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Demands to release Belarusian unionists in front of the UN headquarters in Geneva

Today, Place des Nations in Geneva saw a protest action intended to draw attention to the fates of dozens of trade union activists suffering in Belarusian prisons. The time and venue of the action have been selected for a reason. Currently, Geneva hosts the annual International Labour Conference (ILC) that will discuss, among other things, the situation of labour rights in Belarus.

A rally held in front of the UN building in Geneva under the slogan “Trade Union Activism Is Not Extremism” demanded the release of union leaders from Belarusian prisons. The action was supported by Swiss union activists, as well as representatives of international and national TU associations.

These days, Geneva hosts the International Labour Conference attended by hundreds of delegates from all across the world. The 12 person strong Governmental delegation of Belarus has also arrived to Geneva.

The rally was addressed by Luc Triangle, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC); Kemal Ozkan, Assistant General Secretary of the IndustriALL Global Union; Kirill Buketov representing the IUF; and the leaders of national TU centers of Myanmar, Ukraine, the Netherlands, and Turkey.

Luc Triangle, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

Speakers wearing T-shirts with the picture of Aliaksandr Yarashuk who has been thrown to jail by the Belarusian regime reminded the participants that the main demand put forward to the Belarusian authorities – the release of over 40 union leaders from Belarusian prisons – is a matter of principle for the whole international labour movement. Along with a stop to criminal prosecution of workers for trade union activities in Belarus and the Government’s fulfillment of its obligations to implement the ILO Conventions in the country.

Kemal Ozkan, Assistant General Secretary, InsutriALL

The Acting BKDP President Maksim Pazniakau pointed out that the following day, during the meeting of the ILC 2024 Committee on the Application of Standards, the Governmental delegation of Belarus and the country’s “yellow” unions represented by the pro-Government Trade Union Federation of Belarus would attempt to impose their own agenda on the participants of the CAS meeting:

Acting BKDP President Maksim Pazniakou
Acting BKDP President Maksim Pazniakou
“They are trying to convince the whole world that the sanctions resulting from the ILO Resolution on Belarus are detrimental to the situation of Belarusian workers. Yet, for some reason, they choose to forget that the sanctions have been imposed because of Belarus’ complicity in the aggressive war against Ukraine, because of the violation of international flights’ safety and the forced landing of the Ryanair flight, and because of the falsified results of the Presidential elections in 2020.”

He stressed that the number of political prisoners in Belarus persistently hovers around 1500 people for over three years running. That all cases of human rights violations have been duly recorded and are available to both the UN, and the ILO. And that the Belarusian authorities will have to answer for the crimes they have committed.

Tomorrow, there will be a sitting of the Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS), an ILC body tasked with examining evidence from workers of various countries of the world who face mounting repressions and challenges in the implementation of their rights under the ILO Conventions. This year, the Committee will have a special focus on the situation in Belarus.

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