"We brought you to the execution, guys." Survivor stories

2020 2020-12-04T13:19:05+0300 2020-12-04T13:19:06+0300 en http://spring96.org/files/images/sources/mikita_729.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

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.

21-year-old Mikita was detained by riot policemen in Minsk on the night of August 9-10 for having a white ribbon in his pocket. The young man was on his way home but ended up in the detention center at Akrescin Street, where he was sentenced to 13 days of arrest under Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses for allegedly shouting slogans at protest actions. Now Mikita stays in a Minsk hospital. He is diagnosed with a head injury, contusions, including on internal organs, and abrasions. Mikita told "Viasna" what happened to him that night and how the following five days passed.

"Why are you sitting here, do you want to be detained?"

"On August 9, there was no Internet, my friends and I decided to take a walk around the city. We saw some people and a lot of police. Then we reached the bus stop and the guys went home. I called my friend who at that time worked in a cafe in Zybitskaya Street. I decided to go to that place to get him and go home together because we live next to each other.

When I got to Niamiha, there was a cordon, a lot of cars, special vehicles. I sat down on a bench and got into a conversation with some girls.

People began to scatter away. Special squads started to get off the police vans. They ran after people, grabbed them, the people fell and were dragged on the ground. When we wanted to get up and leave, a squad stopped us: 'What are you doing here? If you do not want to be detained, sit still.' We obeyed and sat down. Again the special squad goes somewhere: 'Why are you sitting here, if you want to be detained – we can do it, otherwise, get away from here.' It repeated several times.”

"When we overtook a police van, three people in balaclavas jumped out of it."

“We got to Burger King in Niamiha Street and met a friend. We wanted to go get the car that was parked in Kharuzhay Street. We approached the bridge, but couldn't pass, they told us to go to the Sports Palace, there was a passage. We went there. There they flipped us off frankly and threatened with detention. One of them said, 'Guys, go further, towards Frunzenskaya metro station, you can pass there.' Through the yards and small roads, we managed to arrive at the 'Minsk is a Hero City' monument. There was a police van, and next to it, on the pedestrian walkway, there was a masked man in black. We saw that some girls were walking peacefully, and thought that everything was fine. But when we overtook the police van, three people in black and balaclavas jumped out of there. They had patches on their chest – a triangle and a number. I was surrounded by the three of them, one came up to my friend. Someone took out a baton. They said: 'Guys, show me the phones, show me the contents of your pockets and bags.' I did not have anything special on me. I took out the phone, unlocked it. He started browsing the phone and said: 'Empty your pockets.' I had money, keys, and a white ribbon in my pocket. When he saw the ribbon, he said: 'Now it's clear.'"

"It's because of people like you that I'm afraid to let my children play in the street."

"I started to pack my stuff, the phone was in my hand. At that moment, he shouted something abusive and hit me in the face, on the head. And again. Before that, somebody hit my leg from behind. Then, three people twisted me and threw into the police van. There, I got beaten again. I tried to protect myself in a sitting position as much as I could. He shouted: 'It is because of people like you that I am afraid to let my children play in the street.'

Inside the van, we had a conversation with a riot policeman. We said, 'How is that possible, we were on the way home, we just got caught in the street, beaten up...' He replied, 'I see you guys are okay, sensible, I heard and saw everything, we'll just take you to the police station, there you either sign the report or tell everything as it was, and I think they will let you go.'

We were sitting like that for some time. Another person was taken in, he was waiting for a wrap near a street shop. He hadn't been beaten much yet. Then the second van arrived. A small column of people in balaclavas, helmets, with batons, was formed. They shouted: 'Look down! Hands behind your backs! Run!' They beat us unmercifully with batons transferring to another police van and threw us on our knees on the floor. We drove for about 20 minutes, if someone moved, they were kicked. Again we were transferred to another police van. Again, they beat us on the way between the two vans. I was thrown into a metal box and locked there. There was a bench inside. I hit the wall with my shoulder and head."

"We ran up to the third floor crouched and were beaten with batons along the way."

"For a very long time, we drove to an unknown place. We went out accompanied by masked people with batons. We were taken to a room with cameras. We were put facing the wall: we did not see or understand anything. They ordered us to undress and started recording it. I was taken to a room for the inspection, completely undressed. I asked a person there: 'Where are we?' 'In prison.' That's all, I didn't ask him anything else, because I saw that he was tense. He looked through everything, removed by shoelaces, put everything in a bag.

We ran up to the third floor crouched and were beaten with batons along the way. They put people in cells in threes. Our cell was meant for six people. After a while, there were 32 men in that cell. Of various ages and professions. We did not know anything, did not understand, we only heard screams, groans, we heard people being beaten on the street."

"A pregnant woman was beaten when she asked for help."

"Someone constantly came up to the door, called out surnames. If a person was sleeping or did not respond the first time, or it took him long to get up, he was taken away and immediately beaten. It was difficult to wash my shirt and let it dry because we needed to put it on wet when a guard came in.

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.' He said that in obscene language.

There were a lot of unpleasant episodes. For example, there was a pregnant woman in the opposite cell, she got 25 days of arrest. Something happened to her stomach, she started screaming, asking for help. She was beaten up for it.

The KGB would come, film us, and ask provocative questions like 'Why did you throw stones?', 'Who paid you: the U.S. State Department or the Russian Federation?' After such an interrogation, they would ask each other: 'Where is he going, back to the cell or a separate room in our agency?' No one was sent to that room, I don't know, maybe they were just intimidating us. They tried to break us psychologically as much as possible."

"This is not consistent with the reports, it can not be this way."

“We were fed only on the third day. They gave us 100 grams of bread and some porridge. Generally, I do not eat porridge. I took a spoon and tried to eat not to starve to death, but I started feeling sick. Eventually, I shared it with someone. The bread was eaten with stinky tap water. On the fourth day, it all repeated. The light in the cell was on all the time.

I was sentenced only on the third day. The trial was absolutely inadequate. The judge arrived, I was taken to a room. He informed me that I was detained on August 9 at 9 p.m., that I chanted something. 'Do you agree?' I said, 'I agree if it can speed up my release. Can I tell you what really happened?' I told him the truth. He said, 'This is not consistent with the reports, it can not be this way. So, don't you agree?' He meant I was cheating. I said, 'It's up to you, I told you how it happened.' 13 days of arrest. I was taken away.

I went back to my cell. They kept calling people somewhere. I was in a horrible moral condition. We didn't get any information from the outside. Through the feeder, we could hear people shouting the time.”

"We brought you to the execution, guys."

"On the fourth day, we were taken outside and kneeled at the fence. We stood on sand and rocks for about an hour. If someone felt bad and started stretching his legs, he got beaten. Someone asked if we could lie on the ground, a guard said, 'Yes, you can'. We lay on the sand because our limbs were numb.

Then they commanded, 'Get up! Follow the sound.' There was a corridor of special police, they shouted something, hit us with batons. I ran, almost stumbled upon an officer, because they stood in the shape of a zigzag, he pushed me away. We ran to a police van. We spent quite some time inside before it started. Then, we drove in a terrible heat for 40 minutes. It was sunny, even though it was evening. We were trying to lower our heads to get air. While we were driving, the cars were beeping, people were applauding – it was nice.

We had a pierced wheel, as it turned out later. Someone asked, 'Guys, where are we, why did we stop?' They shouted with serious faces, 'We brought you to the execution, guys.' Then, after two or three minutes, they started laughing at how cool their jokes were."

"My parents did not know anything about me for four days."

"We came to the compulsory rehabilitation center near Sluck. We were kindly welcomed there. We even washed. I'm really grateful to the officers who treat people so well. We stayed in Sluck until Friday, for less than 24 hours.

We were all brought outside, forced to sign a piece of paper saying that we repent of what we did, that we wouldn't do it anymore, that we were warned about criminal responsibility – it mentioned five articles. I asked a policeman what are those articles. He said rudely, 'Google it. Now sign it.' I didn't want to sign such a crazy thing to the last, it was a very hard decision for me. Before that, I had not signed anything. And they let us go without any papers. Without money, possessions, shoelaces – just like that, we were thrown out on the street in some town.

People met us very emotionally: they shouted, waved at us, offered us everything we could imagine. It was very pleasant and touching. My parents were already waiting there; they didn't know anything about me for four days."

More stories of people who survived police violence and torture:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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