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Sweden must respect international law

4 October, 2023The situation for Belarusian union activists continues to deteriorate, mainly in the country, but also for those in exile. Leader of Free Metalworkers' Union Ala Tsvirko, who left the country in 2021 to avoid detention over her union activities, is now facing deportation from Sweden, putting her life in danger.

At the ongoing 54th session of the Human Rights Council, United Nations deputy high commissioner for human rights delivered a scathing report on the serious situation of human rights in Belarus, which is in fact worsening with arbitrary arrests, trumped-up charges, and targeting of government critics and trade unionists.

There is a continuing shrinking of civic space, as well as of respect for fundamental freedoms. Those who oppose the government, or are perceived to, are subjected to a campaign of violence and repression. So far, the crackdown has resulted in over 3,750 individuals convicted in criminal trials with little regard for due process.

The high commissioner also raised concerns over the conditions of detention, where detainees are subjected to torture and ill-treatment, including beatings and denial of access to medical care.

Under these conditions, Sweden deporting a union leader who fled Belarus over her union activities would constitute a clear and unacceptable violation of the principle of non-refoulement.

Says IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Atle Høie:

“We have serious and well-founded concerns that Ala Tsvirko’s forced return to Belarus would compromise her health and safety; she would be subject to violations of her fundamental human rights and labour rights.

“It is imperative that Migrationsverket continue to act in full accord with international human rights law and in consequence continue to grant Ala Tsvirko the right to reside in Sweden as a refugee, thus protecting her physical integrity and respect of her basic human rights.”

Photo credit: Fredrik Rubensson, Flickr