"White paint was poured on my head. It was like a sign to beat me harder." 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.
Stas Dziadou was detained on August 11 in Minsk next to the Peoples' Friendship Park. The police poured white paint on his head, thus "marking" him. Stas told "Viasna" about what happened and his experience.
Stas and his friend were walking along Arlouskaya Street when they were overtaken by two vans with tinted windows. A law enforcement officer wearing a green uniform came out. The couple asked him how dangerous it was to go forward.
"He told us to go back. We were planning to go back, but several other policemen came out of the vans, one of them had a rifle. They came up to us and started demanding that we unlock the phones and show them the videos and photos we had on the devices. They found a video from the previous day's protest on my friend's phone. They put us in a van. There they saw a white ribbon on my hand. I think that was the moment when I got the first hit.
When the van was passing by the Riga trade center, white paint was thrown into it which made the officers very angry. Stas says that the one with a rifle asked others to open the window so he could shoot.”
Stas was ordered to lay down on the floor, his hands were cable-tied. He spent about 20 minutes in this position, every now and then somebody stomped on his body. The police noticed a white-red-white belt and cut it. Then Stas was moved to a bigger police van. He doesn't know what happened to his friend.
"There was already one person lying in the police van. I was put next to him, on the way they beat us with batons. Then they took me out of there, took a bottle with white paint and poured it over my head. They took me by the hair and wiped the paint on the van with my head. Then they sent me to another police van. Many people were inside it - they lay flat on top of each other. I was lying on the bottom.
I do not know where it was better to lie, on top or at the bottom. Because the top was beaten with batons and the bottom just couldn't breathe properly.
I do not know if the paint was poured on someone else. But I was told about some partner with whom I allegedly threw paint. However, I had nothing to do with the paint. Apparently, I was confused with somebody else."
Stas recollects that there were at least two other transfers between the gas stations. People were beaten at these moments. OMON officers recognized Stas by the white paint on his hair - it was like a mark that that person should be treated: it is necessary to treat this person with special brutality.
Stas had to crawl from one van to another and was beaten on the way. All the detained were brought to the detention center in Akrescin Street and took away the phones without filing any necessary reports.
"In the detention center, we were all kneeled next to the fence, head to the ground. That's where they beat us the most. They often paid attention to the fact that I was painted - it was an extra reason to beat me. They mostly beat me on the legs and back, and a lot on the buttocks. Mainly with batons, sometimes with legs or fists."
Stas says that they filed the administrative offense report in the detention center. Several people were brought into the corridor and asked a couple of questions: full name, date of birth, and place and time when they had been detained.
“I saw the head of the report, but the rest was left empty. I was not asked to sign the protocol. I do not know where this piece of paper ended. They sent me back to the cell. It was designed for 4 people, but there were 28 of us.
At night one could hear screams from the street. On the night of August 12-13, we heard people being forced to sing the national anthem of the Republic of Belarus. We were not taken out of the cell.”
Stas was released on August 14 at about 6 am. All the detained had to sign a warning (promising that would not participate in an unauthorized mass event). We were not allowed to take away our personal belongings.
More stories of people who survived police violence and torture:
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.
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.