Free the jailed trade union leaders of Belarus! - BWI
We, from the Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI), express our deep concern and alarm over the arrest and imprisonment of independent trade union leaders from the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP). We express our highest sense of solidarity with and support for (BKDP) leaders Alexander Yaroshuk, Sergei Antusevich, Irina But-Gusaim, Vasily Beresnev, Gennady Fedynich and Vatslav Oreshko, who we believe were all unjustly arrested, convicted and imprisoned by state authorities for simply exercising their trade union rights.
Based on reports from our affiliates in the country, on 19 April 2022, Belarus’ security forces arrested and detained Yaroshuk, Antusevich, But-Gusaim, Beresnev, Fedynich and Oreshko.
On 26 December 2022, Yaroshuk, Antusevich and But-Gusaim were convicted by a Minsk City Court for allegedly committing actions that grossly violated public order. Yaroshuk was sentenced to four years in prison, while Antusevich and But-Gusaim will serve two years and one and a half years respectively.
On 5 January of this year, a Minsk City Court also sentenced Fedynich and Beresnev to nine (9) years of imprisonment, while Oreshko will be serving eight (8) years. They were sent to a prison colony under a strict regime.
BWI believes that the imprisonment of the Belarusian trade unionists is part of the state authorities’ attempt to harass and intimidate workers and their leaders from taking part in independent trade unions, and for taking the side of human rights and democracy during the August 2020 presidential election, which was massively rigged in favour of strongman Alexander Lukashenko.
Together with the Belarusian independent trade union movement, BWI stands for trade union rights, freedom and democracy. We condemn the arrest and imprisonment of the trade unionists. We demand the Belarusian state authorities to immediately release the imprisoned trade union leaders, drop the charges hurled against them and recognise their rights as trade unionists and workers.
The jailed Belarusian trade unionists will continue to fight and argue their cases before the country’s appeals court.
Thus, in the spirit of working class solidarity, BWI calls on its trade union affiliates worldwide to express their full support for the persecuted trade union leaders and the independent trade union movement of Belarus by doing the following:
- Request your respective embassies in Minsk to send observers to the trade unionists’ appeal trials, dates of which will be announced soon.
- Organise solidarity actions before Belarusian embassies and consulate offices in your countries.
- Launch information campaigns to raise awareness about the dire trade union situation in Belarus.
- Download, disseminate and popularise Salidarnast-BKDP campaign materials on social media. Use the hashtags: #WeStandByYou #Salidarnast.
- Send personal letters of support to the families of the jailed trade union leaders. You can send them to salidarnast(at)gmail.com.
- Write open letters addressed to the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Belarus and publish them with the help of mass media and various social media platforms. These letters can also be sent to by mail to the postal address in Belarus and/or sent by fax: Presidential Administration of the Republic of Belarus, (Karl Marx str., 38 220016 Minsk Belarus, Fax +375 (17) 222-35-56)