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Condemnation of trade union leaders, additional blows to freedom of association - Publication of an international trial observation report: Case Belarus v. Henadz Fiadynich and Ihar Komlik

Publication of an internationaltrial observation report

Paris-Geneva,August 30, 2018 – “Conviction of leaders of independent trade union REPHenadz Fiadynich and Ihar Komlik on tax evasion charges is politicallymotivated and trial proceedings weremarred by procedural irregularities”, concludes the Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCT partnership) in a reportpublished today. “The convictions should be overturned on appeal”.

The two independent tradeunion leaders, Messieurs Henadz Fiadynich and Ihar Komlik,respectively Chairman and Chief Accountant of Radio and Electronic IndustryWorkers (REP), were found guilty of tax evasion for having received up to140,000 EUR into a foreign bank account in neighboring Lithuania, withdrawn thefunds and transported the cash back to Belarus, with the help of colleagues,and for having failed to declare the receipt of such funds as income resultingin the failure to pay around 22,867 thousand Belarusian Rubles (approximately9,790 EUR). The judgment was delivered on August 24, 2018. Defendants weresentenced to four years of restriction of liberty without imprisonment, fiveyears of restriction on holding a senior management position, and a fine of47,560 Belarusian Rubles (approximately 19,950 EUR).

Lawyer Ilya Nuzov, Head of theEastern Europe-Central Asia Desk at FIDH, was mandated by the Observatory forthe Protection of Human Rights Defenders to conduct a trial observation missionin the Saviecki District Court. The task of the trial observer was to assessthe fairness of the trial, in light of international law standards bindingBelarus. Trial observation revealed major flawsin the conduct of pre-trial investigation and proceedings. During the trial,several witnesses complained that their pre-trial statements were procuredthrough threats, intimidation and other pressure exerted by State agents duringinitial questioning. Moreover, the prosecution’s case was built on unreliablepieces of evidence. All thse facts weigh heavily against the lawfulness andreliability of such evidence, as well as the ability of Messrs. Komlik andFiyadynich to prepare an adequate defence.

Furthermore,the trial failed to take place in a conducive environment. The pronouncement ofthe verdict on August 24 was accompanied by the repression of activists whoexpressed support for the two trade union leaders. 11 activists were detainedby the Belarus authorities for holding a public action in support of theleaders of REP outside of the court house. Among them were Mr. AlesAbramovich, Ms. Maya Naumova, politician Mr. Nikolai Statkevichand Ms. Tamara Zaitzeva. 10 activists spent the weekend in detention,while the majority was tried three days later for violation of Article 23.34 ofthe Administrative Code regulating the procedure for the organisation orholding of a public meeting or manifestation.

The report is available here.

The Observatory for the Protectionof Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and theWorld Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme isto intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rightsdefenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of , the European UnionHuman Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

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