"I was lucky to be a journalist and to have my kidneys thrashed previously." Survivor stories
The Human Rights Center “Viasna” and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) launched a campaign to document cases of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of protesters on August 9-13. Some testimonies of people who survived torture and violence will be published on our website as evidence of crimes committed by security forces.
Siarhei Herasimovich was detained on 10 August at 9 p.m. near the Yubileynaya Hotel in Minsk. He was walking with his journalist colleagues when the cars on the avenue started beeping. Siarhei raised his hand in a Victory sign. Suddenly, the riot police shouted: "Come here!" The journalist walked up and was brutally thrown into the police van where the policemen started beating him with batons.
“I was probably the most unlucky of all the detainees, because in a few moments, I was transferred to a smaller bus with plain-clothes police. They "welcomed" me there, and when we got to Niamiha Street, I was thrown into a police van where I was batonned again,” recalls Siarhei.
Siarhei was brought to the detention center in Akrescin Street and put through the notorious "corridor of fame": the detained pass between two lines of police who beat them with batons. They tried to interview the journalist about where he had been going and other details.
"They made me take off my underwear, stripped me naked, made me squat and beat me on soft tissues. I wasn't the only one, there were many other people with me in the cell. There were 40 people on 20 square meters and six beds. We couldn't sleep, only stood. 24 hours later, they started calling people from the cell one by one. There were a lot of random people among the detained. Some people were detained on the way to a shop or just for being in the street."
According to the journalist, the investigators said that riot police had overdone it and promised that soon people would be released. People in the cell felt victorious. The police took out two or three people at a time with the intention to let them out.
"And then they shouted: "Face down! Face Down!" and made us sign the reports. I made a note on a side that I was familiarised with the report, they didn't care, it wasn't them who had filed them. I couldn't understand why? When they started chasing us out, I thought, what about our belongings, money? And finally I got what would happen, the massacre started. They took us out to the detention centre's yard, put everyone on their knees and said "Pull up your T-shirt! Take off your pants!" They were watching us. My kidneys had been already thrashed when they threw me from one van to another, I was pissing blood.
They began beating people after midnight, hitting them hard! People screamed and cried – women, men, they didn't care. They hit everybody so hard that people started shitting themselves.
To be honest, I was a bit luckier, because I am a journalist and my kidneys had been thrashed before. A riot policemen said: "I'll 'handle' this one." He came up, hit my ass a couple of times and thrashed my knees. And that was it. This is extreme humanism."
Siarhei Herasimovich says he can't identify those who beat him. All these people were wearing masks. However, he says that riot police from all city districts were present, they sometimes addressed each other referring to a district.
Describing the detention conditions, the journalist says there was tap water, but the detained were not fed for three days. Only on the morning of August 12 they were given porridge and tea. The detained didn't receive bed linen, they used some cloth left by the previous detainees. The first roll of toilet paper was given on the third day of detention.
"I also wanted to say that there were some men in front of me who were beaten up really hard and then sent to the pre-trial detention center. They did not beat us in the daytime, they are afraid to do it."
More stories of people who survived police violence and torture:
18-year-old Uladzimir Pahartsau says that he was not beaten so hard compared to other detainees, because he was chosen to give an interview to a state TV channel about the “coordinators of the protests.”
23-year-old Yury Panamarou was detained in the evening of August 11 on his way to a street food market in central Minsk. He told Viasna about the cruelty of his unjustified detention and the conditions under which he was kept for two days in the detention center in Akrescin Street.
On August 11, Dzianis Selivankin was approached by two police officers at the intersection of Pieramožcaŭ Avenue and Mieĺnikajte Street. They asked for his ID. Dzianis replied that he had no passport with him. Then the young man was forced to unlock his smartphone. What they saw in Dzianis’s Telegram enraged them.
Vasil Hushcha (48) was detained in the evening of August 9 near the Maskva cinema next to Niamiha street. He was freed in the morning of August 14. Vasil told “Viasna” about the tortures in the detention center on the Akrescin Street, his transfer to a prison in Žodzina (60 km from Minsk) and the conditions there.
Hleb was detained on August 11 near the shopping center “Skala”. He says that the riot policemen detained him when he simply walked down the street with headphones on his head. He spend the next three days in the police station of Maskouski district, then in the detention center on Akrescin Street and finally in a correctional facility in Sluck.
I turned up by chance, they put me in a bus or in a police van, I don't remember which. They took my phone away at once, broke it, asked for the password, I do not understand on what grounds. Then they took me to the Maskoŭski police department. They didn't beat me much in the police van, but started beating in the police department.
A Minsk resident was detained on August 9 and left the Center for the Confinement of Offenders on the morning of August 12. All this time he, like the other detainees, was deprived of food. Forty people were held in a six-men cell, and riot police insulted and beat people at night. The guy, who chose to remain anonymous, agreed to tell Viasna what he had to go through.