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ILO ran a High-Level Round Table on violations of workers’ rights in Belarus

On May 28, 2024, the headquarters of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva hosted a high-level roundtable to discuss the implementation of the ILO Resolution on Belarus adopted on June 12, 2023, by the International Labour Conference. The Resolution calls for actions under Article 33 of the ILO Constitution to ensure that the Belarusian State complies with the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations.


Maksim Pazniakou speaking at the Round Table
Maksim Pazniakou speaking at the Round Table

This high-level roundtable is a part of the Action Plan adopted in March 2024 by the ILO Governing Body for the implementation of the ILC Resolution. The roundtable was chaired by Manuela Tomei, Assistant Director General.


You will remember that the Government of Belarus has been violating fundamental workers’ rights for decades. In this connection, a Commission of Inquiry was established to examine the observance by the Government of the Republic of Belarus of the ILO Convention on freedom of association and protection of the right to organize, 1948, (№ 87) and the Convention on the right to organize and bargain collectively, 1949 (№ 98).


The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus Anais Marin described the situation of human rights and trade union movement in Belarus. She underscored the scale of repressions which hit, among others, a member of the ILO Governing Body and the BKDP President Aliaksandr Yarashuk and the human rights defender and Nobel Prize winner Ales Bialiatski who remain in custody along with almost fifteen hundred other political prisoners.


It should be noted that representatives of the Belarusian Government refused to take part in this roundtable, denying all accusations against the Belarusian State.


The list of panelists also included Gina Romero, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, and Margaret Satterthwaite, the Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers.


The workers’ constituency was represented at the roundtable by Anton Leppik of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Kemal Ozkan of the IndustriALL Global Union, as well as representatives of Belarusian democratic trade unions (BKDP).


The BKDP Acting President Maksim Pazniakou pointed out that a whole year had passed since the adoption of the ILO Resolution on Belarus under Article 33 of the ILO Constitution. However, very little has changed in the country: repressions continue and unionists still face arrests and detentions. The ILO has been unable to procure an opportunity to come and see the conditions faced by the imprisoned union leaders.


Throughout the year, the ILO representatives have been offering various communication alternatives to the Government of Belarus in order to find a way out of the existing situation. However, these proposals have been ignored by the Belarusian side, which only serves to build tension and further complicate the situation.


Pazniakou has stressed that the Belarusian Government’s statements claiming that the Resolution imposes sanctions against the country, thus seeking to undermine the situation of workers, are sheer speculation aimed at shifting responsibility elsewhere and move the discussions into a political plane.


He has called upon the ILO member-states to more actively use information on Belarus in their communications with the Belarusian Government:


“You can remind them that this Resolution has been adopted in their regard and Article 33 has been invoked. Belarus does have imprisoned unionists who have been wrongfully convicted for their trade union activities. The same information could be used by employers who still have ties with Belarus. Such reminders can bring forward the day when our comrades are released from prisons and the situation is changed.”

Concluding his address, he stressed that representatives of democratic trade unions do not seek to destroy the Belarusian economy and strangle the country with sanctions.


“Our task is to have the Belarusian Government respect the international law, restore the right to freedom of association, release the wrongfully convicted unionists, and restore independent trade unions.”

The information shared in the course of the roundtable will be duly reported to the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) convened to examine the implementation of Conventions Nos. 87 and 98 by the Government of Belarus and its compliance with the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations. The special sitting of the CAS will take place on Wednesday, June 5.


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