Since April 2022, the Belarusian government has engaged in a systematic pattern of repression against the independent trade unions in the country, arbitrarily arresting and detaining trade union leaders and members, intimidating and harassing them. On 19 April 2022, more than twenty leaders and activists of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP) were detained by the State Security Committee (KGB), including Aliaksandr Yarashuk, BKDP chairman. Repression continued as further targeted arrests were made in May, including Maksim Pazniakou, acting BKDP chairman, who was picked up by the state authorities on 17 May 2022.
Andrei Khanevich, chairperson of the primary trade union organization of the BNP at Grodno Azot was sentenced to a five-year imprisonment in November, while Aliaksandr Mishuk, BNP vice-chairperson and chairperson of the primary trade union organisation at Belaruskali, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment.
On 27 December 2022, the Minsk City Court passed a verdict against the imprisoned BKDP leaders: chairman Aliaksandr Yarashuk was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, his deputy Sergei Antusevich to two years in prison, and BKDP accountant Irina But-Husaim to 18 months in prison. They were found guilty of actions that grossly violate public order and Yarashuk was also found guilty of calling for measures aimed at harming national security.
All three trade unionists had been in custody since 19 April 2022 and Aliaksandr Yarashuk has had no access to his family, colleagues or lawyers during his detention.
On 5 January 2023, the Minsk City Court passed a sentence on the leaders of the trade union of radio-electronic industry workers (REP): Hennadz Fiadynich was sentenced to nine years of reinforced regime imprisonment, Vasil Berasneu was sentenced to nine years in a medium security prison, while Vatslau Areshka was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment in a general regime prison.
All were found guilty of calling for measures aimed at harming national security, incitement of other social hatred, and the creation of an extremist formation or participation in it.