ILO Director-General calls for release of Belarusian trade union leaders

© Sveta Suvorina

GENEVA (ILO News) – ILO Director-General Guy Ryder has expressed deep concern over reports of arrests of trade union leaders in Belarus and called for an end to the intimidation of those peacefully exercising their right to freedom of association in the country.

The arrests reportedly took place as officials from the State Security Committee of the Republic of Belarus searched trade union offices and the homes of their leaders, seizing computers, personal documents, passports, trade union flags, leaflets and other objects.

Among those arrested are Alexander Yaroshuk, President of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP), also Vice-President of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and member of the Governing Body of the ILO; Siarhei Antusevich, vice-president of the BKDP; Oleg Podolinski, international secretary of the BKDP, and Elena Yeskova, the lawyer for the trade unions. Mikola Sharakh, chairman of the Belarusian Free Trade Union, was also arrested on his way to a hearing. According to reports, more than a dozen other union leaders were also arrested.

The arrest, even brief, of trade union leaders for having exercised their legitimate right to freedom of association constitutes a serious violation of the principles of freedom of association. Trade union rights lose all their meaning in the absence of full and effective respect for the civil liberties set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in particular the right to freedom and security of the individual, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of assembly, the right to a fair trial and the right to protection of property unions.

The Director-General calls on the responsible Belarusian authorities to immediately release the trade union leaders and any other persons still detained and to take all necessary measures to enable them to carry out their trade union activities in an atmosphere free from violence, intimidation or threat of any kind.

Belarus has ratified all eight fundamental ILO Conventions, including the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and the Right to Organize and Organize Convention (No. 98). collective bargaining, 1949.

Andrew B. Reiter