Belarus: Education International denounces the political trials against union leaders

published 21 December 2022 updated 5 January 2023

Education International stands in solidarity with union leaders targeted in Belarus for their trade union activities and the anti-war stance taken by their organisation, the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP), following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Aliaksandr Yarashuk (Chairperson), Siarhei Antusevich (Vice-chairpeson), and Iryna But-Husaim (Press secretary and Accountant), were all arrested on 19 April 2022, when the Lukashenko regime further intensified its crackdown on independent unions, and have been in detention until now, waiting for trial. There are currently at least 23 unionists who are detained in Belarus. The trial began on 20 December in Minsk, Belarus.

“Democracy and unionism are interrelated. Trade unions can only fully and freely function in democracies. Democracies cannot be complete without independent trade unions. Education International stands firm with independent unions in that common fight, in Belarus and elsewhere,” stated Education International’s General Secretary David Edwards, who reaffirmed the support of Education International to the independent trade unions of Belarus in the defense of the rights and of democracy.

“Education International will continue to support the workers, teachers and students of Belarus in their struggle for rights, freedoms and democracy. We call on the authorities for the release of all detained unionists and the end of the crackdown on independent trade unions,” he added.

In July, the Supreme Court of Belarus liquidated and dissolved the BKDP and four other major unions. The authorities also engaged in a defamation campaign, threatening to prosecute anyone associated with BKDP and its affiliates.

Repression campaign against unions and activists

The repression against independent unions and activists is part of a continued effort by the Lukashenko regime to stay in power after losing the presidential election in August of 2020 and widespread demonstrations and nationwide protests that followed demanding the restoration of democracy.

Following the dissolution of BKDP, a new independent workers centre in Belarus, Salidarnast, was created to take over the mission and activities of its predecessor. As the legal successor of the BKDP, Salidarnast defines its primary missions as the restoration of an independent trade union movement in Belarus and the defense of all unionists and activists detained for political reasons.

Salidarnast has launched an online campaign on the union platform Labourstart to call for the release of all the activists and the end to the prosecution of independent trade unionists in Belarus.

The gross violations of trade union rights by the Lukashenko regime have been condemned by the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), of which Aliaksandr Yarashuk is an acting member. Meeting in a special sitting in November and in view of the continuous disrespect for the international labour standards by the government of Belarus, the ILO initiated the most serious procedure within its mandate that will lead to sanctions on the government of Belarus.