“So you are for Tsikhanouskaya?” 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.
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.
“So you came to beat us up?”
“I sat and watched what was happening around me. Then a mini-van stopped next to me and I saw “cosmonauts” pouring out of it. I tried to run away because I more or less knew what would happen if they arrest me. But it was too late. I tripped over a riot policeman’s foot and fell down. They grabbed me and threw into a plain blue van without number plates. Inside, they started shouting at me: “So you came to beat us up?”. They took my backpack away and tied my hands with plastic bands. One of the “cosmonauts” started to hit me in the face while the other one rummaged through the backpack. He took out my white-red-white flag and shouted that he also wants to hit me. Neither wore any identification badges, but one of them looked quite young, with the eyes of maybe not a teenager but a twenty-year-old at most.
Both of them kept pounding me. I tried to hide my face under a seat because it was very painful. Then they began to hit me on the back, especially where the kidneys are, with their feet. After that I don’t remember much because I fainted, but they dragged me out of the van and threw me into a paddy wagon."
“All along these 50 meters they were pounding us with truncheons”
"I came to my senses in the paddy wagon. I was laying on top of 30 people. I heard moans from the bottom of the pile so it must have been difficult for the people there.
They took us to a gym of some police station.They opened the doors of the paddy wagon and told us to run quick. But I could not run quick. We had to get out of the paddy wagon, then down to the basement and run along it. All along these 50 meters they were pounding us with truncheons. Then they forced us to the ground and packed so tight so there was no space left between people. They gave each of us a number. I think there were two rows of about 30 people there.
At the police station, we also signed some papers but they did not allow us to read what was in them."
In the gym, Vasil was given the number “six”.
“I stayed down for a long time. They were beating anyone who moved their head, or asked a question. Sometimes they would just beat everyone. If anyone had a white ribbon, they beat him. They would ask “Are you for Tsikhanouskaya?” and hit people on shins and shoulders. They tortured one guy like this: one of them stepped on his ankles, another one on this back and the third one put a boot under his face. When he turned his head, they started hitting him."
“He lifted my face so everyone could see how badly it was smashed”
"I stayed on the floor for about two hours. My arms went numb and I started shaking. I asked them to untie my hands. They cut these plastic bands because they could not undo them, and put on metal handcuffs. They would cut the plastic on someone and put handcuffs instead. If people moved, they would tighten the handcuffs. We were pleading to relax the handcuffs a bit, telling them we are not going to run away. Sometimes they did.
When they finally lifted us, I was approached by some colonel and a man dressed like a civilian. My face was smashed. This guy in civilian’s clothes lifted my chin with a truncheon - just like in movies - so they could see how badly it was smashed. They looked on and then he took the truncheon away.
After two hours on the floor, they took me upstairs. A young officer assisted me because I couldn’t walk. They smashed my face and my back. I asked the officer not to push me because I could hardly move. This guy was in a black uniform. You could see in his eyes that he was about to cry because of what was going on downstairs. When we were passing other officers, he just said: “Move on!”
I stayed in the cell till the morning. It was around 10 square meters and there were five of us in it. I went down on the floor because it was cold and it made me feel a bit better. Then the guys told me to stand up before I get a cold. We supported each other.
All the time we were hearing shouts: “Do you want a Maidan here?”, “Did they promised you vodka to protest?”, “Do you want to destroy the country?”. They abused people all the time, saying that we get paid to go to protests. And all the time they were beating, hitting, pounding people. If you moved your head - they would hit you, if they did not like your answer - they would hit you, if you did not answer at all - they would hit you anyway. From every corner we heard screams and moans. Some people told us later that they were abused by a female officer."
“We stayed in a paddy wagon for four hours”
Vasil Hushcha together with other 30 detainees was transferred to a prison in Žodzina.
“There was no fresh air in the paddy wagon. We were asking to turn on a fan because we could not breathe. We swapped places and supported one another. When we arrived to Žodzina, they found out that they forgot our papers and we had to stay in the paddy wagon for another four hours.
In the prison, guards in green uniforms gave us water and a bucket to use as a toilet. But there were just two bottles of water for 30 people. They put us in an exercise yard, and we stayed there for a while. From the time of our detention, we had no food. In our cell, there were 12 beds for 35 people. We shared blankets so people could put them on the floor and sleep there.
There was no trial, nothing, starting from August 11. They would just come and take down our names. In the middle of the night on August 13, they took eight people from our cell and from other cells too. They told us that people around the country are rioting and they will bring more people tonight. And they really brought more people.
In the morning of August 14, they took us to the corridor where we stood along the wall, and gave us some documents to sign, which said we will never take part in mass events again. Then they gave us back our stuff. Everything was thrown together: mobiles, money, watches, jewelry… People’s things were just laying everywhere. I was lucky because my backpack was zipped and and my stuff stayed inside. Even the flag."
 A nickname of the riot police whose gear with large helmets resemble a spacesuit
More stories of people who survived police violence and torture:
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.