Heads beaten and ribs broken: how police treats anti-war protesters in Minsk
On the evening of February 27, many people gathered near the General Staff building in Minsk for an anti-war protest against Russia's attack on Ukraine. A while later, law enforcers began to brutally arrest them. Within the next three days, judges considered more than 628 administrative cases and sent at least 589 people to jail. A former detainee told Viasna about his arrest and detention conditions.
After voting at the polling station, the resident of Minsk came to the General Staff, where a protest was announced. Participants chanted anti-war slogans. At some point, people started shouting “Putin is a d*ckhead!” That, according to our source, was the reason for the brutal arrests. Three or four law enforcement officers immediately rushed up to the guy, threw him on the ground, and started beating him with their batons. He got 14 blows, five of which were to the head. After that officers threw him in a prisoner transport van. He notes that most of those who arrested the protesters were in military uniform. Detainees were charged with “unauthorized picketing” (Article 24.23 of the Administrative Code) and “disobedience to police” (Article 24.3 of the Administrative Code).
At the police station, the young man became unwell because of the beatings, but no doctor was ever called to see him or anyone else.
In the pre-trial detention center, the guy was placed in a six-bed cell. Besides him, there were about 20 other people in there. Warm jackets were taken away from everyone, but at least they were given soap and toilet paper. At the medical examination in the pre-trial detention center the man once again complained of severe pain, however, he was denied medical help this time as well.
The trial took place only on the third day. The case was considered by the judge of the Zavodski district court Henadz Yankouski. According to the report, on February 27 around 6 pm our source “took part in an unauthorized picket, during which he shouted slogans ‘Long live Belarus!’, ‘Glory to Ukraine’ and ‘No to War’.” As a result, he was sentenced to 10 days of administrative imprisonment under Article 24.23 of the Administrative Code.
After the trial, the Minsk resident was taken to the jail and placed in cell No. 19, which the detainees nicknamed “Crematorium 19” because it was unbearably hot and stuffy in the cell. There were from 16 to 19 people in a four-person cell.
“We were dripping sweat. We even stripped down to our underwear. We did everything we could, but there was still no air to breathe.”
There were no mattresses or bedding in the cell.
In addition, the guy told about the beatings of some detainees he met in prison: some were beaten with batons, and some were hit in the head during the arrest. Many had bruises on their bodies. One guy even had his ribs broken. He was taken to the hospital from the police station.
On February 28, 70 people were arrested for anti-war protests. Among them was a girl, who decided to capture the arrests on video. She told “Viasna” about the beating of a cellmate by a prison officer, the fact that there were 35 men in the five-bed cell, and that the women detained on February 27 were given food for the first time on March 1.
'They beat him slightly, striking him in the body and in the face': another account on ill-treatment of detained protesters
After brutal detentions at anti-war rallies in Minsk on February 27 and 28, law enforcement officers continued to beat and torture Belarusians in jails. According to human rights defenders, 616 people have been jailed for participation in anti-war actions. They are kept in detention centers in inhumane conditions, while the officers physically abuse them. A man who was serving an administrative detention sentence in Minsk and in Žodzina told Viasna about the torture and conditions in the detention center, as well as about what kept him going the whole time.