"I had to take down my pants and stand in my underwear in the middle of the hall." 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.
On October 11, Volha was returning home at night and passed by the Riga shopping center in Minsk. Now she goes to the health clinic for dressing almost daily – that night she was wounded by a rubber bullet. The woman is 36 years old and works as a sales assistant. She shared her story with "Viasna" anonymously.
Volha recollects that that night she heard shooting and "was afraid to go anywhere". So she waited until it was quiet to continue her journey home. She notes that at the time of her detention (around 12.40 am) there were no people around:
"Nothing was going on, no chains of solidarity or protests. Suddenly they ran up to me, lowered my head, put me on a parapet, and then loaded me into a minibus. I can hardly call it detention, it was rather kidnapping.”
Volha notes that at that moment she was reeling from a shock and maybe that's why she couldn't immediately understand that she had been hit by a rubber bullet – "something just hit her leg". She also couldn't identify those who detained her. But in the minibus where she was put, Volha saw people wearing black clothes, body armor, and black balaclavas.
"They started shouting at me at once demanding that I give them the phone and tell the password. They did it very loudly and rudely. I gave the phone and said that I had no password, that they could have a look. They ordered me to put my head down and started examining my phone. They did not find anything there and returned it. And then they loaded three or four more men in the van shouting: 'On your knees, face down!' They were pressed down forcefully. Then they took us to the Saviecki police department."
Volha guessed so because she drove by the facility every day on the way to work.
"When I was taken out of the minibus, inexplicit attacks began immediately: 'Oh, here is a pretty one. Go to the wall, move! You have white and red sneakers. Why are you walking around at night?' They shouted humiliating things. They treated us as if we were some kind of garbage. If they did not like the way a person was standing, they could hit them on the inside of their leg so that a person almost did the splits. The attitude was terrible."
In the police department, the officers were either wearing balaclavas or black masks. Just one employee was without a mask and out of uniform.
"He behaved in a very lecherous manner as if he was the chief of the department," says Volha.
Volha's leg started to hurt. Policemen also noticed it:
"The man in civvies said very rudely, 'Show me your leg.' I couldn't roll up my pants, so I said, 'There are a lot of men here, maybe you should invite a policewoman.' He said, 'I don't care, come on, take them off.' I had to take down my pants and stand in my underwear just in the middle of the assembly hall. The other detainees were filmed on one side and interviewed on the other side, and there were a lot of officers around, but they were in comfort with it. They looked at my leg and quietly brought me to a chair. In about 20 minutes, they took me to the hall, the medics were already waiting there. They said they were going to take me to hospital. The officer in civvies said, 'No need to drive her, she will come back here anyway.'"
Doctors did take Volha to the hospital. The ambulance was convoyed by the police.
The medical certificate issued in the emergency traumatology room states: "Contusion, subcutaneous hematoma of soft tissues of the left ham." Volha had a plaster bandage applied. At some point, a doctor approached her and said that the convoy had left.
"I didn't have my things with me. The phone, the keys to the apartment – everything remained in the police station. I remembered the phone number of my boss. The doctor called her, and she picked me up. We went to the police department to get my things. It was on the morning of October 12. I had plaster bandage and could not walk properly. My boss went to the police department. They did not open the door at first, but then someone's lawyer came in and the door opened. The employee brought an A4 sheet and asked me to write a receipt that I had received all my belongings and had no complaints about them. All my things were in place."
As of October 29, Volha comes for dressing almost every day. The plaster bandage on her leg has already been removed, but the hematoma has not cleared up yet. Doctors told Volha that the aftereffect for ligaments and muscles would manifest itself for up to two months.
"I might have been born with a silver spoon in my mouth. The bullet didn't penetrate, I was hit over the hamstring artery, it wasn't affected. If it was, I might have not survived in the ambulance..."
With the assistance of "Viasna", Volha wrote a petition to the Investigation Committee. The examination seems to have already started – on October 26, she met with the investigator at the scene of the incident near the Riga shopping center for investigative procedures.
More stories of people who survived police violence and torture:
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.
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.