Condemnation of trade union leaders, additional blows to freedom of association - Case Belarus v. Henadz Fiadynich and Ihar Komlik

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Photo: FIDH

Paris-Geneva, August 30, 2017 – “Conviction of leaders of independent trade union REP Henadz Fiadynich and Ihar Komlik on tax evasion charges is politically motivated and trial proceedings were marred by procedural irregularities”, concludes the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCT partnership) in a report published today. “The convictions should be overturned on appeal”.

The two independent trade union leaders, Messieurs Henadz Fiadynich and Ihar Komlik, respectively Chairman and Chief Accountant of Radio and Electronic Industry Workers (REP), were found guilty of tax evasion for having received up to 140,000 EUR into a foreign bank account in neighboring Lithuania, withdrawn the funds and transported the cash back to Belarus, with the help of colleagues, and for having failed to declare the receipt of such funds as income resulting in the failure to pay around 22,867 thousand Belarusian Rubles (approximately 9,790 EUR). The judgment was delivered on August 24, 2018. Defendants were sentenced to four years of restriction of liberty without imprisonment, five years of restriction on holding a senior management position, and a fine of 47,560 Belarusian Rubles (approximately 19,950 EUR).

Lawyer Ilya Nuzov, Head of the Eastern Europe-Central Asia Desk at FIDH, was mandated by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders to conduct a trial observation mission in the Saviecki District Court. The task of the trial observer was to assess the fairness of the trial, in light of international law standards binding Belarus. Trial observation revealed major flaws in the conduct of pre-trial investigation and proceedings. During the trial, several witnesses complained that their pre-trial statements were procured through threats, intimidation and other pressure exerted by State agents during initial questioning. Moreover, the prosecution’s case was built on unreliable pieces of evidence. All thse facts weigh heavily against the lawfulness and reliability of such evidence, as well as the ability of Messrs. Komlik and Fiyadynich to prepare an adequate defence.

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

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