Customs Office Checks Your Letters Abroad
Recently the deputy chair of the International Federation for Human Rights Ales Bialiatski has started receiving foreign letters with interesting seals: ‘To present for customs examination’ and ‘Transportation permitted. Minsk regional customs office’. Such attentive examination of Mr. Bialiatski’s letters is not occasional. In fact, in Belarus there exists a convenient system of control of the private correspondence of public and human rights activists and politicians.
What do customs officers try to find in the envelopes? Most probably, a kind of censorship hides behind the façade of customs offices. Several years ago perlustration was marked with a primitive seal ‘Received damaged’. Now it is done more professionally. Even the traits of glue are less noticeable.
However, the problem remains. Nowadays the authorities violate the right of hundreds of Belarusian citizens to privacy of correspondence. This right can be legally restricted only for prisoners, in other cases specific that are provided by the law or on prosecutor’s sanction.
People’s notes on the political forum of the Belarusian portal tut.by witness that many people suffer from perlustration. Here are several excerpts:
‘… During the recent years I have not received A SINGLE LETTER without the abovementioned seal. It is a FACT. My friends and acquaintances say the same…’
‘Today I have received a packet from abroad. Together with it I got a receipt for payment forward, 2060 rubles (about 1 US dollar). I came to the post office and asked what for I should pay. They said that it was for the services of the customs office, the officers of which had unsealed and checked the packet.’
‘I have once received a packet from Germany, with seal ‘Minsk regional customs office. Transportation permitted’, without any dates and signatures. ‘1 ruble customs fee is to be exacted from the addressee’.
‘During the last five years I have received my correspondence with the seal ‘Received damaged’. I am only glad they have not taken money for it!’