Valiantsin Stefanovich: Court should have initiated proceedings and clearly stated if my rights were violated
Chairman of the Minsk City Court P. Karshunovich sees no grounds to protest and grant an appeal by deputy chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Valiantsin Stefanovich, who believes that the Prosecutor General’s Office by its decision to blacklist the website spring96.org as an Internet resource with restricted access violated his rights, as author and the reader of the site, to receive and impart information, as well as to freedom of expression.
The response is contained in a letter received by the human rights defender on July 30.
Back on February 18, 2014, the Tsentralny District Court of Minsk considered Valiantsin Stefanovich’s complaint against the decision to blacklist Viasna’s website. However, Judge Alena Siamak said that Valiantsin Stefanovich was an improper plaintiff in the lawsuit, as he was not the owner of the website spring96.org. She also said that blacklisting the website did not violate his personal rights. In addition, the judge ruled to discontinue proceedings in the civil case. Valiantsin Stefanovich was not entitled to appealing the decision in cassation and supervisory procedures, but could file a private complaint within 10 days.
Taking this opportunity, Viasna’s deputy chairman sent a private complaint to the College of Civil Affairs of the Minsk City Court against the ruling of the Tsentralny District Court. After a long examination, on April 28 the judges rejected the human rights defender’s private complaint, and upheld the District Court’s decision, noting that the court’s findings in the case were correct.
In fact, the latest answer by Chairman of the Minsk City Court P. Karshunou word for word repeats the previous verdicts: “Since you do not own the Internet resource, the court came to the correct conclusion on the absence of your rights to challenge the decision of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Republic of Belarus and rightly dismissed the case due to lack of jurisdiction.”
Deputy Chairman of the HRC “Viasna” protests the one-sided position of the judiciary:
“I submitted my complained in the manner prescribed by the Code of Civil Procedure, as such cases arise from administrative and legal relations. The complaint was filed against the illegal actions of the state body, because of which my rights were violated. I believe that my rights, as one of the authors of this website, which distributes opinions about the socio-political life of the country and its various aspects, have been violated. Namely, the right to freedom of expression and the right to impart information, as guaranteed to me by the Constitution and international instruments on human rights. In this particular case, the court should have initiated proceedings and clearly state whether my rights were violated or not. In addition, I strongly disagree with the argument that I am not the owner of the website and therefore I allegedly have no right to appeal, as a joint resolution of IAC (Information-Analytical Center of the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Belarus) and the Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus does not establish a circle of persons entitled to appeal against such decisions of state bodies. It only indicates that they can be challenged in court, saying nothing of the persons who can go to court.”
The Prosecutor General’s position was based on the fact that the website allegedly contains information about the organization, which has not passed state registration in accordance with the law and, therefore, publication of such information is a violation of law. Representative of prosecuting authorities, Pavel Eliseyeu, said during the February trial that they received no complaints from citizens against information posted on spring96.org, and the decision was the Prosecutor’s Office own initiative, launched under the President’s Decree No. 60 dealing with internet media. The representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office said that information on the website of the HRC “Viasna” promoted illegal activities, undermining the foundations of statehood, so the ban for public sector organizations to have free access to the resource was reasonable.
Valiantsin Stefanovich intends to file a supervisory appeal to the Supreme Court of Belarus.