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Belaruskali workers and union leader face repression in Belarus

23 October, 2020Workers and activists at Belaruskali, a potash fertilizer producer located in Soligorsk, face threats, repression and imprisonment in their fight for freedom and democracy in Belarus.

Leaders and activists of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BITU), Siarhei Charkasau, Anatol Bokun, Yury Korzun, and Pavel Puchenia, have been arbitrarily detained several times over the last two months and are currently in jail. BITU is affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union.

To support the activists, follow the link and sign the LabourStart petition demanding their release.

The union leaders, who are also strike committee members, are being targeted for their trade union activity. On 21 September, Anatol Bokun took peaceful action in support of his co-worker Aleh Kudziolka, who refused to leave his underground workplace in a protest against rigged presidential elections and the extreme violence of riot police. He was detained the same day and remains in jail.

Anatol was one of 22 workers detained by the police, but he was the only one sentenced, to 25 days of jail for alleged public disorder. Anatol was due for release on 16 October, but he has been detained again and taken to an undisclosed detention centre in Soligorsk.

Similarly, Siarhei Charkasau, who is the vice chair of BITU, was detained along with Yury Korzun and Pavel Puchenia while having a picnic in a public park in Soligorsk on 3 October. They remained in detention for 15 days. On 16 October, the day they were supposed to be released, they were detained again and moved to a police detention centre in Soligorsk.

While in detention, Anatol Bokun, Siarhei Charkasau, Yury Korzun, and Pavel Puchenia were asked to lie: if they signed a document and recorded a video for the state-run Belarusian Television channel admitting guilt and remorse for their part in the strike action, they would be granted freedom. The four union leaders refused to budge. As a consequence, they have been unlawfully detained for 15 more days.

The level of violence against peaceful demonstrations following the recent presidential elections in August is extreme. By the beginning of September, the UN Human Rights office had documented at least 450 cases of torture and ill-treatment of people deprived of their liberty. There has not yet been any criminal investigation into cases of death or torture.

IndustriALL condemned the persecution and detention of the trade union leaders and demanded their immediate release. In his letter to the local Belarusian authorities Valter Sanches said:

“We are extremely concerned about their safety as they have been not only arbitrarily detained, are being kept in very poor conditions — in Anatol Bokun’s case, his detention conditions amount to sheer torture, as he is being exposed to non-stop loud recordings—and equally worrisome, they are being relocated each time they get a new sentence, and in some cases to unknown locations.”

IndustriALL called for “an immediate end to the persecution and violation of the labour rights and human rights of the trade union leaders Anatol Bokun, Siarhei Charkasau, Yury Korzun, and Pavel Puchenia.” Sanches demanded the immediate release of the union activists in strict accordance with national and international laws and human rights standards.