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Statement by Belarusian human rights organizations on sentence in REP trial

2018 2018-08-24T17:09:15+0300 2018-08-27T12:29:12+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Henadz Fiadynich and Ihar Komlik in court. July 30, 2018

Henadz Fiadynich and Ihar Komlik in court. July 30, 2018

Statement by Belarusian human rights organizations on sentence in REP trial

On August 24, 2018, Henadz Fiadynich, chairperson of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union of Radio Electronic Industry Workers (REP), and Ihar Komlik, the Union’s accountant, were found guilty of committing a crime under Part 2, Art. 243 of the Criminal Code (large-scale tax evasion). The trade union leaders were sentenced to 4 years of restricted freedom and are not eligible to hold official posts for the period of 5 years.

It should be stressed that the same charge was used in 2011 to prosecute Ales Bialiatski, chairperson of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, which was clearly condemned by both the country’s human rights organizations and the international community as harassment for his human rights activities. When considering Ales Bialiatski’s case, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention emphasized in its Views that, according to art. 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, state parties are bound by both an obligation to refrain from interfering in the creation of associations or their activities and a positive obligation to secure a legal framework for the involvement of legal entities in such activities. In the opinion of the Working Group, such measures as contributing to the associations’ objectives through government funding or granting permit to be exempt from paying taxes on funds received from abroad constitute a positive obligation under art. 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The human rights community of Belarus categorically referred to the criminal charges against the REP trade union leaders as an attack on the country’s independent trade union movement, which are linked to their civil activities and the government’s policy of intimidating the remaining trade unions of Belarus. It is therefore noteworthy that the REP trade union collected over 45,000 signatures against Presidential Decree No. 3 “On Preventing Social Dependency” (known as the “parasite law”) and played an active role in the social protests of the spring of 2017, as the trade union’s lawyers provided legal assistance to numerous persons. The political motive in the case is emphasized by the recruiting of a REP employee by the KGB, which was revealed during the trial.

We view the criminal charges against the REP leaders in the context of safeguards set in art. 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: everyone has the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions to protect their interests. The exercise of this right is not subject to any restrictions, except for those prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

According to Art. 3 of the Convention concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize (No. 87) of the International Labor Organization, the public authorities shall refrain from any interference which would restrict the right of workers’ and employees’ organizations to draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organize their administration and activities and to formulate their programs or impede the lawful exercise thereof. The protection of trade unions and their rights from interference by the government is the guarantee of the rights of citizens to protect their economic and social interests.

States parties to Convention No. 87 are not entitled to pass legal acts to the disadvantage of the guarantees provided by it or enforce the acts in a way which disadvantage these guarantees.

A judicial observation of the open consideration of the criminal case against the REP leaders exposed grave violations of the standards of a fair trial, which, taken together, resulted in the unlawful and politically motivated sentencing.

The guilty sentence is based on a series of evidence which is not admissible in terms of criminal procedures and not related to the charges, which failed to be questioned by the court. The key evidence confirming the very fact of opening bank accounts and withdrawing money from them, which would disprove the position of the defendants denying the very fact of committing these acts, were obtained by the investigation from an unknown source, without using the admissible methods of cooperation between governments in the sphere of mutual legal assistance and obtaining information that constitutes a bank secret. This evidence cannot be used to substantiate guilt in a criminal case.

We believe with certainty that the court’s use of inconsistent and unreliable testimony by witnesses who were intimidated by employees of the financial investigation body rules out the qualification of the sentence as well-justified and fair.

We condemn the actions by the law-enforcement and prosecuting authorities towards several witnesses in the trial who reported inadmissible treatment during interrogations. The witnesses were arbitrarily detained and questioned. Their mobile phones, just like the defendants’ phones, were wired by secret services during the trial. The authorities predictably sided with the prosecution, which was, however, used by the court in assessing the evidence.

Considering the above, we believe that the sentencing of Henadz Fiadynich and Ihar Komlik is politically motivated, illegal and unfair, as it is only linked to their trade union activities and the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of association.

We call on the authorities to reverse the sentence and drop the criminal charges against Fiadynich and Komlik.

We also urge the Belarusian authorities to put an end to the harassment of the country’s independent trade union movement and to refrain from illegal interference in their activities.

Human Rights Center "Viasna"

Legal Initiative

 Belarusian Helsinki Committee

 Belarusian Documentation Center

 Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House

 Advisory Center on Current International Practices and Implementation of Them in Law “Human Constanta”

Center for Legal Transformation

Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities

Educational and charitable institution “Committee Solidarity”

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