'They beat him slightly, striking him in body and in 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.
The man was arrested on February 27 at an anti-war protest in Minsk. Just as the other participants, he had come there to express his disagreement with Russia's aggression against Ukraine.
“I was detained rather delicately, knocked down, but quickly picked up and calmly led to the bus. […] One man had blood on his face (his lip seemed to be broken), and the other was found with a small pocketknife and threatened that he would be punished for having it. In general, the police harassed us verbally, but they didn’t beat anyone.”
In the police station, all the detainees were immediately put against the wall while the officers asked them for the necessary information. The police drew up reports for unauthorized picketing under Article 24.23 of the Administrative Code and transported them to pre-trial detention center in Minsk.
“In a cell designed for six, if I'm not mistaken, there were 14 of us. The cell stank and there was no toilet paper or soap. The roll-call took place in the cell. The next morning we were given porridge and bread (as it turned out, we never got to eat anything else that day).”
The next day after the guy was sentenced to administrative arrest, he was transferred to Žodzina, where he was serving most of his term. On the weekend the detainees were allowed to take a shower. The officers gave them five minutes for undressing, washing, and dressing back, so they could only stay under warm water for a few seconds.
“I was placed in a cell intended for eight people. There were about 30 men being held there. The cell had two-story metal bunks without mattresses, a tiled floor, and fluorescent lights, there was only cold water in the cell, and there were two windows.”
Human rights defenders have been repeatedly informed about the beatings of anti-war protesters and the denial of medical assistance in Minsk detention center. Protesters were beaten with batons, their heads were hit against the wall, and two men even had their ribs broken. Now the former detainees also report being beaten by members of the detention center in Žodzina.
“At first they made us stand for an hour, maybe an hour and a half before lights out. The next day they made us stand in a half-sitting position with our hands behind our heads. Another time a staff member came into the cell and was found fault with something, and when the guy responded to his question, he was taken to the shower room. When he came back, he told us that they put him against the wall and beat him slightly, striking him in the body and in the face. There were no signs of beating or significant damage.
Some were beaten with restraint. Everyone returned to the cell on their feet. It seemed that goal was simply to intimidate people. In the evening [officers] demanded to keep silent, went into the cell, chose a victim (in our case they were long-haired and young guys), took them to the bathroom, where the door, as I understand it, stayed open, and beat people up. Everyone heard the clapping and many were trembling.”
The former detainee said that some of the men have got sore throats and colds, but have not received the necessary medical treatment.
The guy also talked about what has kept the detainees' positive mood.
“On the evening of March 7, the girls somewhere nearby sang beautifully and loudly. We clapped our hands afterward. What keeps the spirit in the cell is the company in which you find yourself. They are all different, but beautiful people.”
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.
Anti-war protests were announced at the railway stations of Minsk and other cities of Belarus on February 28. At the appointed time, a lot of anti-riot equipment and vehicles gathered near the Minsk railway station. Law enforcement officers were arresting people chanting “No to War!”. On that day more than 70 people were arrested. There was a girl among them, 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.