We expect that the European Union will continue to put human, trade union and workers' rights first in their conversations with the Belarusian government

The European Union is currently negotiating a partnership agreement with Belarus, where basic trade union rights are routinely violated.

Most worryingly, two union leaders from the Radio & Electronics Workers’ Union were recently convicted of tax evasion despite the absence of evidence. Gennady Fedynich and Ihar Komlik were ordered to pay a large fine, were  given a four-year suspended prison term, and are subject to a ban on holding senior positions for five years.

Fedynich and Komlik are also confined to their flats at certain times of day, weekends and public holidays, meaning they are effectively under house arrest.

Triangle was among a delegation of six union leaders who raised the case with Luc Devigne, the deputy managing director for Europe and central Asia at EEAS, at a meeting in Brussels last month. 

"We expect that the European Union will continue to put human, trade union and workers' rights first in their conversations with the Belarusian government,” he said at the time.

Now, along with the general secretaries of IndustriALL Global, the ETUC and ITUC, he has written to Devigne about the situation. The letter states:

"This particular case, for us, is a clear indication of the political direction of the Belarusian authorities in criminalizing trade unions and their activities in the country. In an unfair trial and in the absence of convincing evidence, the City Court of Minsk decided on 9 November 2018 to uphold local court’s verdict against two trade union leaders, who were forcibly removed from their elected positions.

"ITUC, IndustriALL, ETUC and IndustriAll Europe strongly disagree with this court’s verdict, and the decision to reject the appeal.

"We are aware that the EU is deepening its relationship with Belarus, particularly through a partnership agreement which is being negotiated right now. We do believe that the EU must continue to support to civil society and victims of repression in Belarus.

"We are assured that the level of Belarus' participation in the Eastern Partnership depends on the overall development of EU-Belarus relations in the context of the respect of international law and human rights. Tangible steps by Belarus to respect universal fundamental freedoms, rule of law and human rights must remain key for the policy of the European Union towards Belarus.

"As far as the afore-mentioned trade union case, the court verdict violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in particular, Article 22, parts 1-3 related to freedom of association as well as the articles 5 and 6 of the ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize ratified by Belarus.

"Within this framework, our organizations demand that in the process of negotiation of the Partnership Agreement between the European Union and Belarus, partnership priorities must include all the international norms and conventions related to human and labor rights. This particularly refers to “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” and Fundamental Conventions and Jurisprudence of the International Labor Organization (ILO)."