“People were screaming every night.” 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.
A Minsk resident was detained on August 9 and left the Center for the Confinement of Offenders on the morning of August 12. All this time he, like the other detainees, was deprived of food. Forty people were held in a six-men cell, and riot police insulted and beat people at night. The guy, who chose to remain anonymous, agreed to tell Viasna what he had to go through.
"I was an election observer, and after the polls closed at 8 pm, I and with several other observers went to the territorial election commission to file complaints about the violations we saw. Suddenly a bus arrived with people in police uniforms. Three of us were detained, and the other observers managed to escape. We were taken to the Saviecki district police department, where they forced us stand facing the wall.
My things and personal data were documented. At some point, more people were brought in. They were treated more severely. They were thrown on the floor. Then a riot policeman arrived. Other policemen, although they put us face to the wall, were more or less human. But this riot policeman was just a brute. He started shouting loudly and insulting us. They put plastic handcuffs on our arms and took us to a bus. It happened just like in crime movies - face to the ground, arms up. In the bus, they ordered to keep our heads between our knees. So, we stayed in the police department for about two hours.
I realized that we had arrived at Akrecsin Street (a street in Minsk that is home to two detention centers), when we entered the brightly lit courtyard. We were taken off the bus and they were shouting “Run! Run!”, and we were bent double. We were taken to a hallway and immediately forced to stand facing the wall. They kicked in the legs to make me do the splits. Then screaming and insulting began. They documented our personal data there and searched us again, although it was done back in the police department. This time, we were undressed. Then we were taken to the second floor, where there were cells, which they called “cages”. There were three of us there, so there was enough room for everyone."
When were we first fed? Never.
"We were brought to Akrescin Street at 1 am on Monday, August 10. And I was released at about 3 in the morning on August 12. We only had access to tap water. When asked why we were not fed, they said that administrative detainees can be detained without clarification for three days, and “until three days have passed, we do not owe you anything.”
That first night, from the window of our cell, which faced the yard, we saw and heard police vans with people coming all night. People were violently thrown out, put on their knees, humiliated and beaten.
The following evening (August 11), everyone was taken out of the cells into the corridor. They forced us to sign reports (of administrative offense under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code, for participation in an unauthorized mass event). I signed, although I saw that it was not accurate. It said that I was detained near the monument (it is near the Minsk, Hero City monument that most people were detained in the evening of August 9). After all, we had to do it. “Sign it, and you get a fine and walk free,” they said. It was a lie.
Those people were detained in different places and under different circumstances, but the police reports said all of them were detained neat the monument.
After a while, the three of us were put in another cell. It was designed for six people, but there were about 40 people there. There little room, several people slept on one bed, and the rest slept on the benches and on the floor. They gave us six mattresses and six blankets, but the guys made this common - they spread the blankets on the floor and everyone lay on them.
It was very stuffy, and the windows were almost closed. People couldn’t breathe properly, they called the guards to do something. At first, the guards refused, but after a few hours, they decided to open the food hatch.
The next night, everything happened again - police vans arrived, we could hear people being beaten with truncheons and screaming.
Also at night, one of our guys was sick, and a doctor was called. So she helped him. But in the morning he was sick again. And then the doctor started swearing at us all:
“You had the strength to throw stones in the square, and here you are all so sick!” She used offensive words and obscenities.
One of the detainees asked the doctor to examine him for injuries (he was beaten during the detention), but a riot policeman who was there reacted harshly: “Do you want to be examined? I'm gonna add some more.”
After a while, the riot policeman asked who exactly wanted to be examined. The guy answered, “It was me”. And then the policeman took a bucket of water, which he had prepared in advance, and poured it into the guy’s face. There was water all over the floor on which we slept. We started drying it, and the riot policeman was standing there and saying, “Move it! Why are you working so slowly?”.
When we were taken out for an inspection in the morning, one of the riot policemen, a very pleased one, asked: “Do you know who won the election? Our dear Aliaksandr Ryhoravich. He scored 80 percent! And even you voted for him. Ha-ha!” I had the impression that he said that because he knew there was no support for Lukashenko, and he knew about the falsifications. So he just mocked us.
The trial was held in prison. There were just me, the secretary and the judge present. She read out my offense report. I said that I disagreed and explained that I had signed it under pressure. I said I had witnesses who could confirm that I was actually elsewhere at the time of the arrest. The judge was polite, but did not take into account anything I said. She found me guilty and sentenced me to 10 days in jail. The trial lasted about five minutes.
On the third night, a few people from the cell were suddenly called by our names, ordered to go downstairs and then into the yard. I realized that it was bad, because the screams from the yard had been heard for several hours already. There were riot policemen in masks. They ordered me to get behind the bus, which I think was standing there so it could block the cameras. The yard was flooded with light from a lantern, but it was dark behind the bus, so they used their flashlights to see us. We were ordered to lie down facing the ground and they started beating us with their fists. We were screaming, but they didn’t stop and continued beating us. It is difficult to say how many times, for how long and how many people were beaten like that, because we were ordered to look down and we couldn’t see anything. We were also humiliated when they forced us to sing the anthem of Belarus and to say that were sorry for what we did.
Then we were taken to the gate and put along it. At five-minute intervals, a riot policeman grabbed one prisoner by his clothes and threw him out. When it was my turn, he said, “If I see you here in five minutes, say your prayers. And your things, you will get them in court.”
I had already been tried, but of course I did not clarify anything with him and just ran to where he pointed, away as fast as I could. My mobile phone, passport, keys, and money were left in prison…
I was walking through the city like a criminal. I was hiding behind every bush, because I was afraid that a police van or some patrol would pass and I would be noticed, caught and returned to Akrescin Street, which I did not want. I moved through the backyards, but my legs were hurting me more and more.
I decided to go to the bus station and wait for public transport. Probably because of hunger and fatigue, I began to lose consciousness - the first time on the bus, then three times in a row when I was walking from the bus stop to my apartment… I got up, but soon I was on the ground again. That's how I barely got home.
My family knew that I had been detained and taken to the police department only because they had been informed about it by the observers who were with me during the detention and who had escaped. Thus, the family concluded that I had been taken to Akrescin Street or Žodzina. But they were not told anything there. Only on the evening of August 11 did they find out for sure that I was in Akrescin Street. Perhaps after the trial.
Now I still find it hard to walk and I am limping a bit."
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.
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.
Hleb was detained on August 11 near the shopping center “Skala”. He says that the riot policemen detained him when he simply walked down the street with headphones on his head. He spend the next three days in the police station of Maskouski district, then in the detention center on Akrescin Street and finally in a correctional facility in Sluck.
I turned up by chance, they put me in a bus or in a police van, I don't remember which. They took my phone away at once, broke it, asked for the password, I do not understand on what grounds. Then they took me to the Maskoŭski police department. They didn't beat me much in the police van, but started beating in the police department.