International organizations have called for the inclusion of the norms human and labour rights in the priorities of the EU-Belarus partnership negotiations. In their joint letter, the ITUC, IndustriALL, ETUC and European IndustriAll have drawn attention to the "trade union case" and international standards that the government of Belarus is ignoring.
The letter is addressed to Luc Devigne, Deputy Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia, Director for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia and the OSCE of the European External Action Service.
Here is the entire text of the letter:
Priorities for the Negotiated Partnership Agreement between the European Union and Belarus
Dear Mr Devigne,
First of all, we would like to express our appreciation to you for finding time to meet with us in your offices on 16 January 2019. It was an important opportunity for us to share our concerns over the worrying rampant trend of fundamental rights' violations in Belarus, in particular around the so-called "Trade Union Case".
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 labour rights. This particularly refers to "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights" and Fundamental Conventions and Jurisprudence of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Appreciating your cooperation, we look forward to your prompt action on this important matter.
Signed by Valter Sanches, General Secretary of the IndustriALL Global Union; Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC; Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the ETUC; and Luc Triangle, General Secretary of the European IndustriAll