"They broke my ribs and found me guilty." 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.
Andrei Kazanovich, a member of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party, was detained by the riot police in Minsk in the evening of August 10. He did not make it to the detention center at Akrescin Street and had no time to sign the administrative offense report at the police department where he had been taken because after the beating he lost consciousness and was taken to hospital. But this did not prevent Kazanovich from being charged with participating in an unauthorized protest.
That day, Andrei Kazanovich was walking towards Rakaŭskaja Street. Suddenly, he saw a young man being pushed into a minibus. Meanwhile, another minibus stopped behind Andrei's back, and four masked riot policemen ran out of it.
"They attacked me, put me on the ground, began to hit me," recollects Andrei Kazanovich. "They put on handcuffs and started beating me on the head. Then they lifted me and pushed into the van. Inside, I also faced with violence.
We were sitting with heads lowered and hands behind our heads. It seemed like I had got into some movie. The riot policemen were rudely speaking to us all the time. They said: 'So you want freedom? Do you need change? Do you lack anything? We will show you another life now!' At the same time, they were beating us: they hit us on the head, on the body. They were wearing balaclavas. Young guys, 25-30 years old."
When six detainees were brought to the minibus, all of them were transported to a bigger police van. There, too, when the doors were closed, "they started beating up everyone.” Andrei was allegedly beaten by a riot police commander.
After the beating, Kazanovich and four other detainees were placed into a narrow section inside the police van.
"There was a small window, almost a hole through which we could breathe. We stood there for almost an hour in this condition. That was horrible."
More detainees were brought to the police van, and each newcomer was beaten. When 29 people gathered, the police van started and moved around the city for a long time until it finally came to the Zavodski district police department.
"All the detainees were put on the ground in the yard. They could not turn their heads. We were lying like this while all the detainees were being interrogated one by one.”
Then everyone was videotaped and transferred to another yard, as the first one had been filled with new detainees. All of them were put on the ground face down. Andrei does not remember anything from then on, because he lost consciousness and came to his senses only in an ambulance. He does not know how he was taken out of the police station and who called the ambulance.
Kazanovich was taken to the 2nd City Clinical Hospital. According to the doctor's report, he had a rib fracture, a brain injury, damages, and many bruises.
Although no administrative offense report was drawn up at the Zavodski police department, the trial took place. The first hearing was scheduled for August 27, but Andrei received the subpoena only the next day. Therefore, the trial was postponed to September 4. At the trial, Andrei petitioned for familiarization with the case materials. Therefore, the hearing was postponed again till September 8.
"The reports I saw in my case file were fake. They wrote that I had been detained in one place while I was detained in another place. The witnesses were fake (the witness, police officer V. Sliski did not appear at the trial). My signature was forged.
I was surprised when the court considered my case. I gave the judge the opportunity to verify my real signature and the signature on the record. The judge was also surprised."
Nevertheless, on September 8, judge G. Yankovski decided to punish Andrei Kazanovich with a fine of 20 base values. The judge found that on August 10, Kazanovich took part in a ten-minute procession along the Pieramožcaŭ Avenue, demanded a change of power clapping his hands, and thus violated the law.
More stories of people who survived police violence and torture:
Minsk resident Piotr Kiryk was detained at about midnight on August 12 when he was getting off a bus with a friend (between Malinaŭka and Piatroŭščyna metro stations). The boy was 16 years old (17 at the moment), but this did not stop the riot police from using force against him.
Some 10 minutes later another van arrived and they threw me there, face against the wall and hands behind my back. There were about 10 people in the cage, including a girl – she was detained because she had bandages and cotton wool in her bag. She was psychologically pressured and cursed.
18-year-old Illia was detained on August 11 near "Pushkinskaya" metro station when he was driving to his native city. He told "Viasna" how inhumanely he was treated and beaten in the police department and in the detention center in Akrescin Street.
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.
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.