Valiantsin Stefanovich Condemns Trials of Protesters for Explicit Violence
Since 1998 the lawyer of Human Rights Center “Viasna” Valiantsin Stefanovich has taken part in defense of the persons who are detained at protest action and participated in trials as representative of the detainees.
He states that the decisions of Minsk Leninski Borough Court were especially violent:
-- During the last two years judges made no justifications and stopped no administrative cases concerning participation in mass protest actions. They find all defendants guilty and react to no arguments. On 20 October they found persons guilty even if they refused having taken part in the election and said they were detained occasionally. The last trials differed from the previous ones – the judges grounded their decisions not on oral testimonies of the police, but on the written documents – protocol of administrative violation, police report. No other testimonies were considered. It’s worth mentioning that judges are to take all measures for objective consideration of the cases and finding the truth. That’s why the judges were to have summoned witnesses, including the persons, who composed the report. On 20 October it wasn’t so in Minsk Leninski Borough Court. I was impressed with the atrocity with which judges made verdicts for jail, especially to the persons who were punished upon the first part of article 167 of the Code of Administrative Violations, which means they haven’t been punished for the same violation for at least a year or even for the whole life. The same was practiced towards the people who didn’t take the blame and stated they were detained on occasion. I asked judges to consider this fact and give warnings to these people, but they continued to make 3-10 days’ jail sentences. One of them solicited for a lawyer. As a result, there came the duty advocate and the person received 10 days of jail. It means that when one decides to use his/her right to defense, it can result in severer punishment. Five girls were imprisoned. I am surprised at the judges – they are women and must understand how difficult is for girls to be in the anti-sanitarian conditions. They could make other verdicts, but were probably ordered to make it so. Judge Drabyshewskaya was the greatest surprise. First of all, she didn’t admit me to the trial for unknown reasons. She judged a fellow who is registered at psychiatric health center. His parents spent much time searching for him. In the detention center in Akrestsin Street they were told he wasn’t there. They had to phone to the bureau of accidents. They were very anxious. Finally, he was taken to the court from the detention center. It’s quite interesting that neither the detention center, nor the police give information about detainees even to their relatives. The boy is doubtlessly ill. At the trial I saw that he was distressed as a result of the detention and the night in the detention center. The judge saw it but didn’t admit me to the trial so that I could defend him. She didn’t admit his mother either. Then she explained to the defendant that the article he was charged upon provided only fine of 50 basic units (about $450) or arrest. I couldn’t bear it and said: “Don’t lie to people. One can be given a warning upon this article”. Despite of the fact that the boy is ill and the parents said that he needed to take pills all the time, the judge decided to sentence him to 3 days of jail. I think that now she is responsible for his state of health. If something happens, she will have to answer for this. I wasn’t hit only by the violence. It’s not the first year of such a practice. I was astounded with the judges, who consider themselves lawyers and show their “justice” in the time when the Constitution was twice rewritten, trampled and thrown away. In this situation the judges simply sit and demonstrate their justice, having an excellent understanding of what is going on in the country. This really shocked me, because our courts remain “Lenin’s” one’s as they used to be.