Human rights watchdog: Persons who help investigate torture cases in Belarus put to torture

Protests in Minsk. 9 August 2020. Photo: АВ / Vot Tak TV / Belsat

The authorities have stepped up the ressure on the International Committee to Investigate Torture in Belarus, the Legal Initiative human rights organisation said on Thursday.

On April 3, a volunteer of the committee, who had already served a jail term, became a suspect in a criminal case under Part 1 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (‘organisation and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them’).

“During the detention and search, [the officers] put him to torture to gain access to his computer and mobile telephone. While being under administrative arrest, he was also tortured, ill-treated, subjected to strong psychological pressure (i.e. bleach liquid was intentionally poured onto the floor of his cell; he was placed in solitary confinement where conditions were inhumane),” reports.

It is not uncommon that torture victims are facing firther persecution, the Legal Initiative stressed.

On April, Belarusian security forces made an unexpected visit to the flat of OSCE/ODIHR expert Enira Branitskaya, who is also a Human Constanta lawyer and member of the board of the Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities. Officially, the search was conducted as part of a criminal case over ‘mass riots’. However, during the raid, security officers said that the real cause was the activity by the International Committee to Investigate Torture in Belarus. Computer equipment and money were confiscated during the search.

Mother of five tortured by police

The International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus was created as a reaction of Belarusian and foreign human rights organisations to torture and brutality towards civilians after the presidential elections on August 9, 2020.

On April 7, the Amnesty International organisation published its 2020/2021 report on the state of the human rights in the world; according to the human rights watchdog, the Belarusian authorities systematically used torture and other ill-treatment against people detained during protests, including participants, journalists and bystanders.

“UN human rights experts received 450 testimonies of ill-treatment of detainees supported by photo, video and medical evidence, documenting a horrific litany of abuses. They describe how protesters were tortured and ill-treated during arrest, transportation and detention in severely overcrowded facilities. Protesters were humiliated, brutally beaten, subjected to sexual violence, including against women and minors, and deprived of access to food, clean water and medical care during lengthy periods of detention,” the report reads.

The Belarusian authorities admitted receiving some 900 complaints of abuse by police in connection with the protests, but by the end of the year not a single criminal investigation had been opened, nor had any law enforcement officer been charged with respective violations, Amnesty International experts added.

CNN publishes investigation about lawlessness and violence in Belarus