A sample letter for sending to the Lithuanian government in English and German can be found on the homepage of the League for Social Defense.
After the Lithuanian authorities denied political asylum to Belarusian human rights defender Olga Karatch (Volha Karach), we launched the international campaign #protection4olga to demand protection and asylum for the leader of the organization “Our House“. She is a peacebuilder and she has been fighting for human rights in Belarus (Byelorussia) for years, including the right to conscientious objection to military service, and is therefore persecuted and threatened with the death penalty in her country of origin, where she has been labeled a “terrorist” by the regime.
On August 18, Lithuania denied her political asylum, calling Olga Karatch a “person who poses a threat to the national security of the Republic of Lithuania.” However, she was granted a one-year temporary stay in the country, probably due to international letters written by some politicians* and foundations to the authorities and to Lithuanian ambassadors in various countries. However, this status does not give her any security regarding her status – the authorities could overturn this decision at any time and decide to deport her.
The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders*, adopted in 1998, recognizes “the valuable work of individuals, groups and associations who contribute to the effective elimination of all violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of peoples and individuals.”
Olga Karatch, through the organization “Our House”, which she leads, has numerous activities to show for the monitoring and defense of human rights in Belarus and Belarusian citizens who have fled to other countries, such as Lithuania. For this reason, their organization has been nominated by the International Peace Bureau (IPB) for the 2024 Nobel Peace Prize, along with the Russian Conscientious Objectors Movement and the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement.
States are obliged to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all citizens and, in particular, for human rights defenders who are “frequently exposed to threats and harassment and suffer from insecurity,” to take all necessary measures to ensure the “protection of human rights defenders at both the local and national levels, including in times of armed conflict and peacebuilding,” as stated in the UN General Assembly Resolution 66/164 states.
We express our deep concern that “in some cases, national security and counterterrorism laws, as well as other measures, such as laws regulating civil society organizations, have been misused to target human rights defenders or have impeded their work and in some way jeopardized their security” , as stated in the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 22/6 of 2013 on the protection of human rights defenders states. The resolution obligates all states to protect and not criminalize those who work to defend human rights.
- Therefore, we appeal to the highest representatives of Lithuania, the President of the Republic of Lithuania, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to respect international standards and to grant protection and asylum to the Belarusian human rights defender Olga Karatch, who has sought refuge in Lithuania.
- Lithuania is also a member of the European Union. We therefore also appeal to the European institutions, EU missions (embassies and consulates of EU member states and delegations of the European Commission) to support and protect human rights defenders, as stated in the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders*.
- We also call on our national governments to take action to ensure that the protection of human rights defenders is always and everywhere guaranteed.
- We call on civil society, from individual citizens to journalists and institutional representatives, to stand up in defense of human rights and those who protect them.
A sample letter for sending to the Lithuanian government in English and German can be found on the homepage of the Federation for Social Defense
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You are cordially invited to use the sample letter to appropriately advocate for and support human rights defender Olga Karatch.