Court dismisses another lawsuit against language discrimination filed by Henadz Loika
April 11, Judge of the Tsentralny District Court of Minsk Alena Siamak dismissed the lawsuit of the Belarusian artist and civic activist Henadz Loika against “Belinvestbank”, ignoring the arguments of the plaintiff and a public representative Valiantsin Stefanovich about the discriminatory approach of the bank to the Belarusian language.
Since 2012, Henadz Loika has been trying to get “Belinvestbank” provide the opportunity of rendering services in the Belarusian language. The bank refuses, citing “technical reasons”, while the administration of the bank considers "inappropriate" the replacement of replacement logistics due to high expenses.
The plaintiff stated to the court that he considered the actions of "Belinvestbank" discriminatory. RFE/RL cited the content of Loika's speech: in November 2012 he came to conclude an agreement on the use of a bank card. He asked to conclude the agreement in the Belarusian language, saying he didn't understand Russian. The bank promised that the Belarusian versions of the agreements would be available in the first half of 2013, that's why Mr. Loika agreed to conclude the agreement in Russian. However, the bank didn't keep its promise. Henik Loika argues he doesn't understand a word in the Russian agreement and dismisses the bank's arguments that there are no technical possibilities for production of Belarusian-language agreements as groundless due to the present state of high technologies.
The bank does not recognize these claims. According to Radio Liberty, during the debates Mr. Yapishkin didn't agree that there was discrimination concerning Mr. Loika: “He was served, and went away with the agreement. Nobody limits his right to use the Belarusian language. Now he is speaking Belarusian, he spoke it in the bank, nobody puts any limist to him. There are no problems. The existence of a document in one language doesn't mean that there is a priority of one language over another.” The bank representative believes that "the applicant has an incorrect understanding of the norms of legislation which provide the opportunity of using the Belarusian language on par with Russian. This doesn't give him the right to demand from other subjects to speak with him a particular language. It contradicts the Constitution and the Law “On State Languages.”
Human rights activist Valiantin Stefanovich, who participated in the hearing as a public representative from the Belarusian Language Society named after F. Skaryna insisted on the legality of the claim of Mr. Loika:
Stefanovich: Are Loka's demands to make the blank of the agreement in the Belarusian language legitimate?
Yapishkin: They are legitimate, but one's rights end where another one's rights begin. We have the right to present agreements in the Russian language.
Stefanovich: It means that Loika's right is legitimate, but cannot be implemented?
The human rights defender expressed his opinion during the debates:
“The Constitution establishes that the official languages are Russian and Belarusian. Formally, they have equal legal status, language law in Articles 5 and 6 guarantees citizens the free use of the state languages of the Republic of Belarus. But practice shows that the implementation of the citizens' right to freely use one of the official languages is limited.
Bilingualism means that the State must guarantee the ability to use both languages, especially in public institutions. It is not right to disregard languages. Giving benefits to one language over another is a discriminatory practice. The Constitutional Court also drew attention to this problem.
I can not imagine why it can be difficult to produce the bank agreement and blank in the Belarusian language. I think that this is a classical example of discrimination on linguistic grounds.
Belarusian- speaking citizens are a minority in the country. But according to the latest census, about 20 percent said they use the Belarusian language at home all the time.
I believe that the actions of "Belinvestbank" violate the rights of citizens and ask the court to declare the bank's actions illegal and to oblige it to conclude the agreement with citizen Loika in the Belarusian language.”
Despite all these arguments, Judge Alena Siamak decided to dismiss the lawssuit against "Belinvestbank". Bear in mind that on April 10 the same judge rejected the lawsuit of Henik Loika against the KGB, thereby recognizing that state officials are not required to use the Belarusian language in relations with citizens.