Teenager describes police brutality and torture after peaceful protests in Brest

David was detained on August 10 in Brest. He is a minor. Together with his mother, friends and stepfather, they were returning home across the bridge from the city center to the Yuzhnyi district. The riot police surrounded them on the bridge. All of them were forced on their knees, brutally beaten, searched. Then David’s mother was forcefully taken out of the cordon, but her son was forced to stay. She told us about the horror that followed.

Ina says that no one could think police would get violent. They even invited people to go through the cordon so that people could cross the bridge.

“In the cordon, they forced us to go down on our knees. On the sides along the kerb, there were men. They were being beaten. They were screaming from pain. I showed them my belongings, they found nothing. They told me to go, but they wouldn’t let my son go. They didn’t care if he was a minor or not. I was literally pushed out”.

Minsk, Belarus. August 9, 2020. Photo: Alyaksandr Vasyukovich Vot-tak.tv / Belsat.eu.

The woman called the police line, but got no information. The dispatcher yelled at her:

“She yelled at me saying I shouldn’t walk around with a child. She told me to go home and wait till tomorrow for things to sort out, then she hung up on me”.

At 4 am on August 11, Ina received a call from an undisclosed number and told to come and pick up her son, but they did not say where:

“Nobody picked up the phone, and then it turned out that they took a random phone of some detainee from a pile of mobile phones, called their parents, and then the phone was thrown back into the pile”.

“I’m embarrassed to admit, but I cried.”

Ina, however, found out that David was kept in the barracks of the military unit. Outside the building there were dozens of confused parents waiting for their children. Ina was ordered to sign a protocol stating that David had taken part in the protests.

“They wrote that he had been detained in the square at the rally. I refused to sign it. I wrote how it really was. And they did not give my child away so easily. They took him out into a dark corridor and told me to make sure everything is all right. You can’t see anything there. They close the door, they give you a sheet of paper, you have to write that you have no claims. It was later that we already saw the marks of the batons and bruises.”

David, beaten by riot police. Photo of his mother.

After his release, David said that the detainees had not even been asked who they were or where they were from, but had simply been beaten and abused. Phones were taken from everybody, and when they were released it could not be found, because there was a pile of them. All the detainees lay on the floor without access to water and toilets. They were not allowed to put up their heads. When someone looked away, they were beaten up badly.

“He said to me, ‘Mom, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I cried. Everyone cried, the police were hard on everyone. The grown men were crying, too. They said: you wanted justice, here’s justice for you. His arms and legs were swollen, but he was afraid to move”.

David, beaten by riot police. Photo of his mother.

Ina did not know where her partner Dzyanis was until Sunday August 16. He wasn’t on any of the lists.

“I called and looked for Dzyanis. In the department, they picked up the phone and kept silent, or put it off — and I could hear them giggle. I have seven children, the youngest one is disabled. I have spent my whole life talking with officials, facing rudeness, humiliation and injustice everywhere”.

“She screamed that she was pregnant, and they beat her even harder.”

Dzyanis was released on the night of August 17. The man was given 10 days of arrest, despite his state of health, although he too is beaten and shocked. Dzyanis has been prosecuted before, he confesses he is tough and patient, but he has never seen such torture:

“I’ve seen a lot, but I couldn’t believe that women and children would be beaten up. We heard one girl screaming that she was pregnant, and they beat her even harder. After I was released, the doctor examined me and said they had damaged my kidney or broken my ribs. I have to go to the hospital”.

Fortunately, they returned all the documents except my cell phone and the money. The phone, they said, will be transferred to Minsk, where they will “study” it. They forced Dzyanis to say that he had taken part in an unauthorized rally, but he told them like it was.

The family has contacted lawyers. On August 17th they stayed almost six hours in the Investigative Committee, and the complaint can be filed only within five days after the release. Crowds are waiting to file complaints with the Investigative Committee, Ina said.