After Ukraine and Russia, Belarus is also recording the first cases of political conscientious objectors refusing to participate in military mobilization for the ongoing war.
Dvarashyn Vitali is an objector supported by nonviolent movements and he is facing the prospect of serving a long prison sentence in Belarus.
Vitali, born in 1969, joined the army in 1990. However, after developing an anti-militarist conscience, he made the decision to refuse to bear arms and voluntarily resigned from the service, leaving the army on July 15, 1998. Since then, he has tried to lead a peaceful life and has avoided any involvement with the military.
In 2020 Vitali also participated in Belarusian protests against the Lukashenko regime’s falsified elections. Vitali, along with others from the pro-democracy movement, blocked the streets of Vitebsk to prevent the passage of police vans arresting unarmed detained protesters.
When the war in Ukraine began, Vitali feared that, as a former military man, he would be forcibly mobilized into the Belarusian army and sent to fight in Ukraine. He fled to Lithuania on March 8, 2022, and has not returned to Belarus since, for fear of being forcibly conscripted. A few days after Vitali left for Lithuania, police officers arrived at his registered address in the city of Vitebsk with a search and arrest warrant. As explained to Vitali’s mother by police officers, this was due to a criminal case initiated against Vitali in the city of Baranovichi for calling Belarusian law enforcement officers “murderers and executioners” on Facebook.
On June 15, 2023, the Belarusian pacifist association Our House prepared and submitted all the necessary documents for Vitali to apply for political refugee status in Lithuania.
On June 19, 2023, the Lithuanian Migration Office forcibly detained Vitali in a refugee camp 100 kilometers from Vilnius, which is essentially a prison-like facility; they are subjecting him to mistreatment based solely on his past military experience. There are bars on the windows, they have provided him with food but he is forced to eat without a spoon and fork because he is placed in solitary confinement.
There remains the risk of his expulsion from Lithuania and deportation to Belarus for his participation in actions in support of conscientious objectors.
Our House asks for our support. As the Nonviolent Movement, we are already giving our support with the Objection to War Campaign.
We are invited to send letters of support for Vitali and his conscientious stand.
Please send a letter of support to the Lithuanian Department of Migration at email@example.com with CC to the International Center for Civil Initiatives “Our House” at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our support will be greatly appreciated. Info and updates at https://news.house