Kseniya Halubovich A large crowd protesting in Belarus.
Voicing deep concern over detention and arrests of trade unionists in Belarus, the head of the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) called on President Alexander Lukashenko to ensure a climate free from violence and intimidation against peacefully protesting workers.
In a letter to President Lukashenko, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder urged the President to release and drop charges against those detained and called on him to “ensure full respect” for workers’ rights during the wave of protests that have swept the country in recent weeks.
Mr. Ryder reminded the President that it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure a climate free from violence, threats or pressure against peacefully protesting workers, and that any such allegations should be rapidly and independently investigated.
‘Do all in your power’ to prevent rights violations
“I must urge you to do all in your power to prevent the occurrence of human rights violations and ensure full respect for workers’ rights and freedoms,” said the ILO Director-General.
“No one should be deprived of their freedom or be subject to penal sanctions for the mere fact of organizing or participating in a peaceful strike or protest,” he wrote.
In the letter, the head of ILO also raised deep concern at reports coming out of Belarus on the arrest, detention, imprisonment and mistreatment of workers’ leaders.
Mr. Ryder also recalled that ILO has been working with the Government of Belarus, and the national workers’ and employers’ organizations, for 16 years, helping to address issues raised by an ILO Commission of Inquiry in 2004, which was set up following serious infringements of trade union rights and freedoms in the country.
Mr. Ryder noted that while there has been some progress on these issues, “the Commission’s recommendations are far from being fully implemented.”
The intervention by the ILO Director-General followed a request made by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which works to ensure that the fundamental workers’ rights – the right to organize in a trade union, the right to collective bargaining, protection from discrimination, and the elimination of child labour and forced labour – are universally respected and enforced.