The use of tortures against opposition is the reality for Lukashenka’s Belarus

2009 2009-02-04T19:47:34+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Belarusian human rights activists report about facts of torturing of the opposition by representatives of the Belarusian law machinery.

4 February is the universal Torture Elimination Day. It was introduced in 1985, after the adoption of the appropriate resolution by the United Nations Organization.

‘The problem of tortures is still a daily one for Belarus’, told to the Charter97 press-center a well-known human rights activist Valiantsin Stefanovich. ‘In our country this problem remains ‘latent’ and is concealed. The people are afraid to complain that some prohibited methods or means are used against them. In addition, there’s still no such article as ‘tortures’ in the Criminal Code of Belarus.

Instead, we have ‘abuse of the duty powers’. The system works in such a way that very often the abuse of powers remains unpunished. Let’s remind the case from Vitsebsk, where policemen beat a medic. They simply detained him out in the street and beat him. Recently these policemen have been sentenced to four years of imprisonment. However, according to the reports of Vitsebsk human rights activists, they were left at office till the complaint against their lawless action reached the court.’

Bear in mind that on 22 December 2006 a surgeon of Vitsebsk Emergency Hospital Andrei Drobyshau was brutally beaten by the police officers Makhankou and Shushko. Only on 16 December 2008 the College Board on criminal cases of Vitsebsk oblast court sentenced the offenders to four years of imprisonment.

Three people per one berth

‘Most often the information about tortures and the incarceration conditions in the Belarusian prisons is given publicity by oppositional activists who become victims of repressions,’ says Valiantsin Stefanovich.

The human rights activist is of the opinion that convicts and suspects are still often kept in inhumane conditions.

‘The conditions in which prisoners are kept in the Belarusian prisons and investigative isolators often don’t meet the minimal standards of incarceration. There are three people per one berth in the overcrowded pre-trial prison and the prison in Akrestsin Street. That’s why the people have to sleep in turn. Several years ago we received information about a beating in Mazyr prison. Numerous suspects on criminal cases had to sleep on the floor, in cold barracks,’ said Valiantsin Stefanovich.

Suspects are kept in cage

The recent detention of youth activists can also be qualified as torture. ‘The incident in Homel’, points Mr. Stefanovich, ‘can be considered as mockery. Maybe, the police conducted examination of the detainees. This procedure is permitted by the law. However, the fact that the young people were strip-searched in presence of strangers is quite suspicious. Naturally, it can be considered as mockery.’

Bear in mind that on 3 February in Homel the police detained the activists of the Young Front and of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party Vasil Takarenka, Andrei Tsianiuta and Kastus Zhukouski. The detainees were guarded to Tsentralny district police department of Homel and strip-searched there.

‘Last year we received complaints about the incarceration conditions in the prison in Akrestsin Street. The Administrative Code gives detainees the right to have individual places for sleep and bedclothes,’ says the human rights activist. ‘However, in practice these conditions are not implemented in the prison in Akrestsin Street. The fact remains – people are left in cells without individual berths. They are not lead out of the cells for walks and are kept in closed space.’

Forced to eat T-shirt

The opposition often becomes a target at which the authorities test their punitive methods.

‘In 2006, there was the crackdown of the tent camp,’ continues Valiantsin Stefanovich. ‘Secret services detained youngsters. I recollect the case of Kanstantsin Usianok, who was forced to eat his T-shirt in the car of the riot squad. He was beaten there. Then his hair was cut. We applied to the prosecutor’s office. Instead of investigation the prosecutor’s office forwarded the case to Padabed, the commandant of Minsk riot squad police, the head of the organ against which we had applied to the prosecutor’s office.’

Pitifully enough, tortures are not uncommon in Belarus. As stated by Mr. Stefanovich, elements of punitive system can be observed even in the everyday life of the Belarusian society.