After a six-month deployment in Iraq, Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejía Castillo of the Florida National Guard returned to the U.S. for two weeks’ leave and decided that he could not return to duty. Believing the war and the occupation of Iraq to be “illegal and immoral,” he filed for military discharge as a conscientious objector. With his application for conscientious objector status still under official consideration, a U.S. military court sentenced Camilo Mejía in May 2004 to the maximum penalty of one year in prison for desertion. Prior to his conviction, Camilo Mejía said, “I have no regrets … I go there with my honor, knowing I have done the right thing.”
Camilo Mejía has described how what he witnessed and did in Iraq compelled him to take a stand on the basis of conscience. His objections to the abuse of Iraqi detainees were made before the publication of photographs of U.S. agents abusing detainees in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, but his trial came at a time of heightened media attention on this issue. A member of his defense team, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, spoke of the “incredible irony that we’re prosecuting soldiers in Iraq for violations of international law, and we’re prosecuting a soldier here because he refused to do the same things.”
Amnesty International considers Camilo Mejía to be a prisoner of conscience. He is held in a military prison at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
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Fort Sill, OK 73503