When the Border Guard persistently and repeatedly harassed Sikhs, there was little alternative but to take them Court.
But before that we wrote numbers of letters setting out the position and asking for dialogue. The Sikh Community mobilised and wrote to the Polish Ministry of Interior, the British Ambassador in Poland intervened, the Helsinki Foundation wrote to protest - all to no avail. Even the one Black MP in Poland John Godson wrote through the Polish Parliament...
So the Court case was prepared.
The Case was structured around the experience of one Sikh, who had borne the brunt of the targetted actions of the Border Guard. Evidence consisting of boarding passes, descriptions of the behaviour of the Guards, the evidence from the CCTV monitoring of the airport Security areas were submitted.
There was clear evidence that Sikhs were ethnically profiled, they were being clearly singled out for wearing a turban - this would be a clear case of harassment, or in legal terms abuse of a persons Human Rights and Dignity, enshrined & guaranteed in the Polish Constitution.
As it also happens the Polish Government recognises the Sikh Faith - its Ministry of Interior that regulates the Border Guard is also the agency that regulates religious institutions in Poland - and the Sikhs in Poland have a registered Gurudwara (Temple) whose activities and the summary of the faith are included in the Government official registration document that enables the Temple to operate.
The news of the Case against the Border Guard in Poland - A precedent setting Case...
Sikh sądzi się o turban For Polish language readers...
The Polish media have received the news of a case against the Border Guard with interest. There is widespread sympathy, there is widespread dismay at the lack of understanding by the Border Guard organisation. see Lege Artis, for example, a blog site by a Polish law expert..
It is the duty of public agencies to, at least, engage in a dialogue if there is something that is considered to be disrespectful to the public, no ??
Court Case - Costs & Legal fees
While legal fees are covered under the pro bono work of the Polish Law firm, additional costs have mounted up.
Your help with a donation to cover these costs would be much appreciated
Legal fees (already covered under prop bono work) - estimated at approx € 60 000
Costs Incurred & anticipated:
Court fees & translation of document € 5000
Costs awarded to defendant € 10000
Anticipated costs for Defence € 15000 (min)
PLEASE MAKE A DONATION - Many thanks for your help!
The Gist of the Case: Sikhs are NOT suggesting that we will evade a security checks. What we are saying is that BEFORE demanding a removal of Sikh turban, conduct the routine check, using instruments already at the disposal of Border Guard - ie metallic detector, puffer machine & hand hald pat down. Is that too much to ask ?? Becuse they have insisted on a priori removal of turban, there was no alternative to a Court Case.
With pro bono support provided by the Helsinki Foundation, one of Poland's foremost Law Firms took on the job of prosecuting the Komandent of the Border Guard. The case was one of Human Rights Abuse. In compensation we asked for three things from the Court (1) financial contribution amounting to € 6000 to be paid into a Childrens leukemia research charity - the sum being thr equivalent of the hurt felt by the many Sikhs that were harassed; (2) An apology from the Border Guard to be published in the media and on their web site; (3) confirmation that further advice regarding Sikhs is given to the Border Guard.
The Case was heard in a lower Court in Warsaw and there were six hearings. The Border Guard mobilised twelve of the Guards, who each gave evidence suggesting that Sikhs were evading security checks and therefore had to have their turbans removed - the lack of any understanding of other cultures was thoroughly apparant, their disregard for customs that they throught were alien was also obvious.
At the end of the Case in Dec 2011, the Judge made his Ruling.
Is the Polish Border Guard a 'fit for purpose' agency ??
It is well known that the Polish Government is tolerant, just and promotes religious freedom. Poland is a tolerant, religous and an educated, cultured country... However the Border Guard is an anachronistic organisation, still languishing in the old state control mindset of the past soviet era.
In fact, the Polish Government Ministry of Exterior's, Mr Jacek Najder, after its Trade Mission to India (Sept 2010) made an apology about the behaviour of the Guards and offerred to mediate with the Border Guard.
A surprise then, that the Border Guard simply evaded all such efforts at mediation ! No dialogue, no response, no interest in good community relations, and disregard for the innocent public that passes through airports.
The Appeal against the lower Court ruling in a higher Appeal Court will be heard on on the 12th Feb 2013.
Lets see what Ruling we will get from the Court of Appeal in Feb 2013
The astonishing Ruling of the Judge in the Lower Court
The Case agsinst the Border Guard of Poland has been brought by Shaminder Puri. He is a graduate of the Univesity of Warsaw and over the past forty years he has had an ongoing work and personal relationship with Poland through many colleagues and friends. Poland is a second home to him.
At the end of the Court hearings in Dec 2011 the lower court judge made his Ruling.
This Ruling was astonishing in its lack of any balance - one might have thought that the Judge would take all of the evidence into account ... he did !!.... but his interpretation was as naive as that of the soldier boys in dock!
The Judge ruled that Sikh Human Rights had indeed been abused, that Sikhs had indeed been singled out, but that the Guard were "only doing their duty" !
This was so unsatisfactory, as to make all of the prosecuting parties wonder how Justice was going to be done.
Some success was achieved...
While the Court Case was proceeding, the Ministry of Interior issued 'clarification;' to the Border Guard (Oct 2011)- under this clarification, the Guard are required to conduct all other means of checking before demanding removal of 'integral clothing'. Nvertheless the Appeal is still required, as the Guards were still operating unjustly and without due regard to human rights.
The Appeal against the lower court ruling.
An Appeal against the very unsatisfactory ruling was launched and submitted in March 2012.
The Appeal is based on six grounds... several of the grounds are on incorrect application of the provisions of the Polish Law, some are related to the Judges questionable disregard of evidence and some are based on questionable use of the provisions of the Law.
John Godson, the one Black MP in the Polish Parliament expressed his serious concern that the Border Gurad seemed to be harassing people. He attended the Court Hearing and then wrote to the Ministry of the Interior asking for an explanation for the continued harassment of Sikhs.
He stated that such behaviour by a gvernment agency is shameful for Poland.
LISTEN TO WARSAW'S TOK FM RADIO INTERVIEW.....(IN POLISH) - click below...........
Read an interview in Gazeta Wyborcz about the "Why the Border Guard demands that I remove my turban....." Click here - (in Polish)
Listen to BBC radion interview on harassment by Border Guards in Poland - click below