Preliminary Monitoring of Facts of Torture and Other Inhuman Treatment of Citizens of the Republic of Belarus
In its monitoring the Human Rights Center "Viasna" uses the definition of torture as it stands in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of December 10, 1984, ratified by the Republic of Belarus on January 21, 1987
-- “torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity”.
The Republic of Belarus ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. According to Article 2 of the Convention, “Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction”.
The monitoring consists of:
1. Facts which became known to the Human Rights Center "Viasna" in 2003-2004 on the basis of written statements of the victims of torture to the Human Rights Center "Viasna".
2. Facts to which the Human Rights Center "Viasna" reacted by helping the victims of torture to write complaints to the prosecution bodies.
1. Beating Frantsishak Viachorka during detention on September 1, 2004
Father of the victim, Valantsin Viachorka, filed a complaint against the unlawful actions of police officers to Centralny prosecutor’s office on September 2, 2004. The complaint raised the point of the need of the prosecutor’s check of the mentioned facts and bringing the guilty to account under the law. The complaint says: “On September 1, 2004 my son Frantsishak Viachorka, born in 1988, was detained at the exit of Kastrychnitskaya subway station near the Palace of Trade Unions at about 16.05 by OMON (riot squad) officers in civil clothes and taken to Minsk Centralny borough Board of Internal Affairs. While detaining my son, the police officers failed to introduce themselves and to explain the reasons for their actions. My son learned that he had been detained by police officers only after they arrived to Centralny borough Board of Internal Affairs. In the process of detention strangers in civil clothes used brute physical force against the minor, namely, they twisted his arms, hit him in the legs, and beat him while dragging to the bus. The bus had no identification of relation to the bodies of internal affairs. In the bus they continued to beat my son who was lying on the bus floor. During the detention my son’s pants and shirt were damaged, further usage of the clothes is impossible. Valantsin K. Stefanovich and Yawhen I. Afnahel were also dragged to the bus. When the detained were conveyed to Minsk Centralny borough Board of Internal Affairs, the police officers did not draw up any reports and, having kept them for no more than 2 hours, released the detained. During the detention my son found out the last name of one of the policemen who detained him: Lipinski, member of the 8th platoon of riot squad police of Minsk city Board of Internal Affairs. Another riot squad member in red T-shirt, who participated in the detention, was called by a nickname Marazilnik (Freezer) by his colleagues. On the street and in the bus the persons who detained the minor used foul language and intimidated him. The police officers insulted and degraded my son. I should point out that my son was never given the reasons for detention. Besides that the police officers did not draw up a report of the administrative detention thus violating Article 240 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Republic of Belarus. In violation of Article 240 of the Code of Administrative Offences neither I nor my wife were informed about our son’s location. I consider the actions of police officers towards my son unlawful, exceeding the official power of police officers and violating the Law of the Republic of Belarus “About Police”, the norms of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Republic of Belarus, and the legal rights of a child. The police officers had no legal grounds for usage of the physical force described in Article 19 of the Law “About Police”.
The personal belongings of my son were seized illegally, without record of seizure. He did not resist and did not counteract. In view of the aforesaid, guided by Article 6 of the Law “About Police”, and the Law “About Office of a Public Prosecutor”, I request:
1. to carry out the prosecutor’s check of the mentioned facts;
2. to bring the guilty persons to account as provided by law;
3. in the process of the check to interrogate the witnesses of my son’s illegal detention: Valantsin K. Stefanovich and Yawhen I. Afnahel”
Prosecutor’s check of the fact has been carried out, resulting in refusal to institute proceedings. The prosecutor’s response read: “the police officers acted within the bounds of their legal powers”.
2. Beating of Dzmitry Kuchynski on June 29, 2004
Dzmitry Kuchynski filed the complaint against unlawful actions of police officers to Partyzanski borough prosecutor’s office on June 29, 2004. On June 27, 2004 Dzmitry Kuchynski was detained by police officers in the area of Gorky Park and taken to station of public order protection # 70 of Partyzanski borough Board of Internal Affairs. He was reported of having violated Article 172 part 3 of the Code of Administrative Offences “distribution of printed materials without publisher’s imprint”. Dzmitry Kuchynski’s complaint reads: “The police officers failed to read me my rights described in Article 247 of the Code of Administrative Offences, failed to inform my parents about my detention (I am under-age), tried to examine my personal belongings without record of examination and record of seizure of printed materials. With their actions the police officers grossly violated the requirements of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Republic of Belarus. When I pointed out to the police officers that their actions were illegal police captain Ivan Alexandravich Zhebit gave me several blows in the head, as well as several blows in the body and legs. Alexander Sheleh, who was present in the office of police station, witnessed the fact of police captain beating me. I consider the actions of police officers unlawful, exceeding the official powers and violating the Law of the Republic of Belarus “About Police”, the norms of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Republic of Belarus, and my legal rights. The police officers had no legal grounds to use physical force against me; I did not show any resistance to police officers”.
Dzmitry Kuchynski asked for a prosecutor’s check of the aforementioned facts and to bring Captain Ivan Zhebit to account. The criminal proceedings were not instituted.
3. Beating of Under-Age Maksim Hromau
A complaint on the fact of Maksim Hromau’s beating was filed to Minsk Savetski borough prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor’s office is examining the case.
Maksim Hromau was detained at 2 a.m. in Minsk, on the intersection of Kazlova Street and Skaryny Avenue. In his complaint Maksim Hromau pointed at the following facts: “during my detention police officers used violent acts against me, manifested in numerous blows with hands and rubber truncheons. Police officers first gave me several blows with the truncheons in the arms, legs, and back, and then started to beat me in the head with hands. They had no ground to use physical force against me. I did not show resistance or disobedience to policemen, I did not try to run away. After that the police officers detained and conveyed me to Minsk Savetski borough Board of Internal Affairs. There they drew up a report of an administrative offence. From the report I found out the names of police officers who detained and beat me: H. Sovanau and V. Tarnapovich. They both are police officers of Minsk Savetski borough Board of Internal Affairs. As the result of beating I had to turn to Minsk clinical hospital # 9 for medical aid on May 26, 2004. The doctor on duty examined me and diagnosed uncomplicated brain concussion, injuries of soft tissues of the head. I was recommended to get a consultation from a neuropathologist. I think that with their actions H. Sovanau and V. Tarnapovich exceeded their official power of police officers, grossly violated the Law of the Republic of Belarus “About Police”, and damaged my health. According to Article 18 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus “About Police”, police shall use physical force and special tools only if it is impossible to execute official powers by other means. According to Article 19 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus “About Police”, police shall use physical force for prevention and discontinuance of an offence, self-defense, overcoming of resistance to legal demands of police, if nonviolent measures do not ensure execution of their duty. I have not committed any of above-mentioned or similar actions, in connection with that the police officers had absolutely no grounds to use physical force against me”.
In his complaint Maksim Hromau asked for examination of the aforementioned facts and to bring criminal charges against police officers H. Sovanau and V. Tarnapovich.
4. Facts of cruel treatment, connected with Minsk events of July 21, 2004, mass protest actions against 10-year rule of Alexander Lukashenka
The facts of cruel treatment are confirmed by the complaint of Siarhei Kunets. The complaint says: “On July 21, 2004 I, Siarhei Kunets, was on my way back from the concert and the rally, sanctioned by Minsk City Executive Committee, which took place on Banhalor Square in Minsk. Together with my friends I was heading to the railway station in order to be there in time to get to Barysau. At 9 p.m. I, together with other people, was suddenly detained in one of the yards by riot squad police officers who dragged us to the bus. The riot squad officers failed to explain the reasons for detention. Neither I, nor my friends had any posters, flags, or transparencies. We did not shout any slogans and did not violate the public order in any other way. When detained I was dragged to the bus. I saw several dozen young people already in the bus. My friends Uladzimir Lut, Viktoria Vaitsiakhovich, and Yawhen Silich were among them. Riot squad police officers did not react to the demands to explain the reasons for detention, degraded us with foul language, and threatened to use physical force towards me and the other detained. Then the bus drove off in unknown direction. In some time the riot squad officers rudely ordered all the detained to leave the bus. When everybody got off the bus turned around and left. The same happened to the detained who were in the second bus. As it turned out, the riot squad officers left me and the others on Mahilou highway about 20 kilometers away from Minsk. I should point out that at no point they explained me the reasons of my detention. Besides that, they did not make a record of administrative detention violation Article 240 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Republic of Belarus. Also, contrary to Article 240 of the Code of Administrative Offences, they failed to inform my parents about the detention although I made repeated requests about that. Many of the detained were under-age. The riot squad officers insulted and degraded me. Besides that I would like to stress that after being detained I was not taken to a police station for investigation but taken out of town and left there. I consider the actions of riot squad police officers unlawful, exceeding the official power of police officers and violating the Law of the Republic of Belarus “About Police”.
Siarhei Kunets appealed against the unlawful actions of police officers, he demanded to carry out an examination, and to bring the guilty to account.
5. Beating of Under-Age Marharyta Antsileuskaya
Activist of Zubr youth movement Marharyta Antsileuskaya was detained for distribution of the independent press in Minsk near Uskhod subway station. When Marharyta Antsileuskaya was detained she was beaten by head of juvenile inspectorate of Zavodzki borough Board of Internal Affairs Uladzimir Novikau. He handcuffed her to the car and beat her with a rubber truncheon.
Marharyta Antsileuskaya filed a complaint to Leninski borough prosecutor’s office against the unlawful actions of police officers.
We should point out that this is the second case Uladzimir Novikau got in the center of attention of human rights organizations as a person who participated in tortures.
In April 2001 Uladzimir Novikau appeared in the appeals to institute criminal proceedings on the facts of beating the detained after the “Final Diagnosis” action. In 2001 Uladzimir Novikau, who worked in Partyzanski borough Board of Internal Affairs and was a lieutenant, beat Katsiaryna Shaban, 19. After the girl was beaten she was taken to hospital by an ambulance and diagnosed with brain concussion.
Zavodzki borough prosecutor’s office is examining the facts in the complaint of Marharyta Antsileuskaya.
6. Beating of participants of protest actions against the rigged election and referendum of October 17, 2004. The actions took place on October 18-21 in Kastrychnitskaya Square in Minsk.
Human Rights Center "Viasna" found out that riot squad policemen used torture against the rally participants, detained on October 19-21 in Minsk during the protest actions against the rigged election and referendum.
During those days over 60 people were detained, many of them under-age.
Several dozen people, including reporters and political party leaders, were beaten. Chairperson of the United Civic Party Anatol Labedzka received a severe craniocerebral injury and was taken to hospital with rib fractures and kidney haematoma. The riot squad policemen overtook Labedzka on the front steps of Patio-Pizza restaurant, knocked him down and started to make blows with their boots on the head and face. “They beat me till I lost my consciousness, -- says Labedzka, -- a group of 7-8 people headed by Commander of Minsk Riot Squad Colonel Padabed entered the restaurant from the back door. I was dragged on the floor, and then they held me up by my arms so that I hanged in the air and Padabed smashed me in the face 6 or 7 times repeating: “you got yourself into a big mess!” Then I lost consciousness”. Leninski borough prosecutor’s office received a complaint about the fact of Anatol Labedzka’s beating. The prosecutor is examining the case. Staff of Leninski borough prosecutor’s office interrogated UCP vice-chairperson Alexander Dabravolski, UCP press officer Katsiaryna Tkachenka, and UCP activist Antanina Kavalova. A. Labedzka also met with the prosecutor’s office investigator.
On October 19 actions several reporters were beaten. One of them, RFE/RL reporter Yury Svirko addressed Belarusian Prosecutor General Viktar Sheiman with a complaint. Yury Svirko wrote: “Several reporters of the Belarusian and foreign mass media were beaten by police during dispersal of a street rally in the center of Minsk in the evening of October 19”. Yury Svirko reports that cameramen of Russian TV channels NTV and REN-TV Konstantin Morozov and Vladimir Kostin were beaten by riot squad officers at the moment when they tried to record detention of United Civic Party chairperson Anatol Labedzka. Their video-cameras were broken. Press photographer of the Associated Press agency Siarhei Hryts was illegally arrested. Yury Svirko suffered from a “member of the President’s Security Service”. In his complaint Yury Svirko demands to institute criminal proceedings under Article “illegal counteraction to report’s work”.
According to action participant Yaraslau Navumenka detained on October 19, in the police buses the rally participants were “knocked down on the floor and beaten”. Yaraslau Navumenka stated that during the trial but Leninski borough court Judge Tserashkova paid no attention to the fact of torture and sentenced him to 3 days of jail. Another detained rally participant, a student of one of Minsk universities, stated in court that they were knocked down on the bus floor and “trampled under police feet”. But judges did not show interest to this fact. Lawyer of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Valantsin Stefanovich who appeared in court as a representative of the detained pointed out that the judges often refused to summon witnesses.
Dzmitry Chartkou, detained during the action of October 19, was beaten during detention and conveyed to neurosurgery of Minsk regional clinical hospital, where he was diagnosed with “injuries of soft tissues of the head and extremities”. He applied to the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and sent a complaint to Minsk Leninski borough prosecutor’s office. The complaint says: “On October 19, 2004 I was detained by police officers near Kastrychnitskaya Square in Minsk for alleged violation of Article 167-1 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Republic of Belarus. During detention the police officers used physical force against me manifested in blows in the head and body. I did not show any resistance to police officers. I obeyed immediately and was ready to walk to the bus with the detained myself. During my detention I was subject to beating and torture. As the result of beating I was taken to neurosurgery department of Minsk regional clinical hospital, where he was diagnosed with injuries of soft tissues of the head and extremities. I was in hospital from October 20 to October 25, 2004. I had to stay in hospital because of bad state of health after the beating. The beating continued after detention and when I was thrown in the bus, where the police took the other detained and continued the beating. According to article 18 of the Law “About Police”, police officers are obliged to attempt to make the least possible damage to health, honor, and dignity of the citizens. In this case the actions of police officers were obviously unlawful, continued after I was detained and caused physical and mental suffering to me”.
In his complaint Dzmitry Chartkou asks to identify persons who committed torture – “the persons who detained me are possibly named in the police reports attached to the case of administrative detention”.
Besides that, Dzmitry Chartkou asks to carry out an examination of the aforementioned facts, send him for forensic medical examination, to institute criminal proceedings and to bring the guilty to account.
Leninski borough prosecutor’s office is examining the facts.
We must point out that at present moment no criminal actions were brought on the ground of those facts. We also know that there were no measures taken against the persons who took part in tortures.
Human Rights Center "Viasna" states that the Republic of Belarus does not meet its requirements of Article 2 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
In connection with that the Human Rights Center "Viasna" believes it is necessary that the special representative of the UN Committee against Torture visits the Republic of Belarus and the UN Committee considers this report on its session.
Human Rights Center "Viasna"
November 15, 2004