Source: Viasna Belarus Human Rights Center in English
In August, within days of one another, three people were laid to rest after attending post-election protests that were met with police violence and non-lethal weapons. In Minsk, Aliaksandr Taraikouski died from a rubber bullet wound. Henadz Shutau from Brest died a few days later under similar circumstances. Aliaksandr Vikhor from Homieĺ was detained, and three days later, the young man died in hospital. The three families requested criminal investigations into alleged murders. However, the authorities are still reluctant to properly address the police-related abuses.
Aliaksandr Vikhor, 25. They beat him, but that’s not the cause of death
It’s been three months since Aliaksandr Vikhor died. Photo: Siarhei Kamkou/TUT.by
“I am ready to shout to the whole world, I want everyone to know: my son did not die, my son was killed for nothing,” Aliaksandr’s mother Sviatlana said shortly after his death.
The young man was detained in on August 9 on his way to see his girlfriend. The family had being looking for Sasha for two days, before learning that he had died in the city hospital.
“The police thought he was insane and brought him to a psychoneurological clinic. The doctors said that Sasha was under a lot of stress and needed medical help. Later, my brother was taken to a tuberculosis clinic. As the doctors later told us, he was already in a state of clinical death, they tried to resuscitate him for an hour. We were also told that my brother had a brain edema,” the victim’s sister Volha said.
Investigators have spent three months deciding whether they should open a criminal case. The family is sure that Aliaksandr was beaten and denied timely help when he needed it.
“In October, we saw the results of a forensic examination, in part. It is more than 50 pages, but we could not see several pages, they simply were not there. The investigator explained this by the fact that those pages contained a non-medical part of the examination,” Aliaksandr Vikhor’s family told TUT.BY. “We were not allowed to take photos or make a copy of the document, we had to copy it by hand, instead. The jest of the examination is as follows: there was no alcohol or drugs in Sasha’s blood, and the death occurred due to heart problems.”
Aliaksandr’s relatives call the forensic examination “contradictory”, since so many questions remain unanswered: How did Aliaksandr die? Could his injuries have caused his death? If help had been provided in a timely manner, would the man have survived?
Aliaksandr Vikhor’s funeral. Photo: Siarhei Kamkou/TUT.by
“The experts describe Sasha’s fractures of the ribs and breastbone, multiple bruises and then say that these injuries are not causally related to death. It is alleged that his ribs were broken during resuscitation, we can admit it, we are not doctors, after all. So we showed our copy of the examination results to specialists. They were surprise to learn that during the heart massage, they broke the ribs that were closer to the waist,” Aliaksandr’s family says, recalling that in the summer the man underwent a medical examination from the military enlistment office. “Then why didn’t any of the doctors say, “Boy, you’re terminally ill. You need to register with a cardiologist.” Yes, he received a deferment from the army, he had disorders of the cardiovascular system, but people with such abnormalities live very long. Why did these deviations worsen in that particular situation? Did they escalate in three days of imprisonment so that the man just died? What influenced this? Physical and psychological violence or failure to provide medical care? According to the documents, Sasha died at 3.35 am. At 12 am he was already being autopsied. And we did not know where he was until 2 pm, as we were driving around the city trying to find him. Should not they have contacted his family? His identity had been established, so why didn’t they tell us anything?”
An additional forensic examination has been ordered. It will be made in Minsk.
“So far, the probe has been suspended until the results of the examination are received. If the first one lasted two months, we can imagine how long this one will take. It seems to us that in this way they are just dragging time,” Aliaksandr Vikhor’s family says. “We asked the investigator: does it not matter that Sasha was beaten, gassed, not given any pills, maybe this was the reason for what happened? Maybe the heart could not withstand the pain and coma? The investigator replied: “Yes, they beat him. But in this country the police are allowed to use physical force, use handcuffs and weapons under certain conditions. We are trying to see whether they have exceeded their official authority or not.” What does he mean by “certain conditions”, when the man was under arrest? What danger does it pose? Witnesses say that when Sasha was suffocating in the police van, they sprayed tear gas on purpose.”
Aliaksandr Taraikouski. No murder case, but people are still bringing flowers to place of death
Three months ago, on August 10 , Aliaksandr Taraikouski was killed near the Puškinskaja metro station in Minsk. His last minutes of life were captured on video, and this footage refutes the original version of the Interior Ministry, which read as follows: “On August 10, at about 11 pm, during the riots in Minsk on Prytycki Street, a crowd was building barricades to block traffic. During the confrontation with the security forces, who arrived to unblock the area, one of the protesters tried to throw an unidentified explosive device in the direction of law enforcement. It exploded in his hand, the man received fatal injuries.”
The video shows: Aliaksandr had nothing in his hands, and he collapsed after a chest injury.
Footage showing the death of Aliaksandr Taraikouski
“They never invite me anywhere. The investigator calls from time to time, asking clarifying questions. (…) Every time, I ask him a question about a criminal case, and he answers: “We are working on it.” He said that most likely the probe would last three months, which is the maximum allowed period. The lawyer has already prepared a letter to the Investigative Committee requesting a criminal case. (…) I don’t know what could be the reason for not opening a criminal case. Although I realize that it is unlikely that anything will happen,” Alena Herman, Aliaksandr Taraikouski’s partner, told TUT.BY earlier.
A month has passed since then and Alena still has no news from the Investigative Committee.
“I was not allowed to see the results of the forensic examination. There was no letter from the Investigative Committee. We are waiting, maybe we will receive an answer one of these days,” says Alena.
The Investigative Committee is in no hurry to give a legal assessment of Aliaksandr Taraikouski’s death. Meanwhile, two Minskers have been charged with painting the phrase “We Will Not Forget!” on the pavement near the place where Aliaksandr was killed. Maryia Babovich is now in custody, she is charged with two articles of the Criminal Code: Part 2 of Art. 339 (hooliganism) and Part 2 of Art. 218 (intentional damage to property). Dzianis Hrakhanau was arrested for restoring the phrase, after it was painted over by the city authorities. According to his mother, the government estimated the damage at 10,000 rubles. Maryia and Dzianis face up to 10 years in prison.
Henadz Shutau. “There are no sufficient grounds to initiate a criminal case”
While the families of Aliaksandr Vikhor and Aliaksandr Taraikouski are waiting for replies from the Investigative Committee, Henadz Shutau’s family has already received one.
“A legal assessment of the actions of those involved in the infliction of bodily harm on Shutau will be given during the criminal investigation. At present, there are no sufficient grounds to initiate a criminal case under Article 139 of the Criminal Code (murder),” the investigators said.
Memorial near the place where Henadz Shutau was killed. Photo: belsat.eu
Henadz Shutau’s was wounded in the head on August 11 and died eight days later in a military hospital. A medical certificate said that the external cause of death was “injury as a result of a shot from a handgun with uncertain intentions.”
The man’s family told TUT.BY that the authorities are still investigating the case of resistance to law enforcement officers. Henadz Shutau and his friend Aliaksandr Kardziukou are suspects in the case.