Belarus: Repression Against Independent Unions

The ITUC has expressed its concern over harassment of two trade unions in Belarus, after officials seized documents and equipment from the offices of the Radio Electronic Union, REP, and Belarusian Independent Union, BNP, and interrogated leaders and staff of the two unions for several hours on 2 August.

The two unions are affiliates of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions, BKDP. The officials, from the Department for Financial Investigations of the Committee for State Control, justified their actions by stating the unions received solidarity support from outside the country, claiming that the funding was personal income of the union leaders and accusing them of non-payment of taxes on the funds.

For many years, Belarus been the focus of ILO procedures for consistent and systematic violations of trade union rights. An ILO Commission of Inquiry in 2004 issued 12 recommendations to the government, including a call to amend Decree No 24 concerning support to unions from abroad. To date, these recommendations have only been partly implemented.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said, “these actions constitute state interference in the activities of independent trade unions. They have interrupted the work of the two unions’ secretariats and created an atmosphere of repression and fear. Belarus must bring its legislation into conformity with its international obligations and implement in full the recommendations of the ILO Commission of Inquiry, including on external aid, and cease using existing legal provisions like these to harass trade union leaders. Earlier this year we witnessed mass protests against a law that effectively branded more than 400,000 Belarus citizens as social parasites, and independent unionists were at the forefront of the protests. This is a case of retaliation by the authorities against unions which are simply standing up for fundamental principles and the people of Belarus.”