As authorities say they will not prosecute police officers over torture reports, Viasna pledges to continue documenting abuse
The Investigative Committee said yesterday that it would not open any criminal cases, after completing an investigation into some 680 statements filed by post-election protesters to report torture and other types of ill-treatment at the hands of security forces. The authorities argue that there was no torture or sexual abuse.
According to the agency, the filing of these complaints was “orchestrated”. It is alleged that violence and riot control gear were used in accordance with the law. The Investigative Committee also claims that all the reported victims received their injuries when protesting, thus rejecting the allegations of widespread torture in prisons and police departments.
The Human Rights Center “Viasna” is deeply disappointed with these findings.
The “investigation”, which lasted 12 months, resulted in a shameless lie and a clumsy imitation of collecting and evaluating evidence. It was difficult to expect anything else, though, since a month after the security forces committed their atrocities against peaceful demonstrators, Aliaksandr Lukashenka shared his own version of the events of August 2020:
“They got some in Akrestsin Street [detention center], but who were they? The biggest contradiction between “cons” and “cops” is that they hate each other. And there were a lot of people in Akrestsin Street [detention center], whom I call “urki”, who have been convicted 12 times and so on. And so when they were drunk and smoked, and there were 60% of them, they rushed at these guys [detention center guards], and of course, they reacted. And, certainly, someone was defending someone there, and they got some. But there were no riot police there, there were no riot policemen in Akrestsin Street [detention center].”
He told the same story one year after the election. Obviously, the top officers at the Investigative Committee did not wait for the third hint, and “turned the page”. Yet, we remember everything.
We remember everything. Screams from behind the prison fence, madness in the eyes of the people who have just escaped this hell, their faces and clothes in blood and dirt. The shifty eyes and silence of a police chief and the bursting aggression of another one, and most importantly – we know that the victims remember everything, too.
We remember our own pain and helpless rage when people with horrible bruises all over their backs, arms or hips came to Viasna’s offices one after another. We remember the trembling hands of our videographers and the tears in the eyes of volunteers who documented torture, day after day, hundreds of hours of pain and horror. Dozens of documents from hospitals: hematoma, hematoma, fracture, hematoma, open wound, traumatic brain injury, hematoma...
All this information has now been passed to the International Accountability Platform for Belarus. It is being analyzed and systematized in a safe European country for further action to prosecute those guilty of crimes against humanity.
We leave it to the conscience of investigators that they wasted months to find that the hundreds of victims “orchestrated”, instead of prosecuting those who organized an orchestrated widespread attack on citizens of their own country. But do not intend to forgive the torture of our fellow citizens, we promise to continue to combat torture and will not abandon our efforts to support those who will seek to bring those responsible for crimes against humanity to justice.
We promise free legal assistance to anyone who contacts Viasna for help in appealing against the illegal decisions and support to those who are ready to seek the prosecution of criminals under universal jurisdiction in Lithuania. The duty to the victims of torture will help us carry on, even if we, Viasna, will continue to be persecuted by the accomplices of those who declared war on their people.
We will win this war for the honest history of August 2020, we will keep the names of the victims and the names of the executioners. There will be a place in history for us and for those who spat in the face of their fellow citizens who sought help and protection, and trampled on their hope for justice.
Stories of people who survived police violence and torture:
21-year-old Minsk resident Yakau Sukhnata was detained by plain-clothed police near the Uručča metro station as he was returning home. Now Yakau is treated in a Minsk hospital after rough detention and several days spent in the detention center in Akrescin Street.
Once somebody shouted: 'Everybody stand up, look down.' He opened the door and watched. Someone looked at him: 'Bastards, why do I feel the look on me? If anyone else looks up, I and my baton will have fun.'
Bartender Ruslan was detained on August 10 at 2 a.m. in Zybitskaya Street in Minsk when he was returning home from work. He spent the next three days at the detention center in Akrescin Street. Ruslan told "Viasna" what happened in the detention center on August 9-12.
"A riot policeman sat on me in the police van and exclaimed: 'Look at my nice chair!'" Survivor stories
Andrei Viarshenia was brutally pulled out of his car by riot policemen on the night of August 11, when he was driving his friends home past the Riga shopping center. He was being beaten all the way to the detention center and after, until he lost consciousness. The man shared his detention story with "Viasna".
Ivan told "Viasna" the details of what happened: during the detention, his arm was broken and no ambulance was called, even when he reported a heart condition. The doctor at Žodzina detention center said that his arm was fine because it had not swollen up. The guy received medical attendance only after the trial.
"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.
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.