On June 15, representatives of global unions, trade unionists, and delegates attending the 111th International Labor Conference (ILC) gathered at the Broken Chair monumental sculpture in Geneva to demand the immediate release of imprisoned Belarusian trade unionists and an end to the repression of workers' rights.
The protesters called for all charges against the imprisoned leaders to be dropped and for representatives of international organizations to be allowed to visit the country.
IndustriALL Deputy Secretary General Kemal Özkan said:
“We are fighting against a dictator and are united with the workers in Belarus. We will not give up until the political hostages are freed. This is a fight for democracy and for fundamental workers’ rights. We have an important step forward with the ILC decision on Article 33 and we will continue until we get justice for Belarus. Our struggle continues and we will win.”
The ILC had earlier adopted a resolution invoking paragraph 33 of the ILO Constitution in response to the continuing violations of workers' rights by the Belarusian authorities and the arrest of numerous trade unionists. Belarus was subjected to the application of paragraph 33 because the authorities did not implement the recommendations of the ILO Commission of Inquiry. This commission was created in 2003 because of violations of ILO Conventions №87 and №98.
Acting chairman of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP) Maksim Pazniakou expressed gratitude to the participants in their support:
“We thank you for being here and supporting our Belarusian colleagues. Your support is very important for those in jail; they know that they have support from the outside and that they are not alone. I hope that the adoption of Article 33 will push the authorities to respect workers’ rights and it will help to release our comrades from jail and to restore the independent trade union movement in the country.”
The application of paragraph 33 means that member states will take all possible measures to ensure that Belarus implements the recommendations of this commission. These measures may include not only sanctions, but also international support for the people persecuted by the regime and their struggle for workers' rights.
Action participants and international organizations will continue their actions in order to achieve the release of imprisoned trade union activists and protect the rights of workers in Belarus.