Court in Homieĺ rejects human rights defender’s lawsuit against customs officers and border guards
The Homieĺ District Court rejected yesterday a lawsuit lodged by local human rights defender Leanid Sudalenka against the border and customs officers to demand 1 billion rubles in moral and material damage. Judge Aliaksandr Lisouski said that using violence to detain citizens at border was legal.
Speaking in the courtroom, officials of the Smarhoń border group said how suspicious and violent was Sudalenka when detained on the train, which, according to them, forced them to remove him to take him off the train.
According to a border guard, Sudalenka “was traveling alone, without luggage”, which meant that he “could carry drugs”. Besides, he “behaved suspiciously nervous, staring into the eyes”.
The human rights defender, however, argued that the officer called a senior after scanning his passport. The latter took Sudalenka’s passport and left. “Then there appeared a customs officer who said that I would have to get off the train at the station of Maladziečna in order to undergo a customs search,” said the activist in his lawsuit.
Leanid Sudalenka says that upon arrival at the station, he was surrounded by a dozen border guards and customs officers, who without giving any reason ordered him to leave the car. Then, the human rights activist was forcibly grabbed by the arms and legs and pushed out of the train.
Leanid Sudalenka stresses that the customs officers were ordered to search for extremist content on the storage devices he was carrying, which is confirmed by an order signed by head of the border guard group.
“An order by Captain Dudko requested to conduct a personal customs search of L. Sudalenka for money, printed and other materials of destructive nature,” said a written explanation by a customs inspector Mikalai Raichonak.
Customs legislation prescribes that before conducting personal customs inspection customs officers are obliged to offer to produce illegal things and objects. Needless to say that this requirement in the case of human rights defender Sudalenka was not fulfilled.
Leanid Sudalenka says that the court decision is illegal. According to him, by starting this campaign of harassment, the border guards hid behind their internal regulations. Customs officers were forced to conduct such an exceptional measure of customs control as personal search. The same was done by the court, which restricted the citizen’s rights and freedoms by citing an instruction marked “Confidential”.