WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh issued the following statement about the December 2022 and January 2023 sentencings of six trade union leaders in Belarus:
“The U.S. is deeply concerned about the sentencing of six trade union leaders to prison in closed proceedings in Belarus on charges of ‘harming national security,’ ‘inciting social hatred,’ and ‘creating or participating in an extremist group.’ These actions gravely harm the labor movement in Belarus.
“On Dec. 27, 2022, Aliaksandr Yarashuk, Siarhei Antusevich and Iryna Bud-Husaim – leaders of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions – were sentenced to one-and-a-half to four years in prison. On Jan. 5, 2023, Henadz Fiadynich, Vasil Berasnieu and Vatslau Areshka – leaders of the Radio-Electronic Industry Workers Union – received sentences of between eight and nine years in prison. All of these people suffer from health conditions that require specialized treatment, and we urge their urgent release on humanitarian grounds.
“This latest development in Belarus continues an ongoing and serious deterioration of labor rights there. Democratic and independent trade unions are essential to healthy, inclusive democracies and thriving economies.
“We call on the Lukashenka regime of Belarus to end its human and labor rights abuses, which include arbitrary arrests, acts of violence, harassment and intimidation against citizens in Belarus, including trade unionists who exercise their human and labor rights. Specifically, we urge the immediate and unconditional release of all trade union leaders and members, and the more than 1,400 political prisoners unjustly imprisoned for participating in peaceful assemblies or for exercising their fundamental freedoms.”