Human rights activists believe the repression against protesters were planned.
According to the Interior Ministry, about 7,000 people were detained during peaceful protests against election fraud in Belarus. Many people claim to have been beaten and tortured.
According to the official data of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, about 3,000 people were detained by law enforcement agencies on the night of August 9-10, more than 2,000 on the night of 10-11, more than 1,000 on the night of 11-12 and another 700 on the night of 12-13. The detentions continued later, but were not so massive any more. In the evening of 18 August there were 44 administratively arrested protesters.
Many of the detainees claim to have been beaten and tortured. According to the IC, on August 17, more than 600 people reported injuries sustained during police retention, while about 100 people reported injuries in places of temporary detention. Many detainees were taken to hospitals after being beaten. As of August 11, there were more than 200 such cases, and on August 12, 51 more people were added to the list. According to the Ministry of Health, as of August 14, 150 people were hospitalized in Belarusian hospitals. One of them, Henadz Shutau, who was shot in his head in Brest, died in the morning on August 19.
This is the fourth confirmed fatal case of the protester for 11 days (previously there were Alyaksandr Taraikouski, Alyaksandr Vikhor and Artsyom Parukou). The body of Kanstantsin Shyshmakou, a member of the precinct commission from Vaukavysk, who refused to sign the final protocol of the election, was also found. The death circumstances are still unknown.
A representative of the Human Rights Centre Viasna, Valyantsin Stefanovich, told Belsat that human rights activists have already spoken with and recorded about 400 people, victims of law enforcement agencies, on video and photo. Some people do it anonymously. This information is collected for several purposes. First, to inform the public.
“Secondly, those who are ready to appeal to the Investigative Committee, which is currently conducting an inspection, unfortunately, have not initiated criminal proceedings on all these facts. Nevertheless, we believe that those who are ready, should apply with appropriate statements, undergo an examination,” said the human rights defender.
Also on the basis of these data it is planned to apply to the UN Committee against Torture in accordance with the procedure of Article 20 of the Convention against Torture, which Belarus has ratified.
“We work with the International Coalition against Torture and the International Federation of Human Rights. A lawyer helps us in this work,” said Stefanovich.
According to the Valyantsin, the torture was systemic and mass in nature, it was not a phenomenon of just a few people, a specific unit or even a single city.
“In fact, it was a planned event. I think that the appropriate order was given by the leadership of the Interior Ministry,” added the representative of Viasna.
According to him, a very large percentage of the 7,000 detainees were tortured and inhumanely treated. Mr Stefanovich stressed that beatings and torture of people were of a political nature. People were beaten for showing their political activity, voting for the wrong candidate and for being in general ‘paid agents’, though it’s unclear by whom.
Among torture, the most common phenomenon was beating of detainees, including with the use of special means like rubber truncheons. Many people have also been subjected to humiliating treatment involving sexual aspects.
“There is evidence that people were raped with rubber truncheons. Both men and women were stripped. They were brutally abused, forcing them to sing the anthem of Belarus, saying that they were not patriots. They made them scream “I love riot police!” stated the human rights activist.
There were dreadful conditions of detention, when people were “kept for several days in overcrowded, to put it mildly, cells,” not fed. There were also many cases of failure to provide victims with medical care. Valyantsin Stefanovich also said that a disproportionate number of weapons were used against peaceful protesters. He recalled that even non-lethal weapons can’t be used with large numbers of people, as they can harm a wide range of people.
“We unequivocally believe that the rallies were peaceful. And if there were any cases of violence against police officers, they should be considered separately and in the context of how it happened, including cases of self-defense against disproportionate and illegal actions of the police,” said the representative of Viasna.
He stressed that the demonstrators did not take any actions falling under Article 293 of the Criminal Code on mass riots. Thus, they did not commit arson or pogroms, nor did they perform armed resistance to law enforcement bodies. Therefore, Viasna” insists on the release of all detainees in the criminal case of mass riots (about 80 people) and has already recognized the first 11 people, detained as suspects in the mass riots as political prisoners. But after the identification of all detainees, appropriate measures will be taken against them.
“Today we can say that we have 37 political prisoners,” added Valyantsin Stefanovich.
In his opinion, this is not a final figure.