On July 4, 2023, authoritative international anti-war organizations, the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection and the War Resisters’ International (an international anti-war organization founded in 1921, headquartered in London, with branches in over 30 countries), issued an open letter in support of Belarusian conscientious objector Ivan Strashkevich, who is currently in Lithuania and at risk of deportation to Belarus.
The international organizations are urging Lithuania to grant political asylum to the Belarusian due to the threat of a long prison sentence he will face in Belarus for his support of the Belarusian protest movement in 2020, including his interviews criticizing the violent actions of security forces.
Despite Strashkevich’s active anti-war and anti-regime activities, the Lithuanian migration authorities have refused to extend his work visa based on his previous military service and imposed a 60-month entry ban on him into the European Union and Lithuania.
Here is the complete text of the appeal by the international anti-war organizations:
To: Lithuanian Immigration authorities
E-mail: [email protected]
Subject: Ivan STRASHKEVICH case, gim 1993-09-01, urgent release
4 July 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 Ivan STRASHKEVICH, an ethnic Lithuanian (gim 1993-09-01).
It has come to our attention that an extension to the work visa of the above citizen of Belarus was refused on 5th June 2023, on the grounds that he had previously served as a border guard in the Belarussian army. At the same time he was served by the Lithuanian authorities with a 60 month ban on entry to the European Union. When he subsequently applied for asylum, he was detained during the interview and forcibly transferred to the refugee camp at Pabrade, where he was placed in solitary confinement with access to a phone for only thirty minutes a day – even that not guaranteed. This despite the fact that he has a valid residence permit for Poland which has not been revoked.
EBCO and WRI have no doubt as to the bona fides of Strashkevich, who left the border service in 2019 and subsequently actively supported the protests following the disputed 2020 election and contributed to a documentary film critical of the border service’s handling of the 2021 migrant inflow. But in any case his asylum appeal ought to be allowed to run its course following due process without subjecting him to multiple human rights violations.
We call upon the immigration authorities to restore Straskevitch’s links with the outside world, reconsider the necessity of his conditions of detention and allow him to pursue his application for asylum, which would enjoy our support, without hindrance.
Moreover, even in the event that the application is turned down, we call upon the authorities to revoke the ban on his entry to the European Union, which has no rational justification.
More generally, EBCO and WRI 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 regime; that they revise their view of the significance of former military service in Belarus, recognising those who wish to avoid mobilisation as the conscientious objectors they now are; that they refrain in all cases from deporting such persons to Belarus, that they give favourable consideration to applications for asylum; and that failing this they agree to issue the objectors 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.