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Belarus authorities continue to crack down on union activists

Authorities in Belarus continue to crack down on what is left of the independent union movement in the country. Since the raids against the unions April 2022, the government has continued to carry out a series of trials against trade unionists, with several having already received long-term prison sentences. The government continues adding activists and leaders of the democratic trade union movement to lists of extremists and terrorists. By the end of February the "list of citizens who are involved in extremist activities" includes 2,487 people. 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.

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 30 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”.

Global and European unions 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. They 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.

Sign and share the LabourStart campaign (in several languages)

See also: Release Belarusian trade unionists! (January 24th)


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