed in action. They would routinely toss the bodies off of their vehicles into the dirt beyond our medical facility. Watching bloodied, mutilated bodies rolling around in the dirt never felt normal to me. I can remember how we openly referred to the Iraqi casualties as “practice patients.” We routinely allowed medics to perform procedures outside of their scope of practice. As medics, we only had sixteen weeks of medical training.


To put it in perspective, imagine if you mother had a heart atack and passed away, and you had to come to the hospital to identify her – but when you saw her body, you discovered that it was essentially dissected by somebody with only sixteen weeks of training – and imagine find out it was for “practice.”


I made it through our year long deployment to Iraq only to return home to be abused by my new chain of command. I returned in August of 2005. In the late fall I found out that my girlfriend was pregnant. I married her after hearing this news (something I was very excited about), but it ended up being a nightmare. By December of 2005 I discovered that my pregnant wife was addicted to methamphetamine and was having an affair with a convicted felon (with a history of domestic violence). I immediately contacted the Colorado Springs police and Child protective service. I also filed for divorce (seeking custody of my soon-to-be-born son). I was told that this was the only way that I could prevent my soon-to-be-born son from being further harmed was to divorce my wife and demand custody.


My June of 2006 things were reaching a very bad place. I was only weeks away from finalizing the divorce (and gaining full custody of my son). But at the end of June I was told that I would be deploying to the National Training Center for training in preparation for a second Iraq deployment. Our deployment to NTC was scheduled for early July, preventing me from protecting my son. I as devastated and both my physical and mental health deteriorated. I begged and pleaded with my leadership to no avail. My life turned into a nightmare. I felt like I had to leave before things got worse. In a time of extreme emotional distress, I left my unit and went AWOL. A short time later I went to Canada where I sought legal status based on my family hardship and my moral objections to further participation in war. After I left, Child Protective Services ended up removing my son from his mother. I unfortunately was unable to gain custody myself due to my legal status with the Army. It is this aspect of my story that I regret most. I can only say that had lost all faith in the legal system to do the right thing.


While in Canada I tried to live my life as best I could. In the coming years, I formed a new family (with my Canadian common-law spouse, I had two new children). I always grieved the circumstances of why I had to leave, but I felt betrayed by the Army. I had felt that I had been required to put my own moral concerns aside to deploy the first time (doing this out of a sense of obligation to my oath and to my comrades), but when I later faced a terrible family crisis, the Army abandoned me.


By the summer of 2012 I made the decision to return to the US. I had completed the first stage of being sponsored for legal residency in Canada (based on my family ties in Canada) so I was not deported. But I made the decision to come back anyway because I wanted to take responsibility for my actions and not be separated from my extended family. I wanted my children to grow up getting to see their grandparents and their aunts and uncles in the United States. In July I returned to military custody and was eventually sent back to Fort Carson. I continued to serve (doing whatever jobs were asked of me) from July 2012-March 2013. I sought an administrative discharge in lieu of court-martial but my request was denied. Today I will be pleading guilty to the charge of desertion.


A few hours after Justin Colby wrote this, he was sentenced to 15 months in confinement, a bad conduct discharge, reduction to the lowest rank (E-1) and loss of all pay allowances (despite the fact this income is desperately needed to support his family), however, thanks to a sealed pre-trial plea agreement SPC Colby will only be serving a 9 month prison sentence.(Unlike the civilian system, military defendants who have a plea deal receive the lesser sentence of either the pre-agreed terms or what the judge thinks the sentence should be)


Justin Colby is currently being held in the county jail in Colorado Springs awaiting transport to military correctional facility. Justin will, however, have the opportunity (likely in 3-6 months) to request clemency from the commanding general of Fort Carson. We are asking for friends, family and supporters of Justin Colby to write letters to the general asking that Justin be given an early release form prison so he can be back with his family. We do ask that all letters be respectful.


Please send all letters to:


Maj. General Paul J. LaCamera

Public Affairs Office

1626 Ellis Street

Ste. 200, Bldg.118

Fort Carson, CO 80913, USA

Fax: 1-719-526-1021


Please also copies of the letters to Justin Colby’s civilian attorney (this is important because we need copies of the letter to submit in the formal clemency process). These copies can be sent to:


James M. Branum

Attorney at Law

PO Box 721016

Oklahoma City, OK 73172

Fax: 1-866-757-8785

Email: girightslawyer(at)gmail(dot)com


We will be posting an address (at where supporters can write Justin Colby once we know what military prison he is sent to (likely in early-Mid April). Until then he is being held at the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His mailing address at the CJC is as follows (guidelines for letters can be found here):


Justin Raymond Colby – # 1300004791

Criminal Justice Center

2739 E. Las Vegas St.

Colorado Springs, CO 80906-1522


For further updates on Justin Colby, please go to: (coming soon)

Winter Soldier hearings set for Austin, TX on Feb. 28

Published by:

OCC is thrilled to be working with IVAW and the Oklahoma Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild to help organize and promote Winter Soldier Austin, hearings using testimony from soldiers to tell the realities of the war in Iraq. Several of our members will be participating, either by providing testimony, providing support services, or live-blogging the proceedings.

Background on Winter Soldier here.

We are outreaching to Iraq War vets in Oklahoma who would be willing to testify at the hearings. Please use the contact form on this site to email us.

if you can help us support these vets, and get them to Austin for testimony, donations would be much appreciated.


WHAT: Winter Solder – South Central Region, Eyewitness Accounts by Iraq Veterans Against the War

WHO: Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), with support from many local groups

WHEN: Saturday, February 28, 1PM-5PM

WHERE: Central Presbyterian Church, 200 E. 8th Street (Brazos & 8th), Austin, Texas

In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War held a national Winter Soldier event in Baltimore, Maryland. Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan featured testimony from U.S. veterans, giving accurate accounts of the true nature of those occupations. This four-day event brought together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan – and present video and photographic evidence. In May of 2008, for the first time since the Iraq war began, boots-on-the-ground veterans testified under oath before Congress about the effects of the occupation. Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War presented their testimony to the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Winter Soldier hearings continue to be held regionally across the U.S. Now Iraq Veterans Against the War, will bring Winter Soldier hearings to Austin. Veterans from New Mexico, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas will join together to publicly share the experiences of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the tradition of other Winter Soldier events, live testimony, panel discussions, along with supporting video and photographic documentation, will focus on the human impact of war. This event is open to the public and all are encouraged to attend.

Winter soldiers, according to founding father Thomas Paine, are the people who stand up for the soul of their country, even in the darkest hours. The event was named Winter Soldier in honor of a similar gathering in 1971. The “Winter Soldier Investigation” was a media event sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and was intended to publicize war crimes and atrocities by the United States Armed Forces and their allies in the Vietnam War. A complete transcript of those hearings was later entered into the Congressional Record by Senator Mark Hatfield, prompting the Fulbright Hearings in April and May 1973, convened by Senator J. William Fulbright, chair of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

For more information, go to

We are asking Oklahoma activists, veterans and family members to help promote the event by printing and distributing the flier among their networks.

Winter Soldier flier for Oklahoma, 2 up

Invitation – Celebration of the release of Daniel Sandate from military prison, Jan 22 in OKC

Published by:

The Oklahoma Center for Conscience and Joy Mennonite Church would like to invite you to help us celebrate the release of Conscientious Objector Daniel Sandate from military prison.

WHERE: Joy Mennonite Church, 504 NE 16th St, Oklahoma City, OK 73104

WHEN: Jan. 22nd, 5 p.m. (press conference), 6 p.m. (potluck dinner), 6:30 p.m. (Daniel will speak)

WHAT TO BRING: Bring a dish of your favorite food and friends. We want to pack the house with supporters of Daniel!

WHO IS DANIEL SANDATE: Daniel Sandate is a war resister and a veteran of the Iraq war. He fled to Canada after his first deployment to Iraq because his unit refused to give him treatment for his PTSD. Daniel lived underground in Canada until last year when he was deported to the US and sent to Fort Carson, CO.

OCC’s helped sponsor Daniel’s lead attorney, James M. Branum, in his case at Ft. Carson. In his court martial, Branum presented as mitigation the fact that Daniel’s unit failed to provide adequate treatment for his PTSD. Because of this, the judge gave Daniel an 8 month sentence and an other-than-honorable discharge (much better than the normal 15 month sentence and dishonorable discharge commonly given for desertion cases at Ft. Carson).

If all goes well, Daniel will be released from prison next week. We are having this event to show Daniel and our community that we stand with him and support him.

The event is free, though we will gratefully accept donations so we may continue to provide legal support for conscientious objectors seeking discharge from the military.

Daniel Sandate statement on war (pdf)

Support COs by helping to cover their legal costs

Published by:

Thumbnail of CO flierThe Oklahoma Center for Conscience has helped a number of active duty service members who are seeking status as conscientious objectors. Such status is allowed within the Military Code of Justice, but is difficult to prove to their satisfaction.

We are fortunate that OCC’s co-founder, James M. Branum, right here in Oklahoma is one of the few attorneys concentrating in this work. He has traveled all over the country defending GIs, and is also becoming a highly sought after GI Rights trainer.

Costs for providing legal services include travel and accommodations for James, as well as his legal research and documentation, phone calls, etc.

We have now added the ability to donate to our work online here on this site. There are several options for donations, and we hope you can find one that works for you.

Another way to help is to use the flier here and reproduce and distribute it through your own publications and networks. We are working on producing a variety of media that can be used to promote our work. Please give us your feedback and ideas.

2008 CO flier (pdf)