Case History: Leonid Sudalenko
On 20 October 2015, the Central District Court of Gomel city ruled to return the case against the HRD back to the Department of Customs Investigation of Gomel city for the further investigation. After a certain period of time the Department attempted to start a trial again but the court refused to open a hearing as the Department had failed to correct the deficiencies in the case. After that the Department adopted a decision to close the case against the HRD under the statute of limitations.
On 14 October 2015, human rights defender Mr Leanid Sudalenko was summoned to the Department of Customs Investigation of Gomel city and informed of the charges against him. He was accused of disobeying the lawful demands of persons in the execution of their duties.
Leonid Sudalenko is the head of the Gomel city branch of the civil society association Justice Initiative, which provides victims of human rights violations with legal support. It specialises in preparing individual complaints to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The human rights defender is a lawyer and active campaigner for the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus.
Update: On 20 October 2015, the Central District Court of Gomel city ruled to return the case against the HRD back to the Department of Customs Investigation of Gomel city for the further investigation. After a certain period of time the Department attempted to start a trial again but the court refused to open a hearing as the Department had failed to correct the deficiencies in the case. After that the Department adopted a decision to close the case against the HRD under the statute of limitations.
On 14 October 2015, the human rights defender was summoned to the Department of Customs Investigation of Gomel city and informed that he is charged with disobeying the lawful demands of persons in the execution of their duties, which is an administrative offence under Article 23.4 of the Administrative Code. If found guilty he could face up to 15 days detention or a fine of up to 9 million Belarusian rubles (approximately 450 Euro). The trial against him will take place on 20 October before the Central District Court of Gomel city.
The charges relate to an incident, that took place on 25 August 2015, when Leanid Sudalenko was travelling by train from Vilnius (Lithuania) to Gomel. Once the train had crossed the state border of the Republic of Belarus, the Belorussian military unit 2044 of Smorgon border group began checking passengers' passports. The human rights defender was personally searched and then asked to leave the train at Molodechno station. Considering that prior to the passport control, Mr Sudalenko already underwent the examination of his luggage by an official of Minsk regional custom without any problems, he asked for the reasons of personal search. However, the officials only threatened him with liability for disobedience. On arrival to the Molodechno train station 12 custom officials grabbed him and brought him to a Minsk regional custom office located at the station, where they exposed him to a body and luggage search for two hours. Subsequently, he was given a report by an official from the Border Service, Mr Paul Durko, in which he explained that the reason behind the personal search was suspicion of “presence of electronic media with extremist content".
The practice of targeted personal searches is commonly applied by the authorities in Belarus towards persons who are believed to be critical of the political regime in Belarus. These includee human rights lawyers like Mr Sudalenko, who has been working on cases involving state officials. Previously, on 24 May 2015 a personal search was carried out on him following examination of his passport by the “Kamenny Log” checkpoint officials. Sudalenko's enquiry with the State Border Committee about the reasons of such targeted harassment was dismissed on 15 October 2015.
On 5 March 2015, human rights defender Mr Leanid Sudalenka sent a complaint to the General Prosecutor of Gomel city concerning the decision made by the Zheleznodorozhny District Police Department on 28 February 2015 not to investigate death threats made against his family. On 1 March 2015, the human rights defender received an email containing a death threat. Previously, on 20 February 2015, deaths threat had been made against Leanid Sudalenka's sons in an article published online.
Leanid Sudalenka had made his request for an investigation to the head
of the Police Department of the Gomel City Executive Committee on 24 February 2015. The complaint followed the publication on 20 February 2015 of an article entitled “Stars for a human rights defender” on the website gomelbest.com. In the article, Leanid Sudalenka was labelled a defender of murderers who are earning money by lodging “strategic complaints” to the United Nation Human Rights Committee. The article referred to the case of Ms Olga Grunova, a client of Leanid Sudalenka who is asking the Belarusian authorities to reveal the location of the grave of her son, who was condemned to death on murder charges and executed on 22 October 2014. The article, signed by Mr Artiom Vasiliev, ended with a threat that one of Leanid Sudalenka's sons would be stabbed 101 times.
Leanid Sudalenka had asked that the IP-address of the above mentioned website be identified and that a criminal investigation for “death threats” under the Article 186 of the Criminal Code of Belarus be opened. One day after his request was refused, on 1 March 2015, at approximately 5:30 am, Leanid Sudalenka received a further death threat against his family by email. The message contained the link to the video of the assassination of Russian politician Mr Boris Nemtsov in Moscow on 27 February 2015. The video was accompanied by the question, “how do you like this video?” This email was sent from an account registered to the name of the human rights defender's five year-old son.