On June 23, 2023, the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection and the War Resisters’ International (WRI), an international anti-war organization founded in 1921 with headquarters in London and branches in over thirty countries, issued joint open letter in support of Vitali Dvarashin, a Belarusian conscientious objector currently residing in Lithuania under the risk of deportation to Belarus.
The international organizations urge Lithuania to grant political asylum to the Belarusian based on his status as a conscientious objector, his involvement in solidarity actions with conscientious objectors and deserters from Belarus, as well as his participation in protests against the Belarusian regime.
However, The Lithuanian Migration Department considers the Belarusian individual a threat to Lithuania’s national security due to his completion of a military academy in 1987 and subsequent work as an aircraft mechanic until 1998.
Here is the complete text of the appeal by the international anti-war organizations:
To: Lithuanian Immigration authorities
E-mail: [email protected]
Subject: Vitali DVARASHYN, Prašymo Nr.: 2306-AS-0022
Brussels, 23 June 2023
On behalf of the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO) and War Resisters’ International (WRI), we are writing to you to express our grave concern about the case of Vitali DVARASHYN (Prašymo Nr.: 2306-AS-0022).
It has come to our attention that the residence permit of the above citizen of Belarus Vitali DVARASHYN, who was born on 12th August 1969 and has been living and working in Lithuania, was revoked on 26th April 2023, and that the Lithuanian authorities have furthermore declared him banned for five years from entry to the European Union. We have been informed that he is currently waiting for the examination of his application for refugee status in Lithuania (application date: 15th June 2023).
We urgently appeal to the Lithuanian authorities that Belarus should not be considered a safe country for return, especially for those who have already been identified as opponents of the Belarusian authorities, as is the case with Dvarashyn, who has been publicly associated with the “No Means No” campaign in Belarus, and whose appearances in Facebook videos associated with that campaign render him liable to up to seven years’ imprisonment under Belarussian law.
We also note that the apparent justification for the action taken was Dvarashyn’s former military service in Belarus. Paradoxically, this is precisely the reason why he is particularly concerned not to return to Belarus.
There are strong indications that in the near future Belarus will enter the war in Ukraine in support of Russia. The recent location of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus testifies to the closeness of the alliance between the two countries. In such an event a military reserve mobilisation similar to that which has taken place in Russia is extremely likely. There is a risk to all men deemed to be of military age of being called up in such a mobilisation, but priority would be given to those with previous military service and relevant training. As evidenced by a case which was pending under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Belarus does not in any circumstances recognise the right to conscientious objection to reserve service.
Dvarashyn graduated from Vasylkiv Military Aviation and Technical School in 1987 and joined the army. However, disappointed from the military, he made the decision to refuse to take up arms and voluntarily resigned from service, leaving the army on July 15, 1998. Since then, he has strived to lead a peaceful life and has avoided any involvement with the military or any other law enforcement structures.
We urge you to:
a) refrain from deporting Dvarashyn to Belarus, as well as any other person who has not been positively identified as an active supporter or agent of the current Belarusian authorities.
b) immediately revoke his ban on entry to the EU.
c) give consideration, ideally, to granting him asylum in Lithuania as a conscientious objector to military service, but failing that at least issue him with new residence and work permits.
We understand that at least one other Belarussian resident in Lithuania – identified by the initials K.P. – who likewise served the minimum five years following graduation from Military Aviation and Technical School, is currently under similar threat, having been served with a ban on entry to Lithuania for five years or elsewhere in the EU for three years. Many other Belarussian men at particular risk of reserve mobilisation because of their previous service are known to have sought to avoid this by relocation in Lithuania or other countries in the region.
We are extremely worried about the news that: “Negative decisions [are made] more often in relation to citizens of Belarus than in relation to other foreigners. About 300 Belarusians were refused,” says Lucia Voishnis, Deputy Director of the Migration Department. What are the reasons for the more frequent refusals in relation to Belarusians, the representative of the Migration Department does not specify. He only says that the main reason for all refusals is that these people, by their presence in Lithuania, can “threaten the security of the Republic of Lithuania and the public order of the state.
We plead that Lithuania refrain in all cases from deporting to Belarus persons at risk of military mobilisation; that it give favourable considerations to applications from such persons for asylum as conscientious objectors to military service; and that failing this it agree to issue such persons with the necessary residence and work permits enabling them to remain in Lithuania and the EU.
Thank you in advance for your kind attention and careful consideration.