Offices of several unions including IndustriALL Global Union affiliates REPAM and BITU were searched as part of a criminal investigation started against Gennady Fedynich and Ihar Komlik, REPAM chairperson and chief accountant, accordingly. Gennady is also a substitute executive committee member of IndustriALL.
Some ten people entered the office of REPAM union in the morning on 2 August and presented a public prosecutor’s warrant for the search of the union office. They broke in the door to the office of the chief accountant, as there was no key provided at the time of the search. Some computers have been confiscated while in the rest of them the agents removed hard drives. In the same time a similar search has been carried out in Soligorsk office of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union of Miners, BITU.
According to the public statement appeared on the website of the State Control Committee of Belarus Fedynich and Komlik are accused of tax evasion. Union leaders risk seven years of imprisonment and confiscation of their property.
Natalia Pichuzhkina, union activist and former editor of the union website praca-by.info has also been detained. All three activists were detained at their living places, which were also searched. Natalia has been released later in the evening of the same day, while Gennady remained there till the morning of 3 August. Ihar Komlik remains in custody. It is only known that he was transferred to the Okrestina detention centre.
The work of the union so far is not paralyzed. However there are suspicions that the searches and detentions took place in order to block the activities of the union. REPAM has always been active in protecting workers’ rights in Belarus. Recently the union led a strong campaign against notorious presidential decree 3 also known as “The decree on social parasites”, penalizing the unemployed in Belarus.
Earlier in May 2017 IndustriALL executives extended their strongest support to their Belarusian colleagues fighting against forced labour and criminalization of dissent in Belarus and adopted a special resolution in this regard.
Valter Sanches, IndustriALL Global union general secretary said,
“IndustriALL strongly condemns arbitrary detention of independent union leaders and extends solidarity to BITU, REPAM and their leadership. This is an attack on independent trade union movement in Belarus. We will continue supporting our affiliates in Belarus. We are not going to sit and wait, while they oppress our brothers and sisters there. Belarus remains for many years under a special attention of the international community precisely because of the violations of trade union and workers’ rights. We will denounce this case to the International Labour Organization.”