The Belarusian Helsinki Committee addressed the Special Rapporteurs on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, on the situation of human rights defenders and on the situation of human rights in Belarus with information about repression by the Belarusian authorities against independent trade unions in violation of the right to freedom of association.
In the report, we drew attention to the fact that at the moment there are more than 40 trade union activists and leaders imprisoned for political reasons.
We described the case of Volha Brytsikava, who spent 75 days in administrative detention in the spring of 2022, then was arrested and convicted the second time in November, as well as the cases of Aliaksandr Mishuk and Mikhail Hromau, who were both sentenced to 2.5 years in prison, Yanina Malash – 1.5 years in prison, and Andrei Khanevich – 5 years in prison.
The report also contains information about the case of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions. More specifically, the chairman of the trade union Aliaksandr Yarashuk, as well as his deputy Siarhei Antusevich and the bookkeeper Irina But-Gusaim were sentenced to 4, 2, and 1.5 years, respectively.
We emphasized that Henadz Fiadynich and Vasil Berasnieu, both sentenced to 9 years in prison, and Viachaslau (Vatslau) Areshka, sentenced to 8 years in prison, are all pensioners. Not only that, Vasil's health in pre-trial detention has significantly deteriorated. He suffers from severe pain in his only kidney. The second one was removed due to a cancerous disease.
We believe that these sentences are political reprisals and revenge for participating in peaceful actions and trying to protect the Belarusian workers using national and international instruments, for expressing their independent position regarding violations of workers' rights in Belarus after the presidential elections of 2020.
By the assessment of the BHC, such actions of the Belarusian authorities violate Article 2 of ILO Convention No. 87, which provides that workers have the right to establish organizations of their own choice without prior permission and the right to join such organizations, and Article 11, which provides that the state undertakes to take all necessary and appropriate measures to guarantee workers and employers the right to participate in trade unions. Finally, such treatment violates the right to freedom of association, including the right to form and join trade unions, as provided for in article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.