Former investigator reveals police tortures
By Andrew Rettman
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Belarusian authorities are increasingly using torture to get confessions from political prisoners - a Belarusian policeman has stated in an open letter, with some EU diplomats in Minsk looking into the allegations and his whereabouts.
"A standing practice of using torture to extract confessions and evidence exists and is developing," Hrodna region police investigator Pavel Mialko wrote on 25 July in a text addressed to the UN and Belarus opposition leader Aliaksandr Milinkevich.
"[This includes] electric shock, smothering...poisoning by tear gas and neuro-paralytic agents, battery, straining of tendons, piercing of gums by an awl," the letter says. "Some cannot bear the tortures, faint, try to commit suicide. People, tired from tortures, leap out of the windows."
The statement also alleges fraud in the March presidential elections, saying "I witnessed as...the authorities pressed people at all enterprises, organizations and in collective farms to take part in the early vote and to vote only for [Belarus president] Lukashenka."
A senior diplomat at one of the 11 EU member state embassies in Minsk reacted to the news with concern but without surprise, adding that his office will make enquiries into the affair. Mr Mialko left Belarus illegally before sending his letter and possibly went to Canada, Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza reports.
There are plenty of stories from victims of violence in Belarus, but it is rare for members of the security services to speak out. In 2001, state prosecutors Dzmitry Petrushkevich and Aleh Sluchak spoke of "death squads" before going into hiding in the US.
Belarusian diplomats quickly poured scorn on the torture allegations. "These claims are bizarre," one official said. "Our police always act within the letter of the law. They are under more supervision than ever due to the world attention on our country these days."
Belarus opposition leader Aliaksandr Milinkevich lent credence to Mr Mialko's testimony however. "These kinds of things are quite possible here. I don't doubt that the allegations made in the letter could be true," he told EUobserver. "It would be natural for Mr Mialko to fear for his own safety."