A bartender talks about his 3-day arrest. Survivor stories
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.
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.
"We asked the traffic policeman how to get by so that we wouldn't be detained, but eventually it was us who were detained."
"When the mess on Niamiha began, I realized that I had no business being at work. With a friend, a colleague, a bar guest, and a girl we packed up and went home. We did not approach the rally or anything connected to it. We went in the direction of home along Internatsyjanalnaya Street, intentionally bypassing that crowd. But still, there was a lot of riot police and simple police around. Near Zhuravinka Cafe, we asked a traffic policeman what the best way to go around and call a cab was so that we wouldn't be detained. He did not just smile with a ridiculous smile but walked us towards the Yanka Kupala Park with a contented look. In the dark arch, I was just pulled under my arm by a riot policeman. When asked what the reason for the detention was, he did not answer anything. We just asked the traffic policeman how to get by so that we wouldn't be detained, but in the end, it was us who were detained. I tried to explain that I was coming from work, but of course, nobody cared."
"I don't care. Bring everyone in."
"We were taken to the yellow bus, there were 30-40 other people. We did not resist when we were detained, no wrongdoing was committed. We walked quietly. I tried to explain the situation to the riot policeman. He just said: 'We'll sort it out, don't worry, everything will be fine.'
In 15 minutes, a police van arrived. They took us out of the bus, put us against the wall, told us to raise our hands above our heads and stand like that. A very aggressive riot policeman came out of the police van and started swearing and throwing detainees into the vehicle. The girls were released. Four of us remained near the wall: me, the colleague, the bar guest, and a guy from Turkey. He was shouting: ‘I am a Turkish citizen!’ A riot policeman came out and started shouting: 'Who are these people?' The other one answered: 'The guys say that they were coming from work.' But the first one didn't care, he said: 'I don't care. Bring everyone in.'
Entering the police van was accompanied by the blows of a rubber baton. In the van, we stood like sardines in a can. But this is not the worst thing. At the detention center, we were let out of the van and had to run through a "corridor" of riot police. There were 6-7 people on each side who beat everyone."
"We stood on our knees on small stones"
"We were told to squat near the wall. So we sat and moved along the wall for about two hours. Hands up, head down. One guy asked, 'I've got asthma, can I at least take the inhaler?' The answer was: 'You either die or not, either survive or not.’ In the yard of the detention center, there is an area with small stones, we were put on our knees there. After that, all of us were brought into exercise yards. Again, we ran through the lines of police who beat us all. I mean, we could not run at all, because our legs were swollen. We stayed in the exercise yard for about 20 minutes, and then we were brought to the detention center.
In our cell 23, we were 18 people for four beds. That night, from August 9 to 10, the police vans arrived non-stop one by one, we saw it through a window. We heard people being beaten, people asked and begged to stop the violence. I have never heard men ask like that in my life. They swore that they were not protesting, they were driven to tears. It was enough to raise our hair, and blood ran cold. The blows did not stop, even when a man fell, probably, from a pain shock or something. But the blows continued anyway."
"When the paramedic saw that he was breathing, she just sat on him."
“There was a female paramedic who sometimes came up to people who had been lying without moving for about an hour. In front of me, she kicked one person to check if he was moving. When the paramedic saw that he was breathing, she just sat on him and watched other guys being beaten. We were pulled out of the cell to be filmed. We had to introduce ourselves, tell where and under what circumstances we were detained. When people told that they were not guilty, they were only told, 'Well, nobody is guilty here.' I was in my cell for more than three days.
We had tap water. It was still water. We were fed only on the third day in the morning. We got a couple of pieces of bread and some porridge. The porridge was extremely dense."
"Those who have not been tried didn't get food."
"The trials were held right in the detention center. The judges had tables placed in the corridors. The guys I was in the cell with told me that they approached the table and were asked what, how, and where happened. It was a quick procedure. As they say, they were already convicted before the trial. I was not tried in time and was forced to sign a report upon my release. However, they did not give me a copy. They said that in the neighboring cells, those who had not been tried were not fed. If they noticed that someone was sharing food, they took food away from everyone.
There was a guy of 30-35 years old with a smashed head. We asked the guards to call a doctor, but we were refused. Only on the second night, that guy was taken away. We really did not know: either to a medical facility or to the detention center in Žodzina.
Opposite our cell, there was a cell for women. They were more than men in our cell. There were about 40-50 girls in one cell. We saw that some of them felt bad because of lack of oxygen.
There was a situation when one guy threw up. An officer in black came, most likely a riot policeman, brought two buckets full of strange bad-smelling substance. He poured one on that guy, and the handed the second bucket to him and said, 'Go clean your mess.'”
"You can't sleep during the day because of the screams in the corridors, you can't sleep at night because of the moans.”
"Through the feeder, we saw people being beaten. It was very scary when we heard the screams, but not the beating. It was not the beatings but some torture, I don't know what they were doing. There were constant groans and shouts. We couldn't sleep during the day because there was a constant commotion in the corridors, we couldn't sit down either, because they looked inside the cell and prohibited sitting. We couldn't sleep at night because of these terrible moans. We slept in all possible ways. We were taking turns. I slept on the floor under the bed. That was how the three days passed: you can't sleep during the day because of the screams in the corridors, you can't sleep at night because of the moans.
When riot police came to the detention center, they opened cells at random and beat people: either in a cell or at the exit. There was a guy in the cell with us, an alcoholic and drug addict, who had severe withdrawal cravings and hallucinations. He tried to save everyone, asked for a sword, shouted and knocked on the cell door. We were afraid that because of him they would come and beat us all. We were warned: 'If I hear a scream, everyone will be beaten up.'
The worst thing was the lack of knowledge of what would happen next. We were threatened with arrests. Every second we spent in fear of being beaten, fear that now the door would open, people would run in and beat us."
"You'll be reading newspapers on the toilet at home"
According to Ruslan, he was released three days later on August 12 at about 5 a.m. He was given an administrative offense report and a warning against participation in mass events under threat of criminal prosecution.
"I asked them to at least let me read the report, but the answer was: 'You will read newspapers on the toilet at home.'
Then they put us against the wall and asked us to pull up our shirts to examine the body. I was 'clean' and had only a couple of bruises on my legs. Others were asked to take off their pants, I was not. After that, we were taken away to the side where we were beaten again. That is, if you were clean, you passed that 'rite'. The riot policemen just beat us randomly, well, mostly hitting on the hips and buttocks area. All that was accompanied by screams and questions: 'Where is your Tsikhanouskaya?', 'Will you protest again?', 'Will you tell your friends?' They made me shout 'I love riot police.' After that procedure, we were released and walked along the fence towards the exit."
More stories of people who survived police violence and torture:
"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".
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.