"One of them beats you and the other aims at you with a machine gun." 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.
28-year-old Minsk resident Uladzislau Salavei, a kindergarten teacher assistant, was detained on August 9 and placed in the detention center in Akrescin Street. There, he was sentenced to 14 days of arrest and then transferred to a compulsory rehabilitation center near Sluck to serve his time. Uladzislau told Viasna what he and others had to go through in those five days of detention.
Uladzislau says that on the night of August 9-10, when the detainees were leaving the police van, riot police officers lined up and made a corridor where they were beating everyone passing by with batons. According to Uladzislau, armed and masked men with automatic rifles and dogs were present.
"Later, I realized that it was just a form of bullying"
"Having passed the 'corridor' we were put on our knees along the fence and forced to keep our hands above our heads. They approached one person or another and beat them. At first, I thought there was some system in it, but later I realized that it was just a form of bullying. No matter how low or high you bow down, what pose you adopt, you will still get beaten.
They also used psychological pressure. For example, when one of them beats you while the other one aims at you from a machine gun.
I don't know how much time we stood there, but I was detained at night and brought to the building in the morning. There we were beaten again. We were stripped and forced to hand in all our belongings. They asked for our personal details and stuffed us in a cell."
Uladzislau says that 30 detainees were placed in a cell meant for six people. Due to the lack of oxygen, some people fainted. For three days, they were not fed, just drank water from the tap. Toilet paper was not given immediately.
"The riot policemen behaved totally unpredictably, and they enjoyed the bullying. Since our cell was on the first floor, we could clearly hear others being interrogated and beaten. One riot policeman beat a guy named Tsikhanovich because the name was similar to Tsikhanouskaya."
"The guy was beaten up and his girlfriend was forced to look at it"
"No one was brought into the cell on the 10th, so we had no idea what was happening in the city. Judging by the screams, we figured that somebody had been building barricades because the riot police called these people 'barricaders.' These guys were harassed the most.
Those who had white bracelets, white ribbons, white-red-white flags, or trinkets, anything in this color, got the most attention. People who had pepper spray, knives, even if it was a paper-knife, a Swiss folding penknife, other weapons, were fiercely beaten. One person was beaten until he started wheezing. And then we heard them call somebody and say that they needed to get rid of him as soon as possible. If they caught a couple, the guy was beaten up and his girlfriend was forced to look at it, or vice versa."
"Any attempt to turn back and look at the officers ended with a hit"
Uladzislau said that it was difficult to identify people who were torturing the detained. However, there was a woman among them.
"I saw her only for a second, she was wearing a mask. She is a short blonde under 30 years old. She was particularly cruel and was fixated on sexual sadism. She beat people in the nuts and constantly threatened that she would rape everyone. She constantly complained about men who cried and behaved 'like girls'.
Many people involuntarily defecated in their pants, some from fear, others from beatings. She complained that all these people smelled bad, that 'they were covered in shit, they should have behaved like men and not cry like little girls.'
In the yard, any attempt to turn back and look at the law enforcers would cause beatings. We were told that some of them had put on a police uniform. We were absolutely sure that those with guns in the yard were mercenaries. They weren't riot policemen.”
"Some judges just sat at the tables in the hallway"
They tried the detained right in the detention centers. Uladzislau Salavei was sentenced to 14 days for participation in an unauthorized mass event. Uladzislau explained in more detail how the trial took place:
"We were brought to the trial only on the third day. It took place in the same building. They didn't have room; they brought the judges into some offices. Some judges just sat at the tables in the hallway.
They took us to the second floor and put us on our knees. They beat us again. One by one we were brought to 'trial'. Some 'judge' told me in a calm voice that I was charged under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Offenses Code, as I had been shouting slogans and was present at the action. By that time it was already clear to everybody: absolutely nobody cares if you agree or disagree.
They gave me 14 days. Someone got 13, others – 15 days. I think the terms were given just at random, not based on any facts or beliefs. After that, we were put on our knees and beaten again."
On the fourth day, Uladzislau and many of the detainees were moved to another place, as there was not enough room for everyone at the detention center. Uladzislau was transferred to a compulsory rehabilitation center near Sluck.
Upon arrival, the detained were sent to the shower, as everyone was really dirty and covered with blood. They were bringing more and more people to that place. Uladzislau says in Sluck they were guarded by the army men, they were much 'gentler' and avoided looking into the eyes of the detainees.
The detained got some food and books, they were happy to read. Some time later all people were called to the checkpoint, where a police officer announced that their relatives and human rights defenders are waiting for the detained outside, but they needed to sign a special paper with a promise to not participate in mass events again. He also reminded that their time had not been served yet, so every day they might be brought back. Then Uladzislau and others were released.
More stories of people who survived police violence and torture:
Maryia Ambrosava from Minsk told Viasna how she and her husband Yury went to a police station on August 10 to report their son missing, but found themselves in a police van and spent four days in the detention center in Akrescin Street. All these days, they were not aware that their son had been released, so when people were shouting from beatings, Maryia felt it was her son who was screaming.
Aliaksei Prakharenka works as a taxi driver in Minsk. On August 11, he was driving a client when he was stopped and then detained by road policemen. During the detention, they broke Aliaksei's arm. That was the reason why he spent only half an hour in the detention center in Akrescin Street. Nevertheless, in this short time, he had to see a lot.
Siarhei Herasimovich was detained on 10 August at 9 p.m. near the Yubileynaya Hotel in Minsk. He was walking with his journalist colleagues when the cars on the avenue started beeping. Siarhei raised his hand in a Victory sign. Suddenly, the riot police shouted: "Come here!" The journalist walked up and was brutally thrown into the police van where the policemen started beating him with batons.
18-year-old Uladzimir Pahartsau says that he was not beaten so hard compared to other detainees, because he was chosen to give an interview to a state TV channel about the “coordinators of the protests.”
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.
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.