Polish Judge Rules Against Sikh Claims of Border Guard Harassment

—In a surprise ruling the Polish District Court Judge Tyszka, acknowledged the Sikh claim that Border Guards have engaged in human right abuses when checking Sikhs passing through Polish airports, but ruled that this was within the law.

In a Court Case launched in September 2010, supported by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rghts, Mr Shaminder Puri, a British Sikh, entered a claim of targeting and harassment of himself, as well as many other Sikhs that pass through the Polish airports. There were ten incidents in which Puri was targeted and harassed. Other Sikhs resident in Poland also documented their own harassment. Mr Charanjit Singh, a business man resident in Poland for over 12 years was also harassed and targeted on several occasions. After one such incident, Mr Singh, who has Singaporean nationality, lodged a complaint to the Singaporean Authorities, who took up the complaint with the Polish Ambassador there. However, there was no immediate change in the behaviour of the Polish Authorities.

In the Court Case brought by Mr Puri, CCTV evidence showed that he followed the routine and regular procedures used in all international airports in the world for the security checks. Despite there having been no alarm while passing through the scanners, he was repeatedly asked to remove his turban for a further provocative check. The Court was also provided with evidence that many attempts were made by the Sikh Community in Poland to engage with the Border Guard Authorities to agree on suitable arrangements. These attempts came to no positive outcome.

However with the significant lobbying to Polish Ambassadors in India & the UK, to the Under Secretaries of State and politicians in the Polish Parliament, there have been some positive outcomes. The procedures for security checks have been clarified in new Regulations which spell out when such intrusive checks can be made and that a demand to remove a turban can be made only as a last resort.

The Lawyers in the case acting for Mr Puri have submitted a request for a written clarification of the ruling of the Judge. . Once the written judgement has been obtained, there is a strong possibility of an appeal to a higher Court. This decision will be made within the next two weeks.

Meanwhile many concerned people have expressed their disappointment and surprise at the ruling made by the Judge. In a statement to the press Mr Puri has stated, “We still ask the Border Guard to be responsive to the calls made to adopt more sensitive approaches to security checks, especially in connection with religious and cultural issues. We will ofcourse appeal on the Court Ruling and will pursue the matter further.”

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