viasna on patreon

"What hemophilia? You shouldn't have written comments on the Internet." The story of political prisoner Aliaksei Haloukin

2024 2024-04-09T15:28:36+0300 2024-04-09T15:28:36+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Aliaksei Haloukin is an IT engineer from Hrodna. As a child, he was diagnosed with a complex hemophilic polyarthropathy. He graduated from a physics and mathematics school with a gold medal, but in 2020 he returned his diplomas and medals to his school, protesting in this way. He was soon detained and sentenced to three years of imprisonment.


Aliaksei has now been released and lives in a refugee camp in Switzerland, awaiting the decision of the migration service. He told Viasna about his time in the Hrodna pre-trial detention center and Babrujsk colony No. 2, medical care, the library, and the special squad he was part of.

2011, the first protests

Despite his term and emigration, the political prisoner does not regret that he protested. The first time he did at silent actions in 2011, which he received an administrative fine for. After that, he protested in the summer of 2020, even before the elections.

"Between these events, I did not actively protest," says Aliaksei. "I lived like a normal person who respects himself. For example, I refused to have my fingerprints taken when it was mandatory, which annoyed the police a lot. When I had my work assignment from university, I did not join associations, did not subscribe to newspapers, did not go to rallies. That's why I constantly received a salary without bonuses, around $100 a month."

But in 2020, when the collection of signatures for candidates began, the political prisoner decided that he wanted to actively express his position.

"I thought it would be nice to spoil the mood of the policemen a little via the Internet," he explains. "I created many empty VKontakte and Odnoklassniki pages and distributed them to people. Of course, I understood what I was doing, it wasn't an accident. But I thought it will result in just a fine, like in 2011. But then at the trial, I was accused not only for my comments, but also for those that other people wrote from all those pages."


In addition, Aliaksei went to protests, but he was detained only in early December 2020, in the yard of his own house.

"They didn't want me to have time to delete the data from the computer," the man explains. "In the yard, they ran up to me from behind, hit my leg, handcuffed me, and told me that I was finished. Then they put me in a minibus and pulled up my hood so that I wouldn't see where we were going."

During the interrogation, Aliaksei was beaten, although he warned about his illness.

"I asked them to beat less because my blood doesn't clot," he recalls. "It didn't affect their behavior. This went on for a couple of hours, the interrogation consisted of constant threats, shouting, and physical abuse. Our police especially like to make sexual threats. Six people interrogated me, and I remember that the last name of one of them is Miatselitsa. But they were constantly running back and forth, changing, in such a fuss it is difficult to show endurance."

After the interrogation, the staff took Aliaksei home to pick up all the devices, starting from his broken headphones, ending with his parents' computer. The parents were not given any documents about the seizure of the devices, and Aliaksei was taken to a temporary detention facility, where a difficult night awaited him.

"Late in the evening, I felt that after the beating, I began to bleed under my skin: on my head, on my shoulders, on my back, on my leg," he says. "I didn't sleep all night because it's a rather painful condition. When I realized that I couldn't step on my foot, I asked my cellmate to call an employee. He didn't come for an hour, and I was getting worse. And when the doctor finally came, he began to ask: "What hemophilia? You shouldn't have written comments on the Internet." In the end, he gave me some painkiller and left. But the pain got worse. I started to lose blood and lose consciousness. As a result, the ambulance was called only by the end of the second day. Moreover, the cops began to be very afraid that I would blurt things out: they were afraid that the ambulance would pick me up and discover that I had been beaten. But the ambulance staff were silent, they were quite scared, and some doctor from the police department told them: "Do you know what he did? He wrote comments against our government!"

"I'm "lucky": I have a disability"

After three days in the temporary detention facility, Aliaksei was sent to a Hrodna pre-trial detention center, where he stayed for about six months before being transferred to a colony. He says that the detention conditions there were inhuman.

"In winter it is very cold there, in summer it is stuffy and humid," says the political prisoner. "There are 10 people sitting in a small cell, washing everything, hanging clothes. Essentially, you are in a bathhouse around the clock. At that time, the mail still reached us consistently. 10-20 letters a day arrived on my birthday, and then, in January 2022, they stopped giving us letters from non-relatives. But I understood that it wasn't people who stopped writing, but the cops stopped transferring the letters. Even before the trial, I was recognized as a political prisoner: it felt like I had received a diploma for good behavior at school."

Aliaksei says that the pre-trial detention center and the colony are two completely different universes. It is easier to maintain health in the colony, eat properly, and have fresh air, but if you are a political prisoner, you will have to "suffer a little."

"In the Babrujsk colony, political prisoners are constantly deprived of parcels and visits," Aliaksei recalls. "You are in suspense all the time, waiting till some cop will pick on you. I was "lucky": I have a disability, so at least they didn't put me in solitary confinement; other political prisoners didn't get out of there. According to the plan, they are sent there about every three months."

Aliaksei got into the "disabled" squad, as they call it in the colony. There are people with physical and psychological health problems and senior citizens.

"There is a big advantage in such squads," the man notes. "Essentially, the cops don't go there with all sorts of checks, and even if they do and find something, some consequences are unlikely. But because the cops do not want to soil their hands, they delegate all power to the so-called "activists". These are convicts who do whatever the police tell them to do. If I'm not mistaken, they are even registered as trusted persons of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. They are responsible for everything in the squad. They are not busy with anything, and if the cops said to play hell with someone, they will do so."

The problem is that one constantly needs to ask for something from activists: to wash something, to make an appointment with a doctor, to put one on the waiting list to a store.

"If you don't like you, you can be the last on the list, and you will stand in line at the store for three or four hours in the rain, snow, or heat," says Aliaksei Haloukin. "On their own, these are all small things, but if it is repeated all the time, it is quite unpleasant. But I tried to do my time in a smart way and not to have conflict with anyone if I had the opportunity. I had to go to the infirmary once a week to get an injection to clot my blood. We had a very mean activist, but after six months I became friends with him. When he saw that I was limping more than usual, he came up and offered to take me to the infirmary. But two months before my release, the medicines ran out, and the head of the medical unit told me: "You will be released soon, so you'll have your treatment then." That was my record: two months without a shot."

The medical unit and a job for 50 kopecks

The political prisoner says that in the medical unit, workers treated prisoners like "cattle."

"They provide just enough help so that a person does not die", says Aliaksei. "Because otherwise you will need to write a lot of papers and waste time. This attitude is felt because a lot of people want to get into the infirmary, and it is often unclear who has a real problem and who just doesn't want to work. For example, people with heart diseases go to work, although many can barely drag their feet."

Aliaksei says that his squad did not go to work. For the rest of the prisoners, it consisted in pulling the wire out of old car tires. They were not provided with personal protective equipment, and their earnings, after deducting money for food and housing, amounted to 50–70 kopecks per month (0.14–0.19 euros).

"Since I didn't go to work, I read books all day," the political prisoner smiles. "The library there is good: there are not only old books from schools, but also ones ordered by the political prisoners themselves. From what I read there, I remember Nevzorov's The Art of Insulting. It was wasn't prohibited by some miracle. But at that time there were no heavy restrictions, and the level of intelligence of the average policeman in Belarus is not very high. Therefore, they let such a book be there, but not Nietzsche's The Will to Power, because the title is not very good."

Aliaksei Haloukin says that after imprisonment, people often develop cynicism and suspiciousness. But one can also meet good people there. Vitold Ashurak became one of them for Aliaksei.

"I was lucky: I lived in the same cell with him for several months," the political prisoner smiles. "He is a wonderful, very clever, cultured, intelligent man. Vitold spent the whole day writing letters, saying that to answer everyone was his duty and work. He was very optimistic. He was afraid that he would be sentenced to less than five years. He said it would be somehow improper. I once said out loud the phrase "Do what you have to do, come what may", and he said that he really likes it and even used it as his Facebook status. He said it was good that I remembered it, that this was the way to live. It fully describes him. We talked a lot about serious and mundane topics: from the history of the Great Duchy of Lithuania to which potato is better, boiled or fried. Vitold really liked the soups that were given in the pre-trial detention center, and I often gave him mine. He said that they were so delicious that he would shake hands with the guy who made those soups. Such an outstanding man was great even in small things."

Latest news