ACTION ALERT: Imprisoned Pregnant War Resister Seeks Early Release for Birth of Son
November 7, 2013
James Branum and Bob Meola / Courage to Resist
Imprisoned war resister PFC Kimberly Rivera: "I can't even see my kids. And when I had a chance to go see them for Christmas, I was not given leave by my platoon sergeant. So I have been unable to see them, except for the two days at Thanksgiving when Mario drove all four of them up here. I have been away from them for so long. I miss them very much. It's been eight months since I was separated from them."
ACTION ALERT: Imprisoned Pregnant War Resister Seeks Early Release for Birth of Son
James Branum / Courage to Resist
FORT CARSON, Colorado (November 4, 2013) -- Imprisoned war resister PFC Kimberly Rivera has submitted a clemency application seeking a reduction by 45 days in the 10 month prison sentence she received for seeking asylum in Canada rather return to her unit in Iraq.
The request for clemency was based on humanitarian reasons due to pregnancy. Unless clemency is granted, Private First Class Kimberly Rivera will be forced to give birth in prison and then immediately relinquish custody of her son while she continues to serve the remainder of her sentence.
Unfortunately military regulations provide no provisions for her to be able to breastfeed her infant son while she is in prison.
Fort Carson Senior Commander Brigadier General Michael A. Bills will be making a decision on PFC Rivera's clemency request in the coming weeks.
PFC Rivera's case made international news when she was the first female US soldier in the current era to flee to Canada for reasons of conscience. After a protracted struggle through the Canadian legal system, she was deported back to the United States in September 2012. She was then immediately arrested and sent back to the Army to stand trial.
In an interview with Courage to Resist on the eve of her court-martial, Rivera said, "When I saw the little girl [in Iraq] shaking in fear, in fear of me, because of my uniform, I couldn't fathom what she had been through and all I saw was my little girl and I just wanted to hold her and comfort her. But I knew I couldn't. It broke my heart. I am against hurting anyoneŠ I would harm myself first. I felt this also made me a liability to my unit and I could not let me be a reason for anyone to be harmed-so I left... Even though I did not fill out the official application to obtain conscientious objector status, I consider myself a conscientious objector to all war."
On April 29, 2013, PFC Rivera pled to charges of desertion. She was sentenced by the military judge to fourteen months in prison, loss of rank and pay, and a dishonorable discharge; thanks to a pre-trial agreement her sentence was reduced to an actual sentence to ten months of confinement and a bad-conduct discharge.
Kimberly Rivera has been recognized by Amnesty International as a "prisoner of conscience." She is the mother of four children, ages 11, 9, 4 and 2.
Kimberly Rivera's request for clemency was accompanied by 495 letters of support, written by family members, friends, as well as members of Amnesty International from 19 countries.
"We have many organizations to thank for the outpouring of support for Kimberly Rivera, including Amnesty International, Courage to Resist, the War Resisters Support Campaign of Canada, Veterans for Peace and Coffee Strong," said James M. Branum, civilian defense attorney for PFC Rivera. "We also want to recognize the tireless efforts of local supporters in Colorado Springs and San Diego who have taken the time to visit Kim in prison as well as to provide important support to Kim's family in her absence."
While the official clemency request is now complete, supporters of PFC Rivera are still encouraged to continue to speak out on her behalf. Letters in support of PFC Rivera's clemency request can be sent directly to:
Brigadier General Michael A. Bills
c/o Fort Carson Public Affairs Office
1626 Ellis Street
Suite 200, Building 1118
Fort Carson, CO 80913
Supporters are also encouraged to sign an online petition posted at:
495 supporters from around the world have written letters in support of clemency application. Donations to assist the Rivera Family can be made online. 100% of donated funds will assist the Rivera Family.
Consolidated Brig Miramar generally forbids inmates from doing interviews with the press, but you are welcome to see if an exception can be made by contacting the Brig Public Affairs office at 858-577-7071.
Additional case updates will be posted at couragetoresist.org and freekimberlyrivera.org
Interview with War Resister Kimberly Rivera
Bob Meola / Courage to Resist
Courage to Resist interviews US Iraq War Resister Kimberly Rivera as she anticipates her approaching court martial trial for desertion. If jailed as expected next week, her husband Mario will be left to take care of their four small children.
(April 23, 2013) -- Kimberly Rivera is at Fort Carson, Colorado, awaiting the April 29th start of her Army court martial trial for two specifications of one count of desertion. I asked Kimberly to talk about her present situation, and her thoughts and feelings as her trial nears next week.
Here is Kimberly Rivera in her own words:
"I am being charged with Desertion with the intent to stay away and with shirking hazardous duty. I feel that it shouldn't have to come to this or to any negative result for people to leave. If you are morally against what you are doing and don't believe in what you are doing, if you can't in your heart be able to harm another person but yourself... there should be a way out for people.
I will be facing a sentence that is up to the judge and could be up to 5 years from what I know. My PTSD has been bad at times. In Canada, I was doing community volunteer work that helped me cope with it and calm me. I was helping in soup kitchens, working in the community garden and was active in my kids' school. I also had counseling after my medication was not working properly and I went to art workshops.
"To this day, I can't handle or hold a weapon without breaking into severe anxiety and nervousness. Since being back in the army, I just go to work every day. Just playing soldier has been bringing up my anxiety. It has gotten worse as my trial gets closer.
"For a while, they had me clearing weapons and that just made me more nervous and increased my anxiety. They were having us clear them and test them for maintenance and malfunctions. One day, I almost passed out, clearing weapons.
"Mario's health has been bad for a while, but he is trying to improve it. Without me at home it is difficult for him, as he is taking care of our four kids and they take most of his time. Having me home would help him. It would help my kids who miss me very much.
Christian is suffering with depression, Rebecca the same. Katie keeps to herself and no longer opens up to anyone. She is having difficulties accepting that I will be gone for a while and tries to get me to come home. But I can't. It breaks my heart. She says that she needs to go and save me. Gabriel has stopped eating and is dependent on Pedia-Sure for his nutrition. It is severely impacting him, negatively, having me away.
"I was breast-feeding him up until I had to come back to the US and was detained at the border. He was very attached to me. They all were and still are.
"My-mother-in-law has ended up in the hospital two times in the last month. Her health has been worsening and I am thankful that Mario's parents, even with all their problems, do everything they can to help me, as well, and my kids.
"The fact that I may be facing jail time breaks my mother-in-law's heart and also negatively affects her health. Doctors have told her to not stress or think about negative things and to stay calm. But she tells me, how can she, when her daughter is facing what she is? Mario's brothers and father look after her and the kids currently. If I didn't have Mario here with me right now, I don't know how I would be. I am thankful for that.
"I need to be back home to put my mother-in-law at ease, to help her, to be with my kids so they can be happy again, and to help my husband, so we can be a family again.
"I was given no alternatives or help, by the chaplain, before I went AWOL, when I would discuss my moral objection. I knew nothing about a conscientious objector application, as that information was not made readily available or, at least, it wasn't to me. Even with my objections I received no reprieve, no options in any course to take, and now that I know about the length of the application process alone and how long it takes to be accepted or denied, I realize that can be discouraging to anyone.
"When I saw the little girl [in Iraq] shaking in fear, in fear of me, because of my uniform, I couldn't fathom what she had been through and all I saw was my little girl and I just wanted to hold her and comfort her. But I knew I couldn't. It broke my heart. I am against hurting anyone... What I saw and felt and knew was that when it came down to it, I would not be able to harm anyone else, not for any reason. I would harm myself first. I felt this also made me a liability to my unit and I could not let me be a reason for anyone to be harmed -- so I left.
"Being back is difficult. To have to pretend to be a soldier every day is difficult, because I am not. I was very involved in my community in Toronto. That's how I knew people. I worked in the community garden. My kids were always out there with me when they could be. They loved it. The people I know were awesome and we always helped each other out.
Now I can't even see my kids. And when I had a chance to go see them for Christmas, I was not given leave by my platoon sergeant. So I have been unable to see them, except for the two days at Thanksgiving when Mario drove all four of them up here.
"I have been away from them for so long. I miss them very much. It's been eight months since I was separated from them and I don't know when I will be able to be with them again. That makes me nervous. It is scary.
"I had a loving community in Toronto. It was an emotionally healthy and supportive environment. Here, I am isolated. I go to counseling every day and to group every other day.
"Even though I did not fill out the official application to obtain conscientious objector status, I consider myself a conscientious objector to all war."
Please help us provide humanitarian assistance to these courageous objectors with your contribution to the Rivera Family Support Fund today!