Between the two countries: experience of a conscientious objector

This is what happened with a conscientious objector from Belarus, Vitali Dvarashyn, who is under threat of a long term of imprisonment in Belarus for his activities in support of Belarusian conscientious objectors.

Back in the Soviet times, Vitali Dvarashyn, who is now 54 years old, graduated from Vasylkivsky Aviation and Technical Military School and joined the army. As he was performing his service, he got disappointed with the military, decided it was against his values to use weapons and resigned at his own volition.  Thus, in 1998, he left the army and started building his peaceful life.

In 2020, Vitaly participated in the mass-scale protests in Belarus against fraudulent elections. Together with a group of people of similar views, several times Vitaly blocked the streets of Vitebsk to obstruct the passage for prison trucks in which enforcers packed unarmed demonstrators caught in the streets to transfer them to detention facilities and subject them to torture.

When the war in Ukraine began, Vitaly became afraid that he might be forcefully mobilized into the army of Belarus as a former serviceman and sent to fight against Ukraine. As fast as he could, Vitaly left for Lithuania and has not returned to Belarus since then due to the risk to be forcefully taken to the army. We should say that his fears are not groundless: currently such a thing as “verification of the population liable for military service” and preparation of new military camps is going on in Belarus. In addition, as for Vitaly himself, after his departure from Belarus, search and arrest warrants were issued on the grounds that he had allegedly called the Belarusian enforcers “murderers and executioners” on social media.

Until lately, Vitaly had a residence permit of Lithuania and worked as a driver in the town of Mažeikiai. However, on April 26, 2023, Vitaly’s residence permit was annulled only on the grounds of his former service in the Belarusian army over 20 years ago. On the same grounds, Vitaly was recognized as an undesirable person in Lithuania and banned from entering the European Union for the term of 5 years.

Justice that does work

Obviously, with the support of Our House, Vitaly filed an appeal to the court. Legal proceedings began. Nevertheless, on June 11, 2023, the Lithuanian migration and border service officers tried to forcefully deport Vitaly to Belarus, which would mean to be automatically arrested and imprisoned for his participation in the campaign “NO Means NO”.

Forceful unexpected deportation failed, and then the justice really worked out. On June 27, 2023, the Lithuanian court passed the judgment to return Vitaly’s residence permit to him and to overturn the ban to enter the European Union. The arguments of the migration service that Vitaly allegedly represents a “threat to the national security of Lithuania” were found unconvincing by the court.

The next day, on June 28, 2023, the Lithuanian court took the side of Vitaly and officially granted him permission to live outside the refugee camp while waiting for the decision and to move freely within the borders of the Republic of Lithuania.

On July 4, 2023, Vitaly’s lawyer turned to the Trial Chamber with a request to overturn the Decision n. 23S1199 of the Migration Department of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania about provision of accommodation dated June 16, 2023, which would restrict him to choose a place of accommodation.

On July 10, the Trial Chambers received a confirmation to the court’s request that the citizen of the Republic of Belarus, Vitali Dvarashyn, was at the Foreigners’ Registration Centre of the State Border Guard Service under the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania.  By the decision of the District Court of Vilnius Region, Švenčionys chamber, the request was accepted for consideration, and the Defendant, which is the Migration Department under the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania, was given 14 days to submit their statement of defence.

However, the Defendant – the Migration Department under the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania – failed to submit a statement of defence in the term of 14 days, prescribed by the court, and did not inform the court about the reasons of that. In the result, for non-compliance with the demand of the court, the migration authority was imposed a fine on in the amount of 100 Eur.

We’d like to repeat once again for those who are not used to or do not like to read judicial documents: the Migration Department of the Ministry of the Interior of Lithuania “ditched” a request from the court in the case of the Belarusian conscientious objector Vitaly Dvarashyn, and for that it has to pay a fine in the amount of 100 Eur. Also, it was given the deadline of August 4, 2023, to present all the information necessary to conduct of the proceeding.

Such court decisions are totally different from what Belarusians are used to.