In April and May 2022, a wave of searches and detentions of activists of the independent trade union movement swept through Belarus, and in July, the Supreme Court liquidated all democratic trade unions. At least 37 trade union leaders and activists are illegally imprisoned at the moment, of whom several already have been sentenced to years in jail. December 20 the trial against the leaders of the confederation of trade unions "Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions" (BKDP) will begin in the Minsk City Court. It concerns the chairman of the BKDP Aliaksandr Yarashuk, deputy chair Siarhei Antusevich and the accountant of the trade union confederation Iryna But-Husaim.
Take part in the online campaign: Belarus: Stop the attacks on the unions - free jailed union activists now
On 19 April 2022, the management and employees of the BKDP office were searched at their workplace and homes. Computer equipment was confiscated. Antusevich, But-Gusaim and Yarashuk were arrested. They were charged under article 342 of the Criminal Code (group actions that grossly violate public order). At the end of November it became known that Aliaksandr Yarashuk was charged with calling of sanctions (article 361 of the Criminal Code). He faces from 4 to 12 years' imprisonment.
International trade union associations were shocked by the news of the arrests of the BKDP leaders and demanded the release of the Belarusian trade union leaders and an end to repression against trade unions.
General Secretary of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Guy Ryder expressed "deep concern at reports of the detention of union leaders" in Belarus. He called for an end to persecution of those peacefully exercising their right to freedom of association in the country.
For decades, trade union rights have been violated in Belarus. The recent, countless attacks against independent unions that received the Arthur Svensson Prize last year, were taken before the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards during the International Labour Conference in Geneva on 7 June. In November the overwhelming majority of the representatives of the three ILO Governing Body groups decided to force the government of Belarus to comply with international labour standards. Any measures, including economic sanctions, may be applied as the ILO decided to accept against Belarus paragraph 33 of its Constitution, which states:
"In the case of failure by any member of the organisation to implement the recommendations (if any) contained in the report of the Commission of Inquiry within the prescribed time limit or by order of the International Court of Justice, the Governing Body may recommend to the Conference such action as it considers appropriate to secure the implementation of those recommendations”.
By the end of next March, the ILO should have developed sanctions against the Lukashenko regime. They will be imposed if 2/3 of the membership votes in favour at the labour conference in June.