Will Supreme Court help make open "open trials " in penal colonies?
Lawyer Pavel Sapelka asks the Supreme Court of Belarus to clarify the procedure of citizens' access to offsite hearings held in penitentiary institutions.
May 4, an employee of the Škloŭ penal colony №17, where the issue of changing the regime of detention for Mikalai Statkevich was considered, refused to let the lawyer visit the hearing.
Mr. Sapelka appealed to the Office of the Department of Execution of the Mahilioŭ region. Since the consideration of criminal cases in all courts shall be open, except for certain cases, he regarded the aforementioned actions of the colony employee as a limitation of his rights.
In his response, th head of the Department of Execution of the MIA in the Mahilioŭ region stated that the hearing which Mr. Sapelka wanted to visit was open, but was held in the administrative building on the territory of a sensitive site, in connection with which free passage into its territory was forbidden.
Thus, as it follows from the reply, the free character of the offsite hearings which are held in penal colonies and other penitentiary institutions is just nominal and it is hardly possible to attend them.
In his appeal to the higher court Mr. Sapelka reminds that in accordance with Part 1 of Art. 287 of the Code of Criminal Procedure the court must provide a public trial of criminal cases.
"Thus, I had the right to attend the public hearing in the colony, and it was the court which was to have guaranteed this right to me and all who wanted t oattend the hearing. The judge who lead the trial was certainly aware that the persons wishing to attend the court hearing would inevitably encounter obstacles in realizing their rights. However, he didn't take any efforts to create the necessary conditions for securing the principle of transparency and respect for the rights of citizens," says Pavel Sapelka.
Among the possible actions that would facilitate the openness of the courts on the territory of the prison, the lawyer calls the following:
- establishing the practice of timely preliminary announcement about the cases intended for consideration;
- establishing the persons who intend to attend the hearings, by the secretary of the court, and subsequent receipt of permits for them;
- the organization of hearings outside the court buildings with the expectation of providing free access of citizens to the corresponding institution;
- holding the trial in the court if it proves to be impossible to ensure citizens' access to the territory of sensitive sites due to security reasons.
Pavel Sapelka asks the Supreme Court to explain to him the order of access of citizens to offiste hearings on the territory of penitentiary institutions and inform him about the measures the Supreme Court intends to take in order to organize the holding of offsite court hearings on the territory of penitentiary institutions in compliance with the fair trial guarantees and the principle of publicity.
The lawyer also asks how citizens can exercise their right to an audio recording of the court session, provided by Part 6 of Art. 287 of CCP, as it is prohibited to carry recording devices to the territory of penal colonies.