Harassment and discrediting campaign motivated by sexism and racism from Lithuanian privileged status “expert on Belarus” and its consequences (reputational, juridical, incarceration, health and life threats) for the Belarusian women human rights defenders, journalists and activists in exile on the territory of Lithuania.
To start with the Belarusian women human rights defenders, recognize duties to the country in which they find herself, which require in particular that they conform to its laws and regulations as well as to measures taken for the maintenance of public order.
Having said that the Belarusian women human rights defenders through this paper call for attention that besides the attacks of the KGB and FSB, Belarusian women human rights defenders, activists and journalists in Lithuania have encountered manifestations of racism and sexism from those privileged men, Lithuanian citizens, who have an official mandate for defending the rights of Belarusian women migrants in Lithuania.
Fortunately for the Belarusian women human rights defenders, journalist and activists in Lithuania, such cases of racism, xenophobia and sexism are not systemic racism, but isolated cases that should be decisively dealt with.
However, unfortunately, a very specific group of Lithuanian citizens have those sexist and racist views, namely, privileged men in Lithuania, who received the mandate of “experts on Belarus” and who are directly influencing decisions on the Belarusian matter.
According to the definition provided in core and fundamental United Nations documents, racism is a racial and ethnic discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
As a rule, racism is closely connected to sexism.
The Durban Declaration states: “We recognize that xenophobia against non-nationals, particularly migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, constitutes one of the main sources of contemporary racism and that human rights violations against members of such groups occur widely in the context of discriminatory, xenophobic and racist practices. We emphasize that poverty, underdevelopment, marginalization, social exclusion and economic disparities are closely associated with racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and contribute to the persistence of racist attitudes and practices which in turn generate more poverty.”
Also, based on racism, ethnic xenophobia and intolerance are closely linked to sexism and intolerance towards people with disabilities, and, as we can see from the case stated below, it is Belarusian women migrants with severe diseases or disability, former victims of modern slavery, as well as non-white men (men of color) who are not Lithuanians and not Russians by nationality, that have been subjected to a particular persecution and harassment.
On March 12, 2018, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres proudly declared that he considered himself a feminist. He reminded that in the today’s world prevails the culture of male supremacy. He called to end sexism, to abandon the patriarchal heritage and to work for the advancement of women. The head of the UN underlined that all women and girls have the fundamental right to live a dignified life free of violence[i].
Why do we perceive the attacks and harassment of the privileged Lithuanian men with the mandate of an “expert on Belarus” as attacks motivated by racism, xenophobia, sexism and intolerance, also against people with special needs or serious diseases?
- Those privileged men are making active efforts to achieve social exclusion and marginalization of Belarusian women human rights defenders, journalists and activists in Lithuania and to block any access to resources for them in order to limit the help that Belarusian human rights defenders are providing to Belarusian refugees in the territory of Lithuania. For that scope, besides other means, they are using disinformation about the activity of the Belarusian women human rights defenders, journalists and activists in Lithuania, and take different measures in order to discipline them, limit and block their social, humanitarian, civil and political activity, as well as to directly interfere and influence the activity of the Belarusian women human rights defenders, journalists and activists. The right of the Belarusian women to express their opinion publicly in the Lithuanian society is denied.
- The privileged Lithuanian men with the mandate of an “expert on Belarus” attack, harass and persecute most of all those Belarusian women human rights defenders, journalists and activists, who in the past were victims of modern slavery in Belarus, due to what they became vulnerable and easy victims for persecution, stalking and harassment of the privileged Lithuanian men, also through active attempts to deport and to expel the former victims of state slavery from Lithuania.
- Attacks, harassment and discrediting campaigns of such privileged men, Lithuanian citizens, are directed only against Belarusian women in exile in Lithuania, and never against Belarusian men who are in Lithuania for the same reasons and in the same situation of exile, as women. Therefore, it is evident that unequal and biased treatment of Belarusian women human rights defenders is motivated by sexism.
- Belarusian women human rights defenders are imposed unrealistically high, heavy demands on, also ridiculous and unfounded claims, which are never placed on Belarusian or Lithuanian men in a similar situation, although they have much more power and better access to resources.
- Constant and systematic denial of expertise of women human rights defenders from third countries and devaluation of their experience is happening, as well as an inadequate exaggeration of any minor mistakes or deliberate distortion of facts related to women and concealing serious major failures and errors if they are made by men. Only the experience of men is recognized as expert and valuable, sometimes in spite of their obvious unprofessionalism and incompetence.
- Any information provided by men is accepted as trustworthy without question, as absolute truth, without any supporting documentation, facts, etc.
- Besides the Belarusian women in Lithuania, also non-white men (men of color) have become victims due to the denial of the expertise of women human rights defenders from third countries with a vast experience in human rights defense only because they were women and they were migrants from the third countries.
Particular attacks of racists and sexists are expectedly directed against Belarusian women with a serious disease or disabilities as the most vulnerably and unprotected part of that social group.
The supported evidence
On September 28, 2022, Lithuanian lawyer Mantas Danielius was detained in Lithuania on suspicion of espionage for the KGB. As it turns out, Mantas Danielius had been recruited by the Belarusian propagandist and non-staff KGB agent, Ksenia Lebedeva, in 2019. Since then, he has been able to get in touch with a number of Belarusian organizations and collect sensitive information from them.
Belarusian women human rights defenders in that situation:
- Showed vigilance and quickly, in only few months, raised the alarm, while Mantas Danielius had been collecting information in Lithuania at least for three years, starting from 2019, and nobody had reacted to that.
- Women human rights defenders do not have their own security service for the reason of lack of resources. The Republic of Lithuania is not financing the activity of the Belarusian diaspora and the Belarusian women human rights defenders in Lithuania.
- After that, a severe victim-blaming of women who became victims of his criminal offenses, started: sexists began blaming the victims of the crime, and not the criminal, which can be compared to a situation when a rape victim is accused by sexists that she was wearing “wrong” clothes, or was going to “wrong” places.
- The situation is further complicated by the fact, that those men, sexists and racists, possess a status of a supposed “expert on Belarus”, and according to their mandate they should defend the rights of the Belarusian women and should help the Belarusian women, but do not do that due to their sexists and racist views.
Description of individual cases of men, Lithuanian citizens, who commit racist and sexist harassment of Belarusian women human rights defenders.
Vytis Jurkonis, the director of the Lithuanian branch of the human rights organization Freedom House.
Specific examples of manifestations of sexism and racism against Belarusian women human rights defenders, journalists and activists in exile in the Republic of Lithuania from the side of Vytis Jurkonis, the director of the Lithuanian branch of the human rights organization Freedom House.
- Victim-blaming of the Belarusian of women human rights defenders, journalists and activists in exile in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania.
On October 7, 2022, the Lithuanian human rights defender and political scientist, Vytis Jurkonis, in his article “Jurkonis kelia klausimą, kaip Danielius infiltravosi į baltarusių bendruomenę: organizacijos turėtų prisipažinti pasielgusios neatsargiai” in Delphi publicly demanded from the Belarusian women human rights defenders to acknowledge “negligence” in communication with the Lithuanian lawyer Mantas Danielius[ii], that is, to plead “guilty” for the fact, that the KGB is persecuting women human rights defenders even in the territory of Lithuania.
It’s a classic victim blaming: a privileged white man, a human rights defender, a citizen of the EU country, is blaming women, migrants from third countries in an extremely vulnerable situation, that they are “guilty of everything bad which is happening to them”:
- The position of Vytis Jurkonis is that women, and not the agent provocateurs, are responsible for all provocations organized against them by men. In his article, Vytis Jurkonis does not stand up for the oppressed women, victims of an aggravated crime of espionage, who had turned to Lithuania for protection from the persecution of the KGB, he does not disapprove the actions of the Lithuanian man Mantas Danielius, but puts all the blame for the attack of the KGB on the Belarusian women.
- Demands of Vytis Jurkonis to the women migrants from a third country that they must “catch spies” in Lithuania, although they have no necessary competence for that, nor a corresponding mandate, talents or resources, not even knowledge of the Lithuanian language, are inadequate.
- Vytis Jurkonis ignores requests for help submitted by the Belarusian women even when his immediate reaction is deriving from the responsibilities of his human rights mandate. It is evident, that he is perceiving women as not important, insignificant, not a party or an actor, not able to communicate anything important.
On July 5, 2022, Belarusian women in Lithuania turned to the director of the Lithuanian branch of the American human rights organization Freedom House, Vytis Jurkonis, with a warning that they suspect Mantas Danielius of spying for the KGB, and asked him to take measures for protection (screenshots of that warning are available).
Vytis Jurkonis ignored that notification and did not take any measures to defend the Belarusian women. He offered no help to the victims; he did not get in touch with any of them to clarify all the details of what had happened. In addition, we know nothing about help to Ukrainian refugees in Lithuania from Vytis Jurkonis or the Lithuanian branch of Freedom House.
Instead, in his article he is implying that the activity of women human rights defenders in Lithuania and their help to Belarusian and Ukrainian refugees should be seriously limited or disciplined, as they must seriously check and verify every person who turns to them form help.
Every time, when a consent of Vytis Jurkonis is needed for a humanitarian visa for Belarusian protesters, it is accompanied by humiliating practices and usually ends in refusal or ignoring of such requests of help and assistance.
About 40-50 Belarusian and Ukrainian refugees go through Our House every day in one way or another. Even more go through the Belarusian organization Dapamoga.
The demand to seriously check and verify every person who it turning to Our House or Dapamoga for help without providing additional recourses for such verification is an attempt of Vytis Jurkonis to limit the help provided to Belarusian and Ukrainian refugees by Belarusian human rights defenders. It is obvious, that a detailed check and verification of 40-50-100 persons a day is unrealistic without creation and financing of a whole security department, for which the Belarusian women human rights defenders do not have resources.
Vytis Jurkonis places increased demands on women migrants from third countries regarding the verification of refugees, which he never puts on Lithuanian male citizens, although the mandate of those men and the resources at their disposal (financial, administrative, political) imply verification and check of refugees for possible links to the KGB and the FSB.
Also, we have information, that one of the Belarusian women activists (the name is omitted for security reasons), working on promotion of the Belarusian culture, in summer 2022 turned to Vytis Jurkonis with a request to protect her from stalking, sexual abuse and harassment committed by Mantas Danielius.
Vytis Jurkonis ignored that request as unimportant, as it was submitted by a Belarusian migrant woman, he has never turned to any institution of Lithuania on the matter of stalking and harassment of a Belarusian woman, he has not helped her to get in touch with any Women’s Protection Body of Lithuania. If deemed necessary we can put you in contact with the respective person to further get detailed information about the case.
- Vytis Jurkonis has never demanded from Lithuanian men to apologize or to admit their mistakes and “negligence” in verification of possible KGB and FSB agents, even if such mistakes and negligence of those Lithuanian men created additional risks and threats for safety, life and health of Belarusian women in the territory of Lithuania.
Mistakes of verification of political refugees by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, that created additional risks and threats for the Belarusian women human rights defenders, journalists and activists.
- Let’s take the case of Ihar Makar as an example. In Moscow he was checked and verified by the Embassy of Lithuania, which issued him a visa and transported him to Lithuania. Currently, Ihar Makar is publicly admitting to have connections with the FSB, is under a criminal investigation, but Vytis Jurkonis has never challenged the verification of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania and has never doubted the competence of the Lithuanian male diplomats, has never demanded to conduct an additional investigation which Lithuanian organization had verified Ihar Makar as a trustworthy person to issue him a visa and to transport him to Lithuania.
But on October 7, 2022, in his article in Delphi “Jurkonis kelia klausimą, kaip Danielius infiltravosi į baltarusių bendruomenę: organizacijos turėtų prisipažinti pasielgusios neatsargiai”, Vytis Jurkonis spread fake information that Olga Karach allegedly tried to introduce Ihar Makar to some Lithuanian politicians and infiltrate him into the Lithuanian political elite.
That does not correspond to the truth. Olga Karach is a victim of stalking committed by the Lithuanian citizen with pro-Putin views Ihar Makar, and she has never worked together with him, he has never been a member of Our House and has never been in the office of Our House, he knows nothing about the work of the organization. Olga Karach has never tried to introduce Ihar Makar to any Lithuanian politician, has never brought him to the Seimas of Lithuania, has never asked any representative of political, cultural or intellectual elite of Lithuania to have a meeting with Ihar Makar[iii]. Either Vytis Jurkonis should articulate a public pardon about this statement or should be faced with legal consequences of defamation.
- There is another case, of Anatoly Shariy, a pro-Russian blogger, accused of high treason in Ukraine.
Anatoly Shariy, a pro-Russian blogger from Ukraine, accused of high treason and incitement of hatred to Ukrainians by the special services of Ukraine. Put on the Ukrainian wanted list. In May 2022, Anatoly Shariy was detained in Spain on the request of the Ukrainian authorities, but was soon released under a number of obligations.
Ten years before that, in 2012, Anatoly Shariy was granted a political asylum in Lithuania. Nevertheless, there was no visa-free regime for the Ukrainians in the European Union (and in particular, in Lithuania) in 2012. Which means, there was a Lithuanian organization that verified Shariy as trustworthy and brough a Russian agent to Lithuania.
Vytis Jurkonis has never demanded from the MFA of Lithuanian any public apologies for the mistake and “negligence” in the case of Anatoly Shariy, neither has he demanded to conduct an investigation of that Lithuanian organization that had verified Shariy as trustworthy.
- Vytis Jurkonis has never placed the same demands on Belarusian men, as he has on Belarusian women. He does not demand from Belarusian men to “admit their negligence” in communication, although objectively, the secrecy and cover-up of the leakage of databases of with personal information of the active core of the Belarusian protest and mistakes of Belarusian men in the protest have cost hundreds of law-enforcement officers, who tried to go over to the side of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, their freedom. Meanwhile, the contacts that the Belarusian women unknowingly had with the KGB agent have not harmed anyone, have not costed freedom to anybody (reference on the case “Black Book of Belarus” is in the footnote). At the same time, Vytis Jurkonis has never appealed to the director of Infopoint, Franak Viačorka, nor the employee of Infopoint, Daniil Bahdanovich, to publicly “admit their negligence” which has cost so many people in Belarus their freedom.
- Using his status of a privileged man and a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania and the European Union, as well as his status of allegedly “an expert on Belarus”, Vytis Jurkonis deliberately misled and misinformed the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania in regard of a young woman journalist A.B. from Belarus, knowingly giving false information about her with the aim to deprive her of her journalist accreditation and her temporary residence permit, and to have her deported from Lithuania.
As the director of the Lithuanian branch of Freedom House, when transferring the organization of Andrej Stryzhak, BYSOL, from Kyiv to Lithuania, Vytis Jurkonis verified the young woman journalist as a trustworthy person, issued her an invitation and transferred her to Lithuania.
Later, the journalist discovered facts of corruption in Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s affiliated BYSOL Foundation and after having announced her negative attitude to corruption and having declared that she did not want to be part of it she left the foundation.
Andrej Stryzhak and BYSOL Foundation have never tried to disprove the facts, indicated by the journalist A.B.; also, they have never turned to any authority of the Republic of Lithuania with a complaint on the false information from the journalist A.B. Instead, the Belarusian men from BYSOL Foundation and their male friends from Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s affiliated structures organized a serious harassment for the young woman journalist, which was also joined by Vytis Jurkonis.
Two years after bringing her to Lithuania, Vytis Jurkonis wrote an official letter to the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanding to deprive the journalist A.B. of her accreditation, and stated in the letter the facts that can be easily disproved by a simple Google search (Our House is in possession of the said letter of Vytis Jurkonis).
On the basis of the disinformation, provided by Vytis Jurkonis, the MFA of Lithuania deprived the young Belarusian woman journalist of her accreditation, putting thus her under the threat of deportation to Belarus, since her residence permit in Lithuania depended on her journalist status.
The young woman journalist from Belarus also suffers from a serious, potentially mortal disease (4th degree lung cancer, lymphoma), which is threatening her life, and is undergoing a complex and serious treatment in Lithuania.
Harassment and disinformation from the side of the Lithuanian man, Vytis Jurkonis, could have cost the young woman journalist her life, since the deportation to Belarus would have meant for her imprisonment, torture and slow death from her disease in a Belarusian prison where no medical help is provided.
- Apparently, Vytis Jurkonis is deliberately misleading the State Security Department of Lithuania in order to have Belarusian women human rights defenders and journalists deported, since the State Security Department is using the same arguments in relation to the journalist A.B. as Vytis Jurkonis and the MFA of Lithuania on the basis of his letter, which is easily disproved by a simple Google search. Anyway, we are planning to learn about the source of disinformation of the State Security Department of Lithuania more precisely during the judicial proceeding against the MFA of the Republic of Lithuania held to defend the rights and interests of the young woman journalist, migrant from Belarus.
There are reasons to believe, that such letters containing defamatory information have been sent out by Vytis Jurkonis not only to the Ministry of the Republic of Lithuania and not only in regard to the Belarusian journalist A.B., but also in regard to the human rights defenders Olga Karach and Natalia Kolegova, also to a number of Western embassies among other institutions. We suppose that the defamatory information has been spread by him at the meetings with representatives of the embassies in question and with international partners.
- The situation when Vytis Jurkonis is the only verifier on Belarus, not being a well-prepared expert on Belarus (and all the cases stated above directly indicate that the expertise of Vytis Jurkonis in the Belarusian situation is weak), severely affected several women human rights defenders, one of whom was detained and put to Belarusian prison because she did not make it in time to flee Belarus for the reason of absence of a Lithuanian D type visa. Our House lost a lot of time making arrangements with another (non-Lithuanian) embassy, and the young woman was detained and spent 8 months in prison (7 more hours were crucial for her to flee the country in time, and exactly those 7 hours were lost on the search of a quick visa in other embassies). One more woman human rights defender ended in Turkey instead of coming to Lithuania while escaping from the Belarusian regime, where she spent a couple of months and needed to undergo an urgent surgery on the vertebral column in Turkey, and not in Lithuania, also due to the situation with the Lithuanian MFA and the sexist attitude of Vytis Jurkonis to Belarusian women. The surgery was not free, and it was not performed well: the woman became a disabled person with a 15 thousand USD debt. That situation would have never happened, and the woman would have never become disabled, if the MFA of Lithuania had a high-quality, objective system of verification of human rights defenders and victims of repressions in Belarus, not conditioned by the sexist and racist views of Vytis Jurkonis and not based on his personal likes and dislikes.
- Vytis Jurkonis is conducting deliberate discrediting campaigns against the activity of Belarusian women human rights defenders, journalists and activists on the mass and social media.
III. Here is an example of a statement of Vytis Jurkonis in which he is making a direct hint to Olga Karach.
Olga Karach has never invited the Russian political scientist Andrey Suzdaltsev to her YouTube streams, he has never been on her Youtube streams.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky came to Olga Karach’s stream only once.
- Case “Vladimir Zhirinovsky”.
On 22.02.2021 a meeting of Vladimir Putin and Aliaksandr Lukashenka in Sochi was going to take place, where the situation in Belarus was to be discussed. Before that meeting it was strategically important for Lukashenka to demonstrate that the political situation in Belarus was stabilized, that he had it under his control, and that the protest had been suppressed.
Unexpectedly two days before that, on February 19, 2021, an interview of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to a Swiss daily newspaper, Le Temps[iv], is published where she is saying exactly the following: “I must admit that we have lost the streets, we cannot fight with the violence of the regime against the protesters: they have weapons, they have power, so yes, at this moment it seems like we have lost”. Those words were reproduced widely by the Russian and Belarusian propaganda, and it became clear it was necessary to do something and react decisively.
On February 21, 2021, Olga Karatch publishes a video, in which she threatens Vladimir Putin to tear all the Union relations and throw away Russian military bases out of Belarus for his support of Aliaksandr Lukashenka[v].
It was the first time in the history of Belarus (except for the speeches of the Belarusian politician Zianon Pazniak; however, everybody got already used to his appeals and did not have any reaction any more), when a Belarusian figure threatened Putin and even more, raised a question about breakout of union agreements with Russia and liquidation of Russian military bases in Belarus.
The video resonated widely, it immediately became viral and received 219 368 views, 23 000 likes and 3921 comments.
Yandex attempted to block the video in the search engines, it was discussed everywhere and overlapped the interview of Sviatlana Tsikhaousnakya about the defeat of the democrats.
Publishing the video brought to some unexpected consequences.
Russian politician and the “Kremlin mouthpiece”, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the LDPR, asked to be invited to Olga Karach’s stream[vi]. Having given it some thought, Olga decided to give him the floor, mostly because Vladimir Zhirinovsky had been the only one of the Russian elites, who appealed not to support Aliaksandr Lukashenka after August 9, 2020.
On March 2, 2021, Vladimir Zhirinovsky came as a guest to the stream wearing white and red, that is, in the colours of the Belarusian protest (national colours of Belarus) and began persuading Belarusians that it would be much better for them to be part of Russia, that Belarus should never joint NATO, and so on. Once again, the video resonated widely and was viewed 309 037 times, liked 14 000 and commented on 4394 times. After Zhirinovsky’s speech a lot of Belarusians opened their eyes, because it became clear that Russia did not perceive Belarus as a separate country and did not consider Belarusian people to be a political subject (before that a lot of Belarusians had had an illusion that Russian was considering Belarus to be an independent country).
On June 25, 2021, democratic activists made an attempt to damage the 43rd communications node of the Russian Navy “Vileika” (Belarus).
On June 28, 2021, Lukashenka unexpectedly called Putin, they discuss “common threats”, the media learned about that call only a few days later.
On June 29, 2021, unexpectedly, Russian Security Council Secretary, Nikolai Patrushev, had a meeting with Aliaksandr Lukashenka and the State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus, Alexander Volfovich, on security issues with the security councils’ apparatuses and several ministries and departments of the both countries[vii]. Nikolai Patrushev said that “Minsk and Moscow will act together against the existing challenges and threats”
On July 2, 2021, Aliaksandr Lukashenka suddenly admitted that there had been an attempt to explode the 43rd communications node of the Russian Navy “Vileika” (Belarus), and publicly accused Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany at the time, that she “was behind the attempted explosion of the communications node in Vileika” as the instigator[viii].
On September 3, 2021, the KGB of Belarus put the human rights defender Olga Karach on the list of “persons, involved into terrorist activity” as a person who allegedly “knew about the prepared explosion in Vilejka”[ix].
Not only Belarusian women human rights defenders have become victims of Vytis Jurkonis’s racism and sexism, but also non-white men of color, socially and politically active, human rights defenders and activists, who suffered a lot from his actions motivated by his racist and sexist views.
V.A family of Tajik human rights defenders, looking for a temporary relocation after having participated in the preparation of a report on LGBT rights in Tajikistan for UN structures.
The human rights organization Memorial was collecting data on violations of the LGBT rights in Tajikistan; local human rights defenders were helping them. After the publication of the report of Memorial, they started receiving threats. Memorial and Our House discussed that situation and tried to temporarily relocate the family of the Tajik human rights defenders to Lithuania, but encountered resistance from Vytis Jurkonis who, knowing nothing about the situation, knowing nothing about the activity of those Tajik human rights defenders and the verification of that case by two human rights organizations – Memorial and Our House, only on the basis of sexism, racism and ethnic hatred, did the following:
- Doubted the expertise of two women human rights defenders, leaders of human rights organizations of Belarus and Russia, who had been involved into the human rights activity for a very long time, only because they were women and migrants.Started collecting gossip and unverified information about the grassroot Tajik human rights defenders, who had helped Memorial to gather data on violation of LGBT rights in Tajikistan, tried to denigrate and discredit them not only in Lithuania and the European Union, but also in Tajikistan.
- He intervened directly in the work of the Lithuanian MFA, trying to block the issue of national D visas for the Tajik human rights defenders, and he managed to do that.
- The women human rights defenders relocated the family of Tajik human rights defenders to Kyiv (Ukraine), where in the result of the erupted war, they got under shelling. Thus, a threat to their life and health was created.
- At the time, the voices of women human rights defenders, migrants from third countries, were not heard only because the expertise of Vytis Jurkonis, a privileged man, a citizen of Lithuania, an EU country, and the head of the Lithuanian branch of an American organization, could not be challenged by women migrants as representatives of marginal and vulnerable groups.
- Citizen of Cuba, participating in protests in Belarus.
PBK (the name is encoded for safety reasons, the person is currently in Lithuania) is a citizen of Cuba, who has lived in Belarus for 30 years. He married a Belarusian woman, and in 1989 their elder daughter was born. He came to Belarus in 1991, has been raising three kids and working as a graphic designer, speaks Russian fluently.
In 2020 he participated in protest actions against election fraud committed by the regime of Lukashenka. On November 8, 2020, during a protest, he was detained, sentenced to 15 days of arrest, his Belarusian residence permit was annulled, the decision to deport him from the country was made. He is prohibited from entering Belarus for the term of three years, although he has three kids there.
For over a year the citizen of Cuba passed in horrible conditions in a detention facility in Okrestina lane (the isolator infamous for torture and harassment) in Minsk waiting for the expulsion, till December 10, 2021, when employees of the Department for citizenship and migration put him on a flight to Moscow. According to the Code of Administrative Execution Procedure of Belarus, the person subject to deportation or expulsion, may be held with the authorization of the prosecutor for the term necessary to execute the deportation or expulsion order. In Belarus there are virtually no separate centers for temporary accommodation of foreigners. Therefore, they have to wait for their deportation in a pre-trial detention facility. Six months after his detention, a Belarusian woman human rights defender contacted Vytis Jurkonis and asked him for help, which she, and correspondingly the citizen of Cuba, were refused with the words “so, you deal with Cubans as well”. After a year and a month had passed since his detention in the pre-trial detention facility, the citizen of Cuba had a COVID test done and the next day was put on a flight to Moscow to be later sent to Cuba. While in Russia, PBK contacted the BYSOL Foundation, and got a visa through the program of Freedom House. He came to Lithuania on the basis of a humanitarian visa. It is clearly an act of double standards as one time he is refused to be helped and next time he is helped for the same reasons.
That situation demonstrates both racist and sexist views of Vytis Jurkonis, due to which РВК had to stay in prison half a year longer.
- Once again, Vytis Jurkonis depreciated and doubted the expertise of a Belarusian woman human rights defender only because she was a woman. This time there is a reasonable to think that the refusal and delays are motivated and driven by discriminatory attitudes.
- At the same time, when a Belarusian man human rights defender turned for help on the same case half a year later, without any problem he got both the help and a humanitarian visa for the citizen of Cuba who had become a victim of repressions in Belarus. Therefore, the case was convincing enough for Lithuania to issue a humanitarian visa to a Cuban citizen.
- With his phrase “so, you deal with Cubans as well”, Vytis Jurkonis clearly demonstrated that his refusal to help РВК was motivated by his nationality, and not by the doubts in the authenticity of the case of the victim of repression. It is the obligation of Vytis Jurkonis to reasoning either refusing or acceptance of requests from refugees or vulnerable persons.
- Since in the end РВК made his way to Lithuania and even was asked political asylum there, it confirms that the case of the Cuban citizen had substance and from the beginning had been correctly verified by women human rights defenders. It was only due to racist views of Vytis Jurkonis, as well as to his sexism in relation to the Belarusian women human rights defender, why the citizen of Cuba was left in the Belarusian prison for extra 6 or 7 months.
- Refusal of Vytis Jurkonis to help a Cuban only because a Belarusian woman human rights defender asked for that help, also placed PBK under the risk of deportation to Cuba, which could create an additional threat to his life and health.
The activity of Vytis Jurkonis is directly the opposite of the policy of the Lithuanian state and the Seimas of Lithuania, who openly support the fight of the Cuban people and other people for freedom of mankind and against the dictatorship.
The universal rights of refugees are today derived from two primary sources – general standards of international human rights law, and the Refugee Convention itself.
Article 2 of Universal Human Rights declaration states that Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms , without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status and no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty. According to article 14 Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution and as such no one is entitled to prevent anybody by enjoying these right
Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on one’s sex or gender; prejudice, negative attitude or antipathy towards people of a particular gender, expressed in a system of social practices of inequality and unequal treatment of men and women based on their gender.
 Reference: Victim blaming is a devaluing act that occurs when the victim(s) of a crime or an
accident is held responsible — in whole or in part — for the crimes that have been committed against them.
 Reference: in the case of Mantas Danielius, the Belarusian women human rights defenders:
- Turned to the police and other authorities immediately after having suspected the Lithuanian lawyer Mantas Danielius of espionage.
- Collected all evidence of the espionage activity of Mantas Danielius they could.
- Are actively collaborating with the investigation and the investigatory group.
- Prevented stealing of their information: Mantas Danielius has failed to obtain any sensitive financial information on Belarusian women human rights defenders, also he has failed to get access to the databases of the victims of repressions and conscientious objectors the women human rights defenders are working with.
- It is believed that before that Mantas Danielius had managed to infiltrate the human Rights Center “Viasna”; in the result one of the charges brought against the Nobel Laureate and political prisoner Ales Bialiatski was based on the information which Mantas Danielius had access to.
 Case “Black Book of Belarus” and “Infopoint”, the director of which is the Senior Advisor to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Franak Viačorka.
Through the fault of an Infopoint employee, Daniil Bahdanovich, an acting officer of GUBOPiK was planted first to the Black Book of Belarus, and later to Infopoint – two largest Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s affiliated structures. The GUBOPiK officer worked there, was responsible for security and even headed the Black Book of Belarus for some time. He had access to all the data bases, which he transferred to the Belarusian regime.
A woman employee of the Black Book of Belarus started noticing strange behavior of the acting GUBOPiK officer and attempted to discuss it with Franak Viačorka, Daniil Bahdanovich, as well as with Aliaksandra Ramanava and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, but that information was ignored, as we believe, due to sexism in Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s team.
In the result, nobody turned to any authority, no investigation was conducted, and for 9 months an acting officer of GUBOPiK leaked the personal data of all the law enforcement officers who attempted to help Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. All those people have been arrested in Belarus and are currently in prison. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and her team are still keeping silent about that database leakage.
It’s difficult to estimate how many people have suffered from that situation, but it is clear that we speak about at least hundreds of them: they are being sentenced to over 10 years of imprisonment and are subject to particular torture as “traitors of the regime”, some are facing death penalty. Because of that situation, the enforcers will never go to the side of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and will not even have contact with her. Also, we want to underline, that those people will never get the status of political prisoners, and human rights defenders will not even learn about them.