Anastasiya Loika: Circuit courts not conducive to openness
After a series of circuit court hearings held at the police department of the Tsentralny district in Minsk, which caused much indignation, the official website of the Supreme Court published an official message providing “explanations regarding an incorrect media report”.
The statement has been commented upon by Anastasiya Loika, lawyer of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, who witnessed the trials on January 23:
“I very much welcome that the Supreme Court exercises its own Decree No. 11 “On ensuring transparency in the administration of justice and the dissemination of information about the activities of the courts”, but this press-release is causing me issues. Firstly, why the Supreme Court refers to the information of the Minsk City Court, and not the Tsentralny District Court? Secondly, it is very interesting how this became known to the City Court, as I witnessed quite different events? I can only agree with the Supreme Court about the fact that Judge Viktoryia Shabunia did not personally expel anyone from the courtroom, or prevented someone from attending the trials. At the same time the peculiarity of localization of circuit court hearings is not conducive to openness in principle: the chief of the police department Artur Shalai told me when chasing me out of the hallway that he’s the boss and he will decide who can attend the trial and who cannot. And it means that there were organizational measures to ensure the openness of the trials, and the judicial system, I think, is completely to blame for that, as it does not try to influence the executive power, even in their own procedural aspects.”
In addition, the human rights activist noted that the trials were not held in the court building for technical reasons: Judge Viktoryia Shabunia was hearing a different case in the premises of the police department, so, apparently, it was decided to combine it with other trials. It should be noted that the procedural law on administrative cases does not provide for circuit court hearings, but does not prohibit them either.
“I was hoping that the situation would improve after the adoption of the above mentioned decree No. 11 in December 2013. But what I saw on January 23 was shocking: police officers really showed who was the boss in their territory: they or the judicial system, their orders or Article 2.14 of the Procedural Executive Code of Administrative Offenses on open trials. Moreover, they did not even hide their contempt for the citizens who wanted to get to the hearing. I was especially offended by a refusal to issue a book of complaints: a tall policeman just threw me out,” said Anastasiya Loika.
The human rights activist is outraged by this approach and is going to send to the Supreme Court and the Prosecutor’s Office complaints against the incident in order to prove the true circumstances of those hearings.