Actions taken by customs officials against GOLOS director declared illegal

17 мая 2012 г.

Moscow oblast’s Khimki City Court held that the search and seizure of Lilia Shibanova’s personal belongings at the hands of customs officials at Sheremetyevo Airport on 3 December 2011 were illegal.

GOLOS Association Executive Director Lilia Shibanova returned from a business trip on 3 December 2011. Customs officials at Sheremetyevo Airport searched her personal belongings and seized her laptop computer. The inspection and release procedures lasted for 12 hours. GOLOS held a press conference in the Independent Press Center on 3 December.

Lilia Shibanova claimed that her detention at the airport and the seizure of her personal belongings were the result of attempts to pressure GOLOS—an organization devoted to the defense of voters’ rights—ahead of the upcoming 4 December elections.

On Election Day (4 December 2011), GOLOS endured massive administrative and official pressure, both in Moscow and throughout the regions. On 15 December, GOLOS submitted a statement to the Investigations Department of the Investigative Committee of Russia’s Moscow branch requesting the initiation of criminal proceedings for various counts related to the aforementioned pressure. These counts were based on Lilia Shibanova’s illegal search and seizure, the blocking of GOLOS’ website, the hacking of employees’ personal email accounts, and the publication of private correspondence in the press.

Lilia Shibanova further appealed to the Commissioner for Human Rights for the sake of defending her rights and her legal interests. Vladimir Lukin filed an application with the court. It follows from the case materials that customs officials expected to find “harmful” programs in her laptop. After thoroughly examining the case materials, the court held for the Commissioner for Human Rights, thus recognizing the customs officials’ actions as illegal. Specifically, the court held State Customs Official # 4, V.G. Kashkin responsible for the illegal search and seizure of Lilia Shibanova’s personal belongings. The court ordered that all such items (laptop, charger, and external hard drive) shall be returned, and that Lilia Shibanova should be freed from the obligation to pay data storage fees prior to its return.

Kashkin has not appeared in court. The court held that actions committed by a representative of a law enforcement agency were illegal. Thus, efforts to intimidate GOLOS, to apply pressure on its director, and to disrupt the observation of elections have once again failed.