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ILO urges Belarus to stop repression and respect workers’ rights

31 March, 2021The Governing Body of the International Labour Organization (ILO) approved the report of the Committee on Freedom of Association and its recommendations to the Government of Belarus, urging the government to take measures to release all trade unionists in detention and drop all charges related to participation in peaceful protests and industrial actions.

Those who opposed the repressive regime and tried to peacefully exercise their fundamental human and workers’ rights have faced dismissals, intimidations, searches, interrogations, beatings, arrests, fines and heavy prison sentences, with a total ban on strikes. More cases of arrests are added every day.

On 23-24 March, several activists of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BITU) were detained, and the union links all arrests to the pressure on BITU and members of the strike movement. In Novopolotsk, police detained unionists at the oil company Naftan; the BITU deputy shop steward Sergei Lapunov, the deputy chairman of the BITU local union Andrei Shkirenko, the BITU local union activist and lawyer Alexander Kapshul.

Their homes were searched and all three were sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest for an unauthorized picket. In Zhlobin, police detained BITU member Hanna Kalupakho, she was sentenced to ten days of administrative arrest for a video message, considered by the court as an unauthorized mass event. 

In the report, the ILO urges the government of Belarus to prevent human rights violations, ensure full respect for workers’ rights and freedoms, and requests, among other things, that

  • all charges related to participation in peaceful protests and industrial actions are dropped, all trade unionists are released and that those affected are adequately compensated
  • all alleged instances of intimidation or physical violence are investigated without delay through an independent judicial inquiry
  • legislation is amended to ensure that workers are protected against any acts of discrimination for simply having peacefully exercised their right to strike to defend their occupational and economic interests
  • necessary measures are taken to ensure that no person is detained in connection with his or her participation in a peaceful strike
  • those workers who suffered dismissals and withdrawal of bonuses as a result of participation in a peaceful strike are reinstated
  • all necessary steps, including legislative, are taken to ensure the right to a fair trial

The ILO calls on the government of Belarus, with its assistance and in consultation with the social partners, to take the necessary steps to fully implement all outstanding recommendations without further delay.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan says:

“IndustriALL expects the government of Belarus to implement the recommendations, to comply with core international standards on human and workers’ rights and to immediately stop the repression against civil society.”

IndustriALL has called on the ILO for its urgent intervention to protect freedom of association and stop repression against independent trade union leaders and activists in Belarus.