2009 27/07

Harry Pahanyaila

Harry Pahanyaila


At the end of last week, the Belarusian secret services detained a Danish human rights activist in Minsk-2 airport and then banned him entry in Belarus.

Head of the Danish support initiative liberty and democracy SILBA Jens Kristian Lütken was expelled from Belarus though he had a valid Belarusian visa.

Representatives of the Belarusian secret services told the human rights defender he was an “undesirable guest” in the country.

Euromost.org asked well-known Belarusian human rights activist and lawyer of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Harry Pahanyaila to comment on this situation.

– How often do foreign human rights activists face such troubles in our “free and democratic” country?

– This happens rather often in our country: human rights activists are not allowed in Belarus and said to fly back in the airport. It is no wonder. The government probably has the appropriate lists of undesirable people for visiting Belarus, these lists are secret, motives are not explained, people are just allowed in the country.

– A question arouses in this connection: are such actions of the Belarusian authorities and Belarusian secret services lawful?

– In general, there is an international practice. What is it grounded on? There are laws on state and national security. The secret services follow them. Most part of this practice is hidden from the public, it is a top secret. So, it’s hard to say in general whether it is lawful to include persons undesirable in Belarus in these lists. It’s also difficult to estimate these actions from a moral point of view. We don’t have data of the reasons for such actions of the government. There is an international practice, and it is used in Belarus. But it’s almost impossible to check how reasonable is to use it in relation to certain persons.

– Do you find that making such lists a secret is silly? Especially taking into account, that one can receive a visa and then not allowed in the country in the airport. Will it be awful if one can know beforehand that the Belarusian authorities don’t want to see him?

– I absolutely agree. But there are several institutions responsible for returning the persons arrived in Belarus. So, it happens that one can be sent back even if he or she has a visa. But there are countries that have visa free regime. For instance, Russia. But people are not allowed all the same. Do you remember how a group of Russian politicians led by Nemtsov was sent back? What can I say? The government doesn’t find it necessary to give these data to the public, to the media, it keeps them in secret. The state has the right for secrets. It doesn’t want to explain why this or that person is non-grata. It’s difficult to struggle with it. It’s hard to object when everything is closed and kept in secret, when there are no objective criteria of using such measures

– If the expelled Danish human rights activist addresses its government asking to deal with the incident, complains at the Belarusian authorities, will it be any sense?

– If he goes to his government and the government finds it necessary to apply our Ministry of Foreign Affairs for explanations, there will be a reaction. The MFA will have to explain something. There are matters that should be agreed, there must be understanding of the problems in inter-state relations and relations between citizens of countries. So, it will be a reaction. But sometimes this practice is not open to public. Reasons for ban on entry are not explained. These reasons are not explained to the requesting party through the diplomatic channels. So, it the Danish MFA requests any explanations on why their citizen was treated like that, they may not receive a good answer. However, the appropriate services may get some information.

SILBA Danish non-governmental organization was founded in early 1990s to support liberal parties in the Baltic states. Later, SILBA began to focus on democratic movements in other post-Soviet countries. The organization held seminars and conferences in Belarus, sent its observers for elections.

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