Lawyer Hary Pahaniayla denied compensation for illegal travel restrictions
On January 23,
Maskouski District Court of Minsk pronounced judgment in the lawsuit brought by
Hary Pahaniayla, chairman of the BHC’s legal committee, against a number of
government agencies. The
human rights defender contested the actions of three ministries at a time – Ministry
of Finance, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of the Interior. However, without success.
Hary Pahaniayla demanded compensation for moral damage, which, according to the human rights activist, was inflicted by the foreign travel ban.
Hary Pahaniayla learned about the restrictions in March 2012. The official reason for blacklisting the lawyer was that he supposedly had financial irregularities. He only managed to prove the illegality of the grounds in the summer – then Maskouski District Court ruled to return him his right to leave the country. A “technical failure” was named as the cause of the error.
Hary Pahaniayla disagreed with the wording. He wanted those responsible to be punished and demanded 3 million rubles in moral damages.
The defendants (the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Interior) said they did not recognize the claims of Hary Pahaniayla, but tried to shift the blame on one another. The representative of the Ministry of Finance said that if the court decided to recover damages, it should be paid by another Ministry. According to the Ministry of Justice, the courts did not pass the information to include the lawyer in the travel ban data bank and the decision was not taken at their agency. Aliaksei Biahun, head of the Department of Citizenship and Migration of the Interior Ministry, presented to the court an objection to Pahaniayla’s claim. He argued that it was impossible to determine a specific person who was to blame for the “techical failure.” It is also impossible to extract the server for technical expertise, as this will lead to paralysis of the system of border control for 30-40 days. According to Aliaksei Biahun, although the archive has a paper on the travel restrictions, it cannot however be either retrieved or printed. He said it was also impossible to present a document lifting the ban.
While the court did not grant Pahaniayla’s request to retrieve the necessary documents from the archives, the plaintiff says he is going to claim it through other institutions. In his speech, the human rights defender said that “we are dealing with falsification of data.” He noted that for this reason his right to travel had been violated for more than three months.
“My right to a good name has been violated. My right to dignity and honor was also violated. After all, the basis on which my right to leave the country was restricted are in the public opinion discrediting me as a citizen and a public figure. I had to fight and still struggling for my good name. So I ask the court to collect from the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior, for which the country’s treasury should be responsible, 3 million rubles and 300,000 of state tax return.”
The Judge heard several witnesses: human rights defenders Aleh Hulak and Valiantsin Stefanovich, who was were also on the list of persons restricted to travel abroad due to a “technical failure”. In total, the ban on leaving the country affected 17 opposition politicians, journalists and activists. Stefanovih expressed his doubt that the claim would be satisfied, because there was no confidence in the courts when it comes to such high-profile cases. But if the claim by Pahaniayla was granted, he would also seek compensation for moral damage.
“I have no doubt that this was a planned action of the authorities against representatives of the Belarusian opposition and non-governmental organizations to restrict their constitutional rights,” said the human rights defender.