Olga Karatch, journalist and human and women’s rights activist fled Belarus to avoid being arrested on charges of terrorism, for which she is facing a death sentence. Lithuania, where she has taken refuge, has rejected her request for political asylum and protection. Yurii Sheliazhenko, legal adviser and secretary of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement is under house arrest, with his passport withdrawn, accused of “supporting the Russian invasion” and risks 5 years in prison.
Olga and Yurii (whose organizations are proposed to the Nobel Peace Prize by the International Peace Bureau), are persecuted for the same crime: having supported the right of Belarusian and Ukrainian boys to conscientious objection and helping deserters and draft dodgers to escape compulsory conscription and special mobilisation, to refuse the army, not to take up arms, not to kill.
Olga and Yuri attended the World Peace Conference in Vienna last June, to reiterate the call for a ceasefire and to seek a political solution. They, like all of us, condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and together we ask for a “ceasefire”, that the international community assume responsibility for the negotiation and deploy all the resources of diplomacy and politics.
Freedom of thought and conscience, including the right to conscientious objection to military service, is one of the core values of Europe, also recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It’s questioning, in a country of the Union or in a country that would like to join it, would question the very foundations of common belonging.
We ask that our Government immediately take action with the European institutions to guarantee political asylum and protection to Olga Kharatch and to all Belarusian and Russian conscientious objectors and to ask the Ukrainian government to respect the right of conscientious objection and freedom of thought of Yuri Sheliazhenko and all Ukrainian objectors.