On February 11, the Ashmiany District Court announced its verdict on the civil lawsuit of the member of the HRC “Viasna” Tatsiana Reviaka against Ashmiany customs. The human rights defender filed a lawsuit against the ban on the import to the territory of Belarus of the book “Enlightened by the Belarusian Issue”, authored by Ales Bialiatski. Following two “expert examinations” the customs officers demanded that Tatsiana Reviaka re-export the forty copies of the book, seized from her at the Belarusian-Lithuanian border, to the territory of Lithuania, where the book was published.
After the parties were heard by the judge and the written materials of the case were studied, the court dismissed T. Reviaka’s appeal.
As stated by the human rights activist, she didn’t find anything intelligible in the court verdict and wrote an application for receiving the motivation part. In the meantime, Judge Tatsiana Yemelyanovich explained her motivation in words.
“The judge stated that she regarded the examinations of the book as unacceptable, but took them into account as the opinion of experts. She took the decision on the basis of her inner convictions. As a result, the book is banned,” said Tatsiana Reviaka. “However, the very fact that the expert examinations were declared inadmissible, is very revealing . This confirms that Ashmyany Customs has violated the law.”
Lawyer Pavel Sapelka, who represented the interests of Tatsiana Reviaka at the trial, stated that the decision of Judge Tatsiana Yemelyanovich was unlawful and unreasonable and would be appealed at the Hrodna Regional Court.
“Inner convictions should be based on appropriate evidence”, says Pavel Sapelka. The rules of appealing unlawful actions of state officials are somewhat different from that of the other appeals insofar as the plaintiff doesn’t have to prove his/her right. The burden of proof rests with the state agency. Ashmiany Customs failed to provide conclusive evidence that can be evaluated as the relevant and admissible, therefore the court’s decision is illegal.
The lawyer is quit optimistic about the further development of the case: “We have won little victories at each stage of appealing. As a result, we hope to make the customs office to take a responsible approach to decision-making within their competence, though no one expects it to be easy.”
Activists of the HRC “Viasna” will return to the assessment of the verdict of the Ashmiany District Court after receiving the motivational part.