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Continued repression against union activists in Belarus

8 March, 2023Authorities in Belarus continue to crack down on what is left of the independent union movement in the country. In the last week, several activists have been arrested on trumped up charges in an attempt to stop the movement for a democratic country.

On 6 March, Mikalai Sharakh, chairperson of the Belarusian Free Trade Union (SPB), was detained by police at his home in Polatsk. He has now received 15 days administrative arrest for spreading extremist materials.

This happened a week after Sviatlana Stukava, married to SPB activist Viktar Stukau, was detained and arrested for 15 days, charged with following a Facebook group.

And earlier this month, Nobel laureate and head of human rights centre Vyasna Ales Bialiatski was handed a ten-year prison sentence by a court in Minsk.

In February, ten political prisoners, members of the Rabochy Rukh movement, were convicted of high treason and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences and fines. Among those convicted, six are active in the Belarusian Independent Trade Union.

In January, a court in Belarus sentenced leaders of independent trade unions to unduly harsh prison terms up to nine years on politically motivated charges.

“IndustriALL will continue to publicly support the movement for independent unions and democracy in Belarus and will use our global voice to condemn the heavy oppression they are faced with. The harsh prison sentences imposed on Ales Bialiatski and Gennady Fedynich, ten and nine years respectively, are in effect death penalties, given their age, health and conditions of Belarusian jails,”

says Atle Høie, IndustriALL general secretary.

Three union leaders from the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP) who were sentenced to jail in December last year, has received a date, 24 March, for their appeal in Belarus’ Supreme Court. The Supreme Court hearing for REP leaders will be on 31 March.

The Governing Body (GB) of the ILO will meet in Geneva on 13-24 March and have included Belarus on the agenda. The GB will consider “options for measures under article 33 of the ILO Constitution, as well as other measures, to secure compliance by the Government of Belarus with the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry in respect of Conventions Nos 87 and 98”.

IndustriALL Global Union and industiALL European Trade Union have written to the European Commission, the European Parliament,  the European Council and the ILO, calling for urgent action, including to express public support for the independent trade union movement of Belarus, and to demand that the Belarusian authorities immediately and unconditionally release the arrested trade unionists and cease the repression of independent trade unions and individuals demanding respect of their human rights.

IndustriALL Global Union and industriAll European Trade Union reiterate the request of the ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions (CEACR) to “release all trade unionists who remain in detention and to drop all charges related to participation in peaceful protests and industrial actions.

Take action and support the jailed unionists in Belarus

  • Sign and share the LabourStart campaign
  • Support the activists in Belarus by requesting your governments to keep up the pressure. Here is a template letter that can be used. 
  • Request embassies in Minsk to send observers to the appeal trial
  • Run solidarity actions in front of Belarus institutions (embassies) in your countries
  • Tell the world about the trade union prisoners in Belarus – publish in your union channels
  • Disseminate Salidarnast-BKDP messages and materials on social media, using hashtags #WeStandByYou #Salidarnast
  • Send open letters to the Presidential  Administration of the Republic of Belarus to be published in union media, and in addition to be sent by ordinary post to the postal address in Belarus and/or sent by fax:

Presidential Administration of the Republic of Belarus Karl Marx str., 38
220016 Minsk Belarus
Fax +375 (17) 222-35-56