Source: Viasna Belarus Human Rights Center in English
The Human Rights Center “Viasna” and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) launched a campaign to document cases of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of protesters on August 9-13. Some testimonies of people who survived torture and violence will be published on our website as evidence of crimes committed by security forces.
On August 10, the second day of the protests in Belarus, a video of riot policemen violently dispersing a group of young people in Dziaržynskaha Avenue appeared online. A bus drove up to them and riot policemen jumped out of it. When the young people huddled, the law enforcers began to beat them. Viachaslau Chakan, a 25-year-old Minsk resident, was among the beaten and detained. The video shows him being hit with batons at least ten times, kicked, and then dragged by the hands into the bus. The riot police broke his arm. At the hospital, he was diagnosed with many other injuries. Viachaslau told “Viasna” what happened to him in the bus and at the detention center.
“Kneel against the wall, leg by leg, face down, hands behind your back”
Viachaslau was held in the detention center in Akrescin Street on the night of August 10-11. According to him, from the moment of detention and during transportation to the detention center, he and other detainees were constantly beaten.
“After we had been detained, we were beaten again in that white bus.”
Upon arrival at the detention center, the detainees, Viachaslau among them, were immediately taken indoors.
“While they were taking us to the third floor, sometimes we were hit again. Then they put us on our knees against the wall, leg by leg, face down, hands behind our backs. We stood like that for an hour or so. Meanwhile, more people were being dropped off. Sometimes they were also beaten.
Then they started taking everyone to the assembly hall. Everyone was ordered to look down and not around. They threw us on the seats: hands out front, face down. That way we wouldn’t look at anyone.
There were about 50 people in the assembly hall. I definitely heard that there were 13 girls – they were talking to each other.”
“One person had a stick, which provoked beatings. He was actually tortured”
According to Viachaslau, on the night of August 10-11, he and other detainees were kept in a basement for some time. In the morning, he was taken back to the assembly hall.
“After they asked for our personal information, they started taking us into the hallway row by row. We were undressed, they took away our possessions – shoelaces, belts – and then we could get dressed again. Then they took us back to the basement.
In the basement, thank God, there weren’t riot policemen, but ordinary policemen or guards. I think they were the ‘duty officers’. They were already much friendlier to us. They talked differently and didn’t beat us. They gave us something to drink, let us stand and sit. There was something human in them.
Luckily, we were taken from the basement by the duty officer, not the riot police. He didn’t push me, I could walk safely up the stairs.
In the assembly hall, they kept us in the same position as before. We were not allowed to move. By that time they had searched all of our belongings, including phones. I had absolutely nothing on my phone, so they didn’t take me anywhere, but they took two guys out. One guy had some stick and he was beaten very badly. He was actually tortured. The riot police beat him non-stop for some 20 minutes. The guy was about 20 years old, if not younger – I could not raise my head to look, so I judged by the voice. He was already crying, asking them to stop. The riot policemen didn’t care. When the officer was done, he asked ‘How do I fuck you?’ Like, with or without a condom. Is that a normal person?
Another person, a man in his thirties, had some affiliation with a human rights organization that was helping people who had been detained all that time: either ‘Viasna’ or ‘Our House’. He was also very badly beaten by the riot policeman. You could hear the blows. He was beaten for a long time. The man asked them to stop, he was crying.”
“While my left side was injured, but not critically, my right side was just smashed”
Viachaslau was released on August 11, the morning after his arrest, having been given some papers to sign. According to the interlocutor, it was probably an administrative offense report. After Viachaslau was released from the detention center, he immediately went to a health center.
“My knee was seriously injured, and in general the right side of my body was just smashed. There was a real psychopath among the riot policemen. When he detained me, he was on my right side, and the other riot policeman was on my left. While my left side was injured, but not critically, my right side was just smashed.”
In the clinic, Viachaslau was diagnosed with a broken arm, bruises on the head, chest, shoulders, lower back, knees, a mild closed head injury, several abrasions and hematomas.
Viachaslau filed a petition to the Investigative Committee demanding to investigate the unlawful beatings by law enforcement officers.
More stories of people who survived police violence and torture:
“We felt like we were chickens brought to a cage with tigers.” Survivor stories
The riot police came out of the road police car. They poked their shotguns into our windows and told us to get out. We did. They put us on our knees and asked, ‘Do you want change?’ They hit us on the head with batons.
“Let’s take him to the police van, let the guys have fun.” Survivor stories
I was quite brutally detained. They immediately grabbed my phone because I was in the middle of a conversation. They said a few words and put me on the ground or my knees, I do not remember that for sure. And then the beatings started.
“We brought you to the execution, guys.” Survivor stories
Once somebody shouted: ‘Everybody stand up, look down.’ He opened the door and watched. Someone looked at him: ‘Bastards, why do I feel the look on me? If anyone else looks up, I and my baton will have fun.’
A bartender talks about his 3-day arrest. Survivor stories
Bartender Ruslan was detained on August 10 at 2 a.m. in Zybitskaya Street in Minsk when he was returning home from work. He spent the next three days at the detention center in Akrescin Street. Ruslan told “Viasna” what happened in the detention center on August 9-12.
“A riot policeman sat on me in the police van and exclaimed: ‘Look at my nice chair!’” Survivor stories
Andrei Viarshenia was brutally pulled out of his car by riot policemen on the night of August 11, when he was driving his friends home past the Riga shopping center. He was being beaten all the way to the detention center and after, until he lost consciousness. The man shared his detention story with “Viasna”.
“They threw my skateboard away and told me I feigned a broken arm.” Survivor stories
Ivan told “Viasna” the details of what happened: during the detention, his arm was broken and no ambulance was called, even when he reported a heart condition. The doctor at Žodzina detention center said that his arm was fine because it had not swollen up. The guy received medical attendance only after the trial.
“I had to take down my pants and stand in my underwear in the middle of the hall.” Survivor stories
“The man in civvies said very rudely, ‘Show me your leg.’ I couldn’t roll up my pants, so I said, ‘There are a lot of men here, maybe you should invite a policewoman.’ He said, ‘I don’t care, come on, take them off.’ I had to take down my pants and stand in my underwear just in the middle of the assembly hall.
“Riot policeman took another baton and said: ‘I wanted to be a drummer all my life.’” Survivor stories
“There were two 1.5-liter bottles, we asked for water, the policeman threw us a bottle and said: ‘This is enough for 24 hours.’ In the first two days, we didn’t eat or drink at all.
“They broke my ribs and found me guilty.” Survivor stories
Andrei Kazanovich, a member of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party, was detained by the riot police in Minsk in the evening of August 10. He did not make it to the detention center at Akrescin Street and had no time to sign the administrative offense report at the police department where he had been taken because after the beating he lost consciousness and was taken to hospital. But this did not prevent Kazanovich from being charged with participating in an unauthorized protest.
“When they looked at my ID, the beating became softer.” Survivor stories
Minsk resident Piotr Kiryk was detained at about midnight on August 12 when he was getting off a bus with a friend (between Malinaŭka and Piatroŭščyna metro stations). The boy was 16 years old (17 at the moment), but this did not stop the riot police from using force against him.
Rape threats and “shared responsibility”. Survivor stories
Some 10 minutes later another van arrived and they threw me there, face against the wall and hands behind my back. There were about 10 people in the cage, including a girl – she was detained because she had bandages and cotton wool in her bag. She was psychologically pressured and cursed.
“You have thrown Molotovs!” they said and hit us with a Taser.” Survivor stories
23-year-old Ihar Kviatko was detained on August 11 in a taxi. The Minsk resident told Viasna about what happened next. When interviewed, Ihar was unable to sit because of his injuries.
“They started beating me again and said: ‘This is a refill for you!’” Survivor stories
26-year-old Minsk resident Aliaksandr Lukyanski was returning home from work at night on August 11. He knew that people in the city were going to peaceful protests, so he decided to take a taxi.
“A paramedic came and started beating people.” Survivor stories
18-year-old Illia was detained on August 11 near “Pushkinskaya” metro station when he was driving to his native city. He told “Viasna” how inhumanely he was treated and beaten in the police department and in the detention center in Akrescin Street.
“White paint was poured on my head. It was like a sign to beat me harder.” Survivor stories
Stas and his friend were walking along Arlouskaya Street when they were overtaken by two vans with tinted windows. A law enforcement officer wearing a green uniform came out. The couple asked him how dangerous it was to go forward.
“One of them beats you and the other aims at you with a machine gun.” Survivor stories
28-year-old Minsk resident Uladzislau Salavei, a kindergarten teacher assistant, was detained on August 9 and placed in the detention center in Akrescin Street. There, he was sentenced to 14 days of arrest and then transferred to a compulsory rehabilitation center near Sluck to serve his time.
“They took away my bra with a breast prosthesis.” Survivor stories
Maryia Ambrosava from Minsk told Viasna how she and her husband Yury went to a police station on August 10 to report their son missing, but found themselves in a police van and spent four days in the detention center in Akrescin Street. All these days, they were not aware that their son had been released, so when people were shouting from beatings, Maryia felt it was her son who was screaming.
“Road police officers broke my arm during detention.” Survivor stories
Aliaksei Prakharenka works as a taxi driver in Minsk. On August 11, he was driving a client when he was stopped and then detained by road policemen. During the detention, they broke Aliaksei’s arm. That was the reason why he spent only half an hour in the detention center in Akrescin Street. Nevertheless, in this short time, he had to see a lot.
“I was lucky to be a journalist and to have my kidneys thrashed previously.” Survivor stories
Siarhei Herasimovich was detained on 10 August at 9 p.m. near the Yubileynaya Hotel in Minsk. He was walking with his journalist colleagues when the cars on the avenue started beeping. Siarhei raised his hand in a Victory sign. Suddenly, the riot police shouted: “Come here!” The journalist walked up and was brutally thrown into the police van where the policemen started beating him with batons.
“We will shoot you and you will never be found.” Survivor stories
18-year-old Uladzimir Pahartsau says that he was not beaten so hard compared to other detainees, because he was chosen to give an interview to a state TV channel about the “coordinators of the protests.”
“We were trampled in the police bus.” Survivor stories
23-year-old Yury Panamarou was detained in the evening of August 11 on his way to a street food market in central Minsk. He told Viasna about the cruelty of his unjustified detention and the conditions under which he was kept for two days in the detention center in Akrescin Street.
“Now we’ll show you how to s..t your pants.” Survivor stories
On August 11, Dzianis Selivankin was approached by two police officers at the intersection of Pieramožcaŭ Avenue and Mieĺnikajte Street. They asked for his ID. Dzianis replied that he had no passport with him. Then the young man was forced to unlock his smartphone. What they saw in Dzianis’s Telegram enraged them.
“So you are for Tsikhanouskaya?” Survivor stories
Vasil Hushcha (48) was detained in the evening of August 9 near the Maskva cinema next to Niamiha street. He was freed in the morning of August 14. Vasil told “Viasna” about the tortures in the detention center on the Akrescin Street, his transfer to a prison in Žodzina (60 km from Minsk) and the conditions there.
“Officers abused me all the time because I’m black.” Survivor stories
Hleb was detained on August 11 near the shopping center “Skala”. He says that the riot policemen detained him when he simply walked down the street with headphones on his head. He spend the next three days in the police station of Maskouski district, then in the detention center on Akrescin Street and finally in a correctional facility in Sluck.
“They kicked me in the head with their police boots.” Survivor stories
I turned up by chance, they put me in a bus or in a police van, I don’t remember which. They took my phone away at once, broke it, asked for the password, I do not understand on what grounds. Then they took me to the Maskoŭski police department. They didn’t beat me much in the police van, but started beating in the police department.
“People were screaming every night.” Survivor stories
A Minsk resident was detained on August 9 and left the Center for the Confinement of Offenders on the morning of August 12. All this time he, like the other detainees, was deprived of food. Forty people were held in a six-men cell, and riot police insulted and beat people at night. The guy, who chose to remain anonymous, agreed to tell Viasna what he had to go through.