The good news for the Belarusians (and not only) who do not want to get into the Russian-Ukrainian war slaughterhouse: the head of the human rights organization Our House, Olga Karach, became a Board member of the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, EBCO. It means now she is going to have many more opportunities to defend Belarusian conscientious objectors to military service.
On October 28, 2023, the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO) held its General Assembly in Nicosia (Cyprus), as well as a parallel action in order to provide an opportunity to join their work to as many people as possible. The EBCO General Assembly gathered together representatives of their member organizations from Belgium, Cyprus, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the Great Britain.
Opening the event, the EBCO President Alexia Tsouni said: “We came together to discuss the current challenges, especially given the ongoing Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, and organize our actions towards protection of all conscientious objectors, deserters and non-violent anti-war protesters from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. We also discussed about the violations of the rights of conscientious objectors in Cyprus, as well as the failure of Turkey to implement the relevant judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, and the failure of Greece to comply with the decision of the UN Human Rights Committee on the appeal of Petromelidis. Last but not least, we expressed our solidarity with the conscientious objectors in Israel and our clear position against all the violence in the conflict, indiscriminate killings and destruction. And we urged for an immediate ceasefire and negotiations to achieve a just and lasting peace in Ukraine, in Palestine, and in all the conflict areas worldwide”.
In particular, the EBCO General Assembly elected the head of the human rights organization Our House, Olga Karach, to the position of its Board member.
Our House is hereby reminding that the right to conscientious objection to military service is based on the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, set out in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Moreover, this right cannot be withdrawn even in times of the public emergency, as stated in Art. 4(2) of the ICCPR.
Currently, EBCO is running the following joint international campaigns:
— #ObjectWarCampaign: Protection and asylum for all deserters and conscientious objectors to military service from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine.
— the appeal to the European Commission and the European Parliament about necessary measures for the international protection of Russian conscientious objectors, deserters and those who surrendered or were captured, also promoted by the Movement of Conscientious Objectors to military service in Russia.
— the campaign to drop all charges against Yurii Sheliazhenko, Executive Secretary of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, who is under partial house arrest since 15/08/2023.
— #protection4olga campaign: Protection and asylum for Olga Karach, director of the Belarusian organization “Our House” in Lithuania, whose application for political asylum was rejected by the Lithuanian authorities on 18/08/2023.
As an action, parallel to the General Assembly, on October 27, 2023, a presentation of the book of a Greek conscientious objector, Michalis Maragkakis, was co-organised by EBCO, the Association of Greek Conscientious Objectors and the Initiative for Conscientious Objection in Cyprus at the Social Space Kaymakkin. The moderator of the discussion was Gina Chappa, EBCO board member in Cyprus, while the speakers of the panel were Greek conscientious objectors Michalis Maragkakis, Lazaros Petromelidis and Theodoris Diamantidis.
Reference of Our House:
The European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO) was founded in Brussels in 1979 as an umbrella organization for national associations of conscientious objectors in European countries. The aim of the organization is to promote the right to conscientious objection to military service, preparation to war and any other military activity as a fundamental human right. EBCO enjoys participatory status with the Council of Europe since 1998 and is a member of the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations of the Council of Europe since 2005. Since 2021, EBCO is entitled to lodge collective complaints concerning the European Social Charter of the Council of Europe.
Also, EBCO provides expertise and legal opinions on behalf of the Directorate General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs of the Council of Europe. Moreover, EBCO is involved in drawing up the annual report of the Committee on Civil Liberties of the European Parliament on the application by the Member States of its resolutions on conscientious objection and civilian service, as determined in the “Bandrés Molet & Bindi Resolution” of 1994. Finally, the organization has been a full member of the European Youth Forum since 1995.