New trials against Belarusian trade unionists – ILO wants to force Belarus to respect workers’ right

The overwhelming majority of the representatives of the three ILO Governing Body groups decided yesterday to force the government of Belarus to comply with international labour standards. Any measures, including economic sanctions, may be applied. At the same time new trials have started in the country against trade unionists who face up to 15 years in prison for their trade union activity.


Overwhelming majority

The overwhelming majority of the representatives of the three ILO Governing Body groups - the governments, the employers and the workers - voted in favour of the resolution to use the so-called «article 33» against Belarus. Against were the representatives of the governments of Russia and China.


Article 33

Article 33, which has been used only once before in history against Myanmar in 2001 for "the widespread use by the authorities and the military of forced labor of the civilian population throughout the country", reads:


“In the event that any member fails to comply within the prescribed time limit with the recommendations, if any, contained in the report of the Commission of Inquiry or in the judgment of the International Court of Justice, as the case may be, the Governing Body may recommend to the Conference such measures as it may deem reasonable and appropriate to ensure their implementation .


Background

In April and May 2022, a wave of searches and detentions of activists of the independent trade union movement swept through Belarus.


In July 2022, the Supreme Court liquidated all democratic trade unions: the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP) and organizations that were part of it - the Free Trade Union of Belarus (SPB), the Free Trade Union of Metal Workers (SPM), the Belarusian Independent Trade Union of Miners, Chemists, Oil Refiners, Workers, Energy Workers (BNP ) and Belarusian trade union of workers of the radio-electronic industry (REP).


New trials

9th of November started the trial of the "Labour movement's case". Ten political prisoners are on trial at the same time: Sergei Shelest, Vladimir Zhuravka, Andrei Pagerila, Anna Ablab, Alexander Gashnikov, Sergei Dyubah, Igor Mintz, Valentin Terenevich, Sergey Shametsko, Alexander Kapshul. All are former employees and trade unionists of the companies Grodno Azot, BMZ, Naftan, Atlant and Belarusian Railways.


Their detentions took place on September 21-23, 2021. Before the activists were detained, a KGB agent infiltrated their group.


Accusations

All those involved are accused of "treason against the state" (part 1 of article 356 of the Criminal Code) and "creating an extremist organization" (part 3 of article 361-1 of the Criminal Code). Kashpulja additionally - in "illegal actions in relation to firearms" (Part 2, Article 295 of the Criminal Code). Shelest, Zhuravka and Pageril are additionally accused of "defamation" (Article 188 of the Criminal Code).


Only for "treason" they face 15 years in prison.




Sources: BNP, Salidarnast, Svaboda