2010 21/05

How to protect your rights…

Don’t speak to intruders without a lawyer!
Lately members of public movement “Havary Praudu” suffered from mass arrests, searches in flats and offices, confiscation of office equipment and property. Militia’s actions mostly were lawless. How to behave in such conditions, how to protect yourself? What must one know about the main procedures of searches and other investigator’s actions?

Every citizen has a right to get legal assistance. This right is enshrined in article 62 of the Constitution and in correspondent articles of criminal and Administrative Codes.

Executive director of Belarusian Helsinki Committee Aleh Hulak advises democratic activists to be prepared and play safe:

“If a person waits something of that kind to happen, he or she would better have an agreement with a lawyer. And when a person hears that somebody has already to get him, it’s better to call a lawyer and be sure that he will be present during all the procedures”.

Interference in legal assistance is forbidden by law in republic of Belarus. Ex-lawyer, now human right activist Hary Pahaniayla explains who can be a human right defender in such cases:

“Professional lawyers and human right activists which means people who have legal education, professional experience and people’s trust can be human right defenders. But, unlike lawyers, they work for free”.

Militia came to search the leader of “Havary Praudu” campaign, poet Uladzimier Niakliayeu late at night and there was no opportunity to call a lawyer. Could he not obey and not let investigators to his flat having no defenders?

Don’t speak without a lawyer! A person has the right to get free legal assistance. This is a well functioning system. In every regional department there is a practice lawyer. People who arrest a person must provide him or her with a lawyer within several hours. Of course, nobody explained anything to Niakliayeu and they searched the flat. And only when he’d spend the whole night in
community militia office his family raised the alarm and made an agreement with a lawyer”.

If “uninvited guests” come to an office or a flat, one must demand them to introduce themselves and must study their documents paying attention to last names, ranks, signatures, dates and stamps. Moreover, one must do this before letting them into a flat or office. Sometimes they change sanction decision. But, as explained by Hary Pahanieyla, sometimes it happens in a different manner:

“Sometimes they try to …intrude into a flat and say that they will search and leave you the correspondent document about confiscation of property and so on”.

Reporter: “What if they don’t have such document with prosecutor’s sanctions?”

“In such case, don’t let them into your flat or office”.

But what should people pay attention to if the search is inevitable? Nina, the activist of “Havary Praudu” campaign tells about the search executed in her flat:

“They brought their own witnesses. They searched everything: kid’s things, daughter’s underwear, fridge, they checked all toys, looked under the bath-tub”…

Note of human right defender Hary Pahaniayla:

“If past experience is any guide, these witnesses are officials’ subservient: sometimes they are technical workers, militia drivers, students and probationers”.

Reporter: “Can a person recuse them?”

“Yes, it is possible. One must invite neighbors to witness the search”.

It’s better to know for sure who is authorized in the search and who is an investigator. And that they can act only with witnesses. All other people must stay out of the flat, says Hary Pahaniayla.

One must not let these people go to different rooms, ransack belongings and documents by themselves and let them take whatever they want.

“One must not let these people go to different rooms, ransack belongings and documents by themselves and let them take whatever they want. Only one person must execute a search, a person who is authorized to execute the investigation. I shall repeat: this can be an investigator or operating executive of the same militia department or other organ of criminal investigation”.

The owner must follow and keep a watchful eye for all the actions. It’s necessary to turn everybody’s attention if anybody goes to other room without witnesses. Nobody knows what he or she can find or leave there. How can people protest if a search is executed with violations? Hary Pahaniayla advises:

“You can only protest by bringing in a correspondent complaint or protest to the procedure document made up by an investigator. Or you can dictate and the investigator must set down your oral complaint. The investigator or examining official must report to the authorized prosecutor about the claim in 24 hours. The prosecutor must investigate the complaint in three-day term and give a substantial answer”.

Militia took away office equipment, printed materials and money from activists of “Havary Praudu” movement. They also took documents which have no relation to the case. Nina, who was even searched not as a suspect but as a witness, told:

“They took documents which don’t have any relation to the campaign “Havary Praudu” and movement “Napierad”, my personal property documents and document of my dead husband”.

Hary Pahaniayla comments:

“It’s a gross violation. They take everything they want. It’s a militia’s outrage. How can be a dead person’s documents related to all that?”

In item 3 of article 204 of Criminal Code it’s written that only things related to the case can be taken away. Can we go against if office equipment belonging to other members of the family is taken away?

Lawyer of Belarusian Association of Journalists Andrey Bastuniets:

“First, during a search only things related to a certain case must be withdrawn. In general, I consider this a pointer of the whole legal situation in Belarus, when witnesses are being taken away their computers, money and personal belongings. Unfortunately, people have very little possibilities to fight this situation. One can turn attention that a computer is the equipment for professional activity and doesn’t belong to any concrete person. But we can only guess whether these complaints would be heard”.

Violation complaints can be filed later with participation of human right defender of a lawyer.

Aleh Hulak’s opinion:

“In any case complaints must be written, otherwise, if later you would say something against, they would ask: “Why didn’t you file complaints?” There is not much hope that they will change anything. But you must write them anyway”.

The last events in the country once again showed us that everybody needs legal education and knowledge of the law.

Lawyer to journalists: remember in what country you live

Quoting www.baj.by

Prepared by Ales Leta

Belarusian Legal Portal


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