This is one of those essays that require some details.
So, we have this American, Andre Lawrence Sheppard. He went off in 2003, and joined the Army (voluntarily). He did three years....spending one year in Iraq. At the conclusion of that contract, he came to two decisions....one....that he wanted to sign another contract with the Army, and do more time within the US Army, and two.....he didn't ever want to go back to Iraq again.
Apparently, Sheppard finds someone within the Army (he never specifies who) who promised him that he could sign another contract and avoid another tour in Iraq. He signs the contract, and within months....he's in Germany within a unit who has orders to Iraq. He walks out the front gate of the post and applies for asylum in Germany (within Bavaria). That was in 2007.
Since 2007, Sheppard has had this odd life situation going on. During the Vietnam years....it didn't take more than a year or two for some German folks to find cause to accept a guy for asylum. It was the era of the draft, and it was pretty simple. Now? They revised the rules over the years, and with the voluntary system in place.....it takes a different reading to bring about asylum.
The German law dictates that if racism were the issue......it'd be easy to accept. That wasn't put into the application....nor could Sheppard provide any evidence of racism being a problem.
Religion or political opinion involved? Well, no. That would have helped, but from the original application....they weren't really cited.
Membership in a group? No.
So, we come to the EU clause that might help. If you can say that your unit was going to commit war crimes....it'd be easier to cite that and asylum would be simple to approve. At this point, Sheppard can't point at any member of his unit that has been accused of war crimes (I've looked and yet to find some accusation that would fit).
I've followed the story for almost five years now. This week....it came back up.
Sheppard sits in an asylum detention center in Bavaria. He gets free room and board in the center's boarding building, along with a cellphone. He waits.
For roughly two years....the Bavarians handled the episode, and finally rendered their verdict....he didn't qualify for asylum. In some ways, he's screwed up his own case by re-enlisting the second time, and then saying someone promised him that he wouldn't have to deploy. While he keeps repeating this comment....he's never pointed out who said this, or how they could makes such a promise. You can imagine the implications of making promises like this.....ninety-five percent of Army members would make such a request and thus you'd never deploy anywhere and just pretend you were in the Army, while getting paid for nothing.
In April of 2011, after they said "no"....he appealed. Twenty months would pass. At some point in early 2013....the regional court in Munich was going to open the process of appeal and comment. Then someone said that the EU court needed to comment over the process, and this one single rule about war crimes being an option.
This week.....the EU court said fine....they'd comment. Yes, he has the right to an asylum. Sheppard's lawyer was all happy about this comment. But when you examine the whole comment, the EU court simply handed the package back to Munich and said they were the ones who'd approve Sheppard's case. The package sent to the EU court? It apparently contained little about Sheppard's individual case or under what rule they'd use to approve the asylum.
Total time in the refugee center so far? Seven years.
The Munich court? I'm guessing they will slow-ball the episode and pick up the case again in early spring of 2015. Maybe by October of 2015....they will announce the appeal decision. I'm guessing it will go against Sheppard.
The odd thing? I spent twenty-two years in the American military and know that each year.....a certain number of people apply for conscientious objector status. If they have less than a year left on their contract.....the military will usually slow-ball this and simply let the time run out, with the guy walking out the door. More than a year? It'll turn into a process and usually result in various boards examining you, and at least twelve months are spent trying to prove your religious or personal change. It's not simple, but they figure that the volunteer method they use now.....keeps out the people with conscientious objector status.
For desertion.....what's the Army maximum sentence, if handed over? Eighteen months. Typically....the Army will review the case and in a number of cases (over past decade).....you rarely get more than six months in some stockade. Sheppard? He's basically spent seven years of his life on this waiting game....in a refugee center. It's hard for me to reason the logic to this. I would have quietly done the six months in some stockade, than spend seven years in some refugee center.
What happens to Sheppard? As we get closer to the court decision....I'm guessing he'll make a decision to relocate to Switzerland or Serbia...thinking their processes might be easier.
Did he pick the wrong German state to apply for asylum? On this question....I'd offer this analysis. There are sixteen German states, and each reacts different to legal cases. As an American, you 'd laugh about that comment, but it's the method commonly accepted. In my mind, he picked the one state where they ask stupid questions, and you need to establish more than just the minimum on answers. The fact that he volunteered the second time to sign-up, and then cited someone promised him that he'd never go to Iraq.....just wouldn't work in a Bavarian court. Maybe a Berlin or Hamburg court might have worked better, but I doubt that he knew that angle to German law.
Should he have just smoked a couple of joints and done the admittance to a marijuana problem? Yeah, I would have suggested that right off the bat, and simply accepted the discharge as part of the deal to get the heck out of the situation.
Should he have just pretended he saw and talked to imaginary people? Yeah, I would have suggested that angle. The Army doesn't like nutcases being around. The discharge would have taken three or four months maximum.
So I think Sheppard screwed up, and he's paying with years of his life for the consequence. Seven years wasted in some refugee camp in Bavaria. Other than learning German and just sitting around....what else has happened? He's a guy in search of a country to accept him, and it just isn't going to be Germany.