Human rights groups call to release detained trade union activists
Joint statement by Belarusian human rights organizations
September 28, 2021
We, representatives of the human rights community of Belarus, note with growing concern the continuation of the unprecedented scale of repression against organizations and representatives of the national civil society.
On September 21-23, security officers arrested numerous workers, former employees and representatives of the strike committees at several major government-owned enterprises: Grodno Azot, Belarusian Steel Works (BMZ), the Belarusian Railway (BCh) and Naftan. Some of the detainees were later remanded in the KGB pre-trial prison and pre-trial detention center No. 3 in Homieĺ:
Siarhei Shelest, former operator of the Ammonia-3 workshop;
Andrei Paheryla, former mechanic-repairman of the Ammonia-3 workshop;
Uladzimir Zhurauka, former operator of the Ammonia-3 workshop;
Valiantsin Tseranevich, assistant foreman at the Khimvolokno factory, deputy chairman of the Belarusian independent trade union at Grodno Azot;
Dzmitry Yeliseyeu, employee of BMZ;
Sviatlana Zyl, former employee of BMZ;
Aliaksandr Hashnikau, employee of BMZ;
Siarhei Dziuba, employee of Belarusian Railway;
Maksim Sakovich, senior power dispatcher of Belarusian Railway;
Hanna Ablab, employee of Belarusian Railway;
Aliaksandr Kapshul, former legal adviser at Naftan and Polymir.
According to available information, they were detained on suspicion of high treason. Some detainees are suspected of conspiracy or other actions to seize state power. Government-controlled media also said that the authorities were investigating the creation of an “extremist group”. The arrests are linked to the activities of the Rabochy Rukh group, which was earlier labelled by the authorities as “extremist”. Besides socio-economic demands, the group called to end violence and persecution of civilians, to release all political prisoners and to reverse all court rulings imposed against them. The activists also insisted on Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s resignation.
We are confident that the true motive for the detention of the above persons is their non-violent activity to promote democratic values, as well as the legitimate exercise of freedom of association, freedom of opinion and expression.
Based on this, we consider the persecution and imprisonment of these labor rights activists to be politically motivated, as they are associated with their non-violent activities aimed at protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. The detainees are therefore political prisoners, in accordance with paragraph 3.1 of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners.
We call on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release Siarhei Shelest, Andrei Paheryla, Uladzimir Zhurauka, Valiantsin Tseranevich, Dzmitry Yeliseyeu, Sviatlana Zyl, Aliaksandr Hashnikau, Siarhei Dziuba, Maksim Sakovich, Hanna Ablab, and Aliaksandr Kapshul and to stop their arbitrary persecution, end repression and release all political prisoners.
Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Helsinki Committee