Stop torture and criminal prosecution of prisoner Artsiom Anishchuk!
Statement by the Board of the Human Rights Center "Viasna"
As we have learned from media publications and reports from the family, Artsiom Anishchuk, serving a term of two years in penal colony No. 15 in Mahiloŭ, is being subjected to physical and psychological violence by the prison authorities.
Moreover, according to the prisoner, the abuse has lasted for a month since he started serving his sentence at the penitentiary. At the same time, Anishchuk’s lawyer is not allowed to see the prisoner on contrived and illegal grounds, while the prisoner himself has been repeatedly placed in penal facilities, including the punishment cell.
Protesting against torture and inhuman treatment, Artsiom Anishchuk committed an act of self-mutilation by swallowing a metallic object.
We also learned that Anishchuk is facing new criminal charges under Art. 411 of the Criminal Code (systematic disobedience to the legal requirements of the penitentiary administration), which may increase his term of imprisonment by another year.
We have every reason to believe that the prison authorities have been applying a biased and selective approach to Anishchuk, as the crime of which he was found guilty was committed under the influence of outrage of the Interior Ministry’s brutality against peaceful protesters in August 2020, while the victim in the case was Aliaksandr Heits, deputy head of the department for operative and internal rules work of the Interior Ministry’s Department of Corrections.
In this regard, we, representatives of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", note the following:
Freedom from torture is an absolute and unrestricted right. The use of torture is a crime punishable by Belarusian domestic law. In addition, by ratifying the UN Convention against Torture, the Republic of Belarus voluntarily undertook not to use torture and to take measures to effectively investigate all acts of torture and inhuman treatment in the territory under its jurisdiction.
The charges under Art. 411 of the Criminal Code, in our opinion, testify to the exclusively selective approach by the colony administration to Artsiom Anishchuk, based on revenge for his illegal actions against a representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The HRC "Viasna" has repeatedly noted that the practice of using Art. 411 with regard to prisoners is flawed in nature, as it is aimed, among other things, at exerting politically motivated pressure.
In case Artsiom Anishchuk is convicted under Art. 411 in the current circumstances, the Belarusian human rights community will have every reason to call him a political prisoner.
We call on the Belarusian authorities to:
- take immediate measures to end the torture and inhuman treatment of Artsiom Anishchuk, a prisoner in penal colony No. 15;
- launch an effective investigation into all the facts of torture committed against Artsiom Anishchuk by officials of penal colony No. 15 and suspend them from office for the duration of the investigation;
- immediately allow Anishchuk’s lawyer to see his client in order to provide him with legal assistance, as guaranteed by Art. 62 of the Constitution of Belarus, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Code of Criminal Corrections;
- take steps to provide the prisoner with adequate medical care.