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 the night of August 11-12, 31-year-old Minsk resident Mikalai Bondar was literally dragged from his car by law enforcement officers for a white ribbon on his arm. The traffic and riot policemen smashed his car, beat him, broke his nose, and took him to the detention center. Mikalai told “Viasna” what had happened to him that night.
“The traffic policeman just threw a baton at the car”
Mikalai explained that he and his friends were returning home along Pliakhanava Street on the evening of August 11. But the man never made it home that evening.
“There was a big crowd of riot police, army, and police vans in Pliakhanava Street. We stopped at an intersection at a traffic light. And one of the riot policemen standing on the oncoming lane saw a white ribbon on my arm. I noticed that that information was passed to a traffic policeman standing in the center of the intersection. He came up and immediately pointed to my car telling me to pull over to the side of the road.
I realized that it happened for a reason. I started to move slowly to the spot he had shown me. We saw that there were six riot policemen coming towards us. They were the ‘cosmonauts’: carrying shields and dressed in all the gear. I told the people who were in the car with me, ‘Guys, we need to try to run away. Most likely we are about to be detained quite viciously.’
I put in the first speed, and the traffic policeman ran towards me, but he was two or three meters away and just threw his baton at the car. A traffic police car followed us. We drove past the intersection. The guys quickly got out of the car.
The traffic police car stopped right next to me, and a traffic cop ran out of it and started beating me with his baton. Then the second one got out and started kicking me and hitting with a baton, too. He said, ‘Get out.’ I replied, ‘Calm down, don’t beat me, let me get out.’ As soon as I got out of the car, they started beating me again. It all happened very quickly, five to seven seconds.”
Mikalai’s car after being attacked by riot police
“A mark was left on the hood from the knife they used to puncture the tires with”
“Then a bus with the riot police arrived. All in all, there were already eight people beating me near the car. Two of them were in traffic police uniforms, but they were wearing bulletproof vests. They would beat me and say, ‘Why didn’t you stop, did you want to run him over?’ I said, ‘Are you crazy? I was driving around him, I’m a completely peaceful person.’
The riot policemen came over and started kicking me and beating me with batons. They broke my nose right in the car. One of them hit me with the driver’s door of my car. They were wearing masks, helmets, shields, black uniforms. I assume it was the riot police. No one introduced themselves, ever. They broke all the windows in the car, all the headlights, punctured all the wheels. And I still have the mark of the knife they used to puncture the tires on my hood.”
“They smashed my phone with a couple of strokes of a baton”
“They dragged me into that bus, I was bleeding. At that point, one of the law enforcers came up to me and started poking me with my phone: ‘Tell me the code.’ First I refused pretending it wasn’t my phone. They started kicking me and hitting on the head with a baton. They beat me long enough. My phone was smashed with a couple of strokes of a baton. While they were taking me to the bus, they also beat me.”
“They made some people sing ‘We’re Waiting for Change’”
“The bus was open-type, obviously not meant for detainees, rather for the transportation of the riot police. There were about 15 guys kneeled on the floor. Two girls were also sitting there. There were probably five riot policemen inside. For some reason, I was told to sit down. I was bleeding, maybe that’s why they didn’t put me face down. But they told me not to raise my head. Apparently, thus I wouldn’t see or recognize them.
They spoke to the girls in a rude manner. They swore at them and said, ‘Why did you come here?’ The girls behaved quite calmly and confidently. They were not beaten. At least not in front of us.
As it turned out, later we were transferred from the bus to a police van. While we were driving, they kept beating us. They asked if we wanted change. They made some people sing ‘We’re Waiting for Change’. They told us to say the third line of the anthem. A man was beaten, he said, ‘I don’t know the anthem.’ They said, ‘Your wives are waiting at home for you, unloved (in foul language), and you’re fucking around here.’ All that was accompanied by blows with batons. I remember someone coming up to me, asking me something, I tried to answer – he just kicked me, I hit the handhold (their shields were behind them), and my ears started bleeding. That happened several times. They hit me with their hands, too.
The riot police used a strange language, something I had never heard before. I later tried to remember what made their speech so distinctive, but I still don’t know. I remember that I was very surprised that they spoke in pure Russian. There was no Belarusian accent on anyone’s part. All the riot policemen were very excited. All the detainees were absolutely calm, but those people were not calm.”
“You’ll stand in a chain, we hit one person with a baton on the head, they will lose consciousness – and that’s it, your chain breaks”
“When we arrived at the next spot, every person was beaten with batons very hard when they were moved to another van. Then they put one man on his knees and two riot policemen started beating his coccyx with batons. They were really trying to break it. The man was quite old, he was a bit bald. And he was just crying like a five-year-old child and saying, ‘Don’t hit me, please, I shitted my pants.’
Then one policeman said, ‘Where’s the driver?’ They pointed at me. ‘Well, take him out for a preventive talk.’ A policeman was sitting in the back of the van and looking at his phone with great interest. He was probably reading the opposition Telegram-channels and grinning. You could see that he was genuinely interested. On the way they laughed and said, ‘You’ll stand in a chain, we hit one person with a baton in the head, they will lose consciousness – and that’s it, your chain breaks.’ And the riot policeman with the phone stood up for me and said, ‘That’s enough.’
They made me wipe the floor of the van with my T-shirt – there was such a puddle of blood.”
“When I said the word ‘pacifist’, they seemed to freeze”
“When they brought us in, they pointed at me and said, ‘He’s the last one out. At that moment I realized that there was a possibility that I wouldn’t get out of there at all. When they took everyone out of the van, three more riot policemen came in. One of them was clearly the commander: he was older than the others, wrinkled, about 40 years old. He had clear regard and was calm. He looked at me and said, ‘Why are you driving into people?’ I said: ‘Guys, first of all, have pity on me, I have three children, and secondly, I was passing around him, I did not even hit him, and you know that very well. And anyway, guys, I’m a pacifist. I’ve never fought once in my life.’ When I said that word ‘pacifist’, they seemed to freeze. At that moment, the atmosphere in the police van changed dramatically. I don’t know what happened, but that commander looked at me and said, ‘You have no idea how lucky you are today. Get out.’ I came out of the police van and nobody hit me once. But there was a chain of riot policemen outside, those were hitting me. Every third one of them hit me. They were aiming at my groin with their feet and batons.
When they were transferring us, there was a short riot policeman with a rifle fixing his mask – he was very cautious that I didn’t recognize him. Maybe he recognized me. He asked me, ‘Does it hurt?’ I said, ‘It hurts, but it’s not scary.’”
“It’s okay, he won’t die. We’ll be there soon, let him tough it out”
“The second police van was meant specifically for prisoners. They put eight of us in one of the sections. One of the men was drunk and said, ‘Let me go, I went out for a beer. What do you want?’ Then we drove somewhere else, and they added five more people to us. One man was fainting all the time – he couldn’t get enough air. We said, ‘Give him something, he’s sick!’ They answered, ‘It’s okay, he won’t die. We’ll be there soon, so let him tough it out.’
Six of us were sitting, everyone else was standing. They didn’t say where we were going. But before we left, when they put five more people in the back, they made us each get out of the section and throw everything we had in our pockets on the floor. I had just my car keys on me. I knew I had to get out among the first because the quality of people from the riot police was very different. There were more or less adequate people who would just frisk you and let you go, and there were people who would frisk you and beat you up. Once again I was lucky. But the next one after me was already getting beaten up badly. I don’t know what influenced the choice.”
“The ones who sing the anthem of Belarus the loudest will get the least beaten up”
“They brought us to the detention center. The door opened, and the riot policeman shouted, ‘The ones who sing the anthem of Belarus the loudest, will get the least beaten up. But it did not help at all. Everyone got the same treatment. It was probably the most brutal day. In that line, everyone tried to hit each of us on both sides. At that point, all I could think was: ‘You have to get through this as fast as you can.’ They were hitting with batons, kicking, but they didn’t hit with fists. We ran through those lines, and at the end of it there was a man who said, ‘That’s it, stay here.’ I did. They immediately said, ‘Get down on your knees.’ That was the yard of the detention center. We were lying on the ground: forehead and nose on the ground, hands behind our backs. We lay like that for an hour, maybe two.”
“They took people out one by one, put them up against the wall, searched them, and beat them severely”
“They were beating some people very badly, and there was no logic in that. It would have been logical to beat me senseless because I allegedly wanted to run someone over. But in the end, they just kept saying, ‘Are you going to hit more people?’ I got hit once. And the others were hit three times.
We were interviewed. A girl was walking along the line poking her pen in the back: ‘Name, date of birth, place of work.’ There was a man from “Belarusneft” in front of me, a driller’s assistant. He was the only one who was asked: ‘What is your salary?’ When he said it was three thousand Belarusian rubles, she replied, ‘So, ain’t that enough for you, asshole?’ The guy answered, ‘I came out of the house, you got me when I was smoking. What do you want from me?’ At that time I saw out of the corner of my eye that they were taking people out in a chain, putting them up against the wall, searching them, and beating them badly. I didn’t get to that point.”
“He hit me on the head with a baton. I fainted”
“My nose was broken, the blood wouldn’t stop running. In that position, all the blood rushed to my head. I stuffed some grass from under my feet into my nostrils to stop the blood. It only helped for ten minutes. At some point, I realized that I was about to lose consciousness: a sharp fever hit my head, my ears were clogged. I realized that if I did not straighten up now, that would be it. I said, ‘Guys, I feel really bad, I’m going to faint.’
There were two types of people at the detention center: the local staff and the riot police. The local staff said, ‘Okay, change your position, lean against a cold surface.’ When I leaned against a pipe, I really felt better, but it didn’t last long. The riot policeman came in: ‘Take the initial position.’ That happened several times. Once again I realized that I felt so bad that I didn’t even care anymore, I just wanted them to finish me off. The local staff let me sit down and said, ‘Calm down, it’s ok.’ Then a riot policeman came along and said, ‘Don’t make a scene.’ I said, ‘I’m not going to make a scene…’ He hit me on the head with a baton. I fainted.”
Bruises on the victim’s body
“Bring him round and take him back here”
“I woke up in an ambulance. My ears and nose were bleeding, and my face was black with clotted blood. Next to me, there was a guy who had been shot in the head and leg with rubber bullets. He was also half-conscious. I could hear a policeman talking to the girl from the ambulance. She said, ‘I’m taking him away. His nose is broken, his head is all banged up, he’s going to die here, do you want that?’ And the riot policeman replied, ‘Bring him round and take him back here.’ She refused, ‘No, that’s a crime on my part. I won’t do it.’ So she really protected me.
They put a splint on my arm right away, because I was defending myself with my left hand, it was swollen badly. I was sure it was broken, but it turned out all right. At the exit, the door opened again and someone said, ‘Why don’t you stay?’ I don’t know if it was a joke or something. And he said, ‘Name, birth year?’ I gave it. They crossed us off the list and said, ‘I hope we don’t see you again.’”
“Can I take your picture, because people don’t believe me?”
“We were brought to the Baraŭliany hospital. I was examined by a surgeon, and then more doctors. One of them lifted me up, looked at my back and said, ‘Holy shit. Can I take your picture, because people don’t believe me?’ Then he showed me that picture, there were marks from batons and only a couple of white triangles where the blows didn’t hit.”
Mikalai was diagnosed with multiple contusions, including to the head, and a closed head injury. According to the man, he was very scared to go back to the detention center to get his things:
“I thought I was going to be detained again, but they were like, ‘Oh, that’s you, come here…’ But I thought that if they didn’t kill me then, they definitely won’t kill me now. When I got there, I saw the place where I was lying, my puddle of blood on the pavement. Even though three days had passed since then, no one cleaned it up yet.”
More stories of people who survived police violence and torture:
Violent protest dispersion resulted in a broken arm and a night at the detention center. Survivor stories
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.
“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.