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Belarus: Disclose whereabouts of detained trade union leaders

Responding to the detention on Tuesday evening of 16 independent trade union leaders, at least seven of whom are being held incommunicado in an unknown location, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:

“The Belarusian authorities must immediately disclose the whereabouts of seven trade union leaders who were detained on Tuesday evening. Unless there is genuine evidence that they have committed internationally recognizable crimes, they must be immediately and unconditionally released. It is high time that the authorities end their crackdown on peaceful dissent.

“By detaining these trade union leaders, the Belarusian authorities continue their strategy of reducing the nation’s civil society to ashes. The independent trade unions have already been targeted during the state’s brutal crackdown on the protest movement that erupted following the disputed 2020 presidential election. Civic activism and defense of workers’ rights should be welcomed, not criminalized.”

By detaining these trade union leaders, the Belarusian authorities continue their strategy of reducing the nation’s civil society to ashes

Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Background

On 18 and 19 April, Belarusian state security officials searched the offices and homes of independent trade unions leaders, all of whom work with the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions.

Sixteen people — Yana Malash, Vital Chychmarau, Hanna Dus, Alyaksandr Bukhvastau, Vasil Berasneu, Henadz Fyadynich, Alyaksandr Yarashuk, Siarhei Antusevich, Mikalai Sharakh, Alyaskandr Yeudakimchyk, Iryna But-Husaim, Mikhail Hromau, Vadzim Payvin, Yury Beliakou, Dmitry Baradko and Ihar Lednik — have been detained. According to the human rights group Viasna, four people are currently held in the KGB pre-trial detention centre, five more have been confirmed to be detained with no further details. The whereabouts of seven of them remain unknown.  

On 11 April, the independent Belarusian Radio and Electronic Industry Workers’ Union (REP) was arbitrarily declared an “extremist group” by the authorities, and subsequently banned.