“If he didn't like the answer, he hit me with a stick”: Ex-detainee recounts her experience of torture by police
Since the beginning of 2021, Hanna Morskaya, 20, has been detained five times on administrative charges. In February, after being detained at an anti-war protest, she witnessed the beating of her cellmate, and in May she was beaten herself. In total Hanna spent 63 days behind bars in inhuman conditions.
“After each arrest, there was a strong feeling that there would be more. Already on my third term, I felt that it might end in a criminal case soon. But I had not lost hope [that we would win anyway].”
After she was arrested for the fourth time at the end of May, the police brought Hanna to the police station, where Anna refused to testify against herself.
“After about two or three minutes, a man comes in, comes up to me, and says, ‘On the floor!’ [...] I obeyed and lay down. Then they closed the door. He took out the handcuffs, said he felt threatened by me, and put them on me. Then he put you in the ‘swallow’ position when your hands are handcuffed behind the back and the legs are put through this loop so you are twisted like a bagel.
After that, other people came in, there was one who kicked me in the ribs, then they threw something at me. When they drew up a search warrant they threatened to trash my apartment and my parents' house. I did not go to the search.
Then some man came in, pulled my hair to see my face, and asked if I knew him. Then he started asking questions. […] If he didn’t like the answer, he hit me on the buttocks with a stick. At one point he thought I answered in Belarusian, so he hit me with the stick again and told me to speak ‘normally’.
When the interrogation was over, most of them left the room, adding that I would lie like this until my hands turned blue. In total, I lay like that for about half an hour. They came back, but already in balaclavas, and told me to get up and sign the papers. Then they pulled the hood over my head and took me to the car with my head down.”
Then the girl was taken to court and was sentenced to 15 days in jail. But at the end of the term, Anna was not released - she was re-detained under new charges. The verdict was another 15 days in jail.
Hanna has spent a total of 63 days behind bars. She describes the conditions in which the prisoners are held:
"...overcrowded cells, no linens and mattresses, no walks, no showers, no care package from family and hygiene products. […] There were lice, cockroaches, and bedbugs in the cells. […] Inmates suffer from colds and sore throats, […] it is impossible to get quality medical care.”
At the end of June, Hanna served her last sentence and decided to leave the country because of threats from law enforcement officials. Yet she is positive that she will return home and has to keep fighting:
"The decision was really difficult, now I think sometimes that maybe it was for nothing. I will definitely come back home.
The Belarusians should continue to fight for their freedom. Only we can do anything to make them account for their crimes. That's why we have to go to the last man.”