On 16 February, police launched raids on the offices and homes of trade union activists, human rights defenders and journalists across the country.
The office of IndustriALL affiliate the Belarusian Radio and Electronic Industry Workers’ Union (REP) was raided, with police conducting the search over the whole day. The search was disruptive, with documents and other items thrown on the ground and walked over.
All communication devices and laptops were seized, along with almost all basic documentation, including accounting documents, various printed and campaign materials, and personal money. Officials refused to give a copy of the search record, or supply an inventory of the seized items.
The union leadership stated that police found a hunting shotgun cartridge in a couch in the kitchen, which is believed to be a provocation.
The same morning, police searched the home of the REP lawyer for the Brest region, Vladimir Maley, and confiscated his personal equipment, books and money. He was detained.
The apartment of the chairman of the REP primary trade union at the Minsk Motor Plant, Andrei Komlik-Yamatin, was also searched on 16 February, and he was detained for refusing to open the door. The next day the court sentenced him to 25 days of administrative arrest “for disobedience to an order or request of an official on duty”. The whereabouts of the REP representative in Minsk, Igor Komlik, is currently unknown.
The raids constitute a new round of brutal repression by the authorities against the civil society organizations who have been struggling against gross human rights violations committed by the security forces following the rigged presidential elections in August last year.
According to the state security agency the Investigative Committee of Belarus, the mass searches and interrogations are aimed at “establishing the circumstances of the financing of protest activities” and were carried out as part of criminal proceedings under Article 342 of the Criminal Code on the “organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order”.
However, IndustriALL Global Union believes that Belarus needs to know that its attempts to intimidate will not discourage others from carrying out their legitimate human rights activities. The international community will continue to support the Belarusian people, workers and trade unions in their struggle for democracy and human rights, and to oppose the repression of civil society.
Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary said:
“This outrageous attack on independent trade union activists and human rights defenders is clearly an attempt by the state to destroy the country’s civil society organizations who have been fighting for fundamental human and workers’ rights in harsh undemocratic conditions.
“IndustriALL strongly condemns these brutal raids carried out under false pretexts, and calls for the immediate release of all who have been detained and imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of their rights.”