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Harry Pahaniaila: Media has the right to criticise Internal Ministry, but courts support the state

03.03.2016  |  Society   |  Piotr Kuchta,  EuroBelarus
Harry Pahaniaila: Media has the right to criticise Internal Ministry, but courts support the state

Disputes or conflicts that MIA head calls an information war should be resolved in court; but we should remember that Belarusan courts can hardly be called independent, notes the human rights fighter.

Let us recall that during the press conference on March 1 the Minister of Internal Affairs Ihar Shunevich claimed that the information war is being led against the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA).

Ihar Shunevich said that most critical posts and media articles about police were “constructive.” “But there is a certain share that, in my opinion, is nothing but an information attack on the activity of such an organization as the interior ministry. This is an information war waged against the interior ministry,” - the Minister said.

We have done and will continue doing our job in an as much competent manner as possible. And if there is an obvious violation of law, law enforcers are required to respond to that. And if we are criticized for an incorrect response and this criticism is constructive, we are always ready to take this criticism with much joy and interest.”

However, Ihar Shunevich warned that the police would sue members of the public for “provoking, insulting [them] or trying to portray our incompetence through destructive means.”

Harry Pahaniaila, the head of the RHRPA "Belarusian Helsinki Committee" agrees with the Minister on the fact that “the officials have right to protect themselves from calumny, insults, and so on in courts”.

“However, if the police’s behavior is incorrect, if it abuses its position, uses force without reason and motivation, and goes as far as beating the journalist in the court building, then, naturally, the journalists also have the right to criticize the actions of the police and criticize the MIA on the whole”, - noted Harry Pahaniaila in the interview with the “EuroBelarus” Information Service. It is clear that such disputes or conflicts should be resolved within the framework of the current legislation, but "there is one note: they should take into account the fact that Belarus is not a legal or a democratic state, the fact that the courts do not comply with the principle of independence, i.e. they are often not objective about cases and protect officers, protect state institutions, not the rights of individual citizens." "And in the dispute of the state and human the state wins. And those who try to use the courts to resolve such conflicts should bear this correction in mind,"- the human rights activist says.

According to Harry Pahaniaila, the fact that on 1 March the Minsk City Court upheld the decision of the Frunzienski district court to impose a fine on the tut.by correspondent Paul Dobrovolsky, "only proves the defect system of our courts, which are neither governed by the current Constitution, nor by the legislation based on the Constitution, nor by the international commitments in the field of human rights, which Belarus adopted and pledged to respect steadily to the international community."

Let us recall that on January 25 Pavel Dabravolski was detained and beaten in court of the Frunzienski district at the hearing of the graffiti case together with the activists Pavel Siarhei and Maksim Shytsik. Then they were forcibly taken out of the courtroom. Right after their detention the activists and the journalist were beaten by police officers. After that the two activists and the journalist were taken to the police station and charged Articles 24.1 of the Administrative Code (“contempt of court”) and Article 23.4 (“disobeying legitimate demands of officials”). The judge sentenced Maksim Shytsik and Pavel Dabravolski to a fine of 9,450,000 Belarusian rubles each, while Pavel Siarhei was fined 10.5 mln rubles. The charges were based on testimony from a police officer, who, according to the convicts, had beaten them.

"In the court room, in the holy of holies, a journalist is beaten up - and the police officers come to be right. These are the people with epaulets, people in power – they have the opportunity to do otherwise, they must act so that to protect the citizens, not to beat them in the courtroom. If the police had been acting from this position, this enormous conflict wouldn’t have started – the international organizations were forced to stand up for the Belarusian journalists, not just for their ability to perform their professional obligations, but also for their human dignity, - emphasizes Harry Pahaniaila. - Being beaten on the court premises is a legal nonsense! What did the police do there at all? The presiding judge at the court session had to take steps to ensure that citizens behave properly in this situation. If the judge doesn’t have enough power, then, of course, (s)he can summon police officers to help, but as far as I know, even the judge did not mention any illegal activities in the report. But the police did everything without a judge – and beat the citizens in the next room. They also registered an appropriate administrative material, although the judge could also have initiated an administrative case for disobeying their requirements. There are many questions as to what should we call a “war” in this situation”.

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