Statement from the Executive Committee of the Council of Nordic Trade Unions on the Belarus arrests April 27th Reykjavik

The Nordic Council of Trade Unions - NFS, representing more than 8.5 million members in the Nordic region condemn the arrest and detention Tuesday 19 April in Belarus of several leaders and representatives of the country’s independent trade union movement. 

The leadership of the Belarusian Congress of Trade Unions (BKDP) including the President of BKDP Aliaksandr Yarashuk, BKDP Vice-President Siarhei Antusevich, President of Free Trade Union of Metal Workers (SPM) Aliaksandr Bukhvostau, President of Free Trade Union of Belarus (SPB) Mikalaj Sharakh – as well as other colleagues were arrested on the 19th of April. Many of them have still not been released and the arrest of all of them is a violation of the independent trade unions and human rights.  

The Belarussian security force KGB have searched several trade union premises, such as those of BKDP, SPB, SPM and REP as well as the homes of trade union leaders and employees. The searches covered personal computers, personal documents, passports, bank cards including those of family members, SIM cards of foreign mobile operators and trade union paraphernalia. 

The trade union colleagues in Belarus have for many years shown great courage and fought for fundamental trade union rights and human rights. They have been very aware of the risks and dangers this entails for them but the struggle and fight for fundamental rights and high ideals has been important for them even with the risk for being imprisoned. 

The arrests come in the wake of the ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association which at its March meeting expressed sharp criticism of Belarus for failing to implement the recommendations made by the ILO's Committee of Inquiry back in 2004. Several of the union leaders who over the years have testified in the ILO about the conditions in Belarus are among those arrested. 

NFS join our colleagues in BASTUN and strongly denounce the actions of the KGB and Lukashenko regime.  The deprivation of liberty for the leaders and officials of the independent trade union movement in Belarus is unacceptable. Further we demand the immediate release of all union leaders and representatives in detention and hold the Belarus authorities responsible for their safety and health until their release. We also call on the international community, governments, parliaments and all relevant European and International organisations and institutions, and intergovernmental organisations to take measures and to intervene to secure the Belarussian trade union officials safety and immediate release. 

We also support the BASTUN networks request that the ITUC and PERC set up an immediate campaign, with participation of global trade union federations, aiming to support the Belarussian independent trade union movement as well as giving the imprisoned trade union colleagues direct support to be released. NFS will donate 10 000 Euro as a starting finance for the fund and urge all other federations to donate to this fund. The international trade union movement is also a peace movement, and it is crucial that we together fight for freedom and democracy. 

In solidarity, 
NFS Executive Committee