On 8 November, people detained at a protest rally were kept in the courtyard of the Sovetsky District Department of Internal Affairs in Minsk for several hours. They were standing in the cold with their hands up, facing the wall. The police department is next to high-rise buildings, whose residents managed to take photos of the detainees standing in this position day and night.
In Belarus, there is not a single law that would allow such an attitude towards administrative detainees. Human rights activists call such this “blatant lawlessness”. However, police representatives believe that they didn’t violate anyone’s rights and the attitude towards the detainees was “quite humane, there was no abuse of power.”
According to the Internal Affairs Bodies Act, legality, respect and observance of the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of citizens, as well as humanism are among the basic principles of the police. According to the Procedural-Executive Code of Administrative Offences of Belarus, an individual subject to administrative detention, which lasts more than three hours, must be kept in places determined by the bodies conducting the administrative process.
Places are determined by the “Regulations on detention of an individual subject to administrative detention”: these are specially designed premises of the internal affairs bodies, including rooms of operational duty services for detained persons, cells of temporary detention centers, the internal affairs bodies’ centers for isolation of offenders, specially equipped premises and cells of temporary detention facilities of the border service, premises of state security agencies.
The list is exhaustive, and there is no internal courtyard of the police department in it.
TUT.BY tried to get a comment from the press secretary of the Sovetsky District Department of Internal Affairs, but the specialist is on sick leave and, as the department said, no one replaces her. The press service of the Municipal Department of Internal Affairs of the Minsk City Executive Committee also failed to give a comment.
A journalits had to make an appointment as a citizen [not as an employee of an internet resource. TUT.BY was deprived of its media status in October Ed] with Sergei Drozdov, the deputy head of the public security police of the Sovetsky District Department of Internal Affairs.
“What law prohibits keeping detainees this way?” Drozdov answered the question with a question. “I do not see here anything violating the law, they were treated in a rather humane way. These are people who were detained for participating in an unauthorized mass event. The reports were drawn up within three hours from the moment of arrest. It is our right to keep them that way, including for the safety of personnel and taking into account the epidemiological situation.”
Drozdov also clarified that they could not lead the detainees to the isolation wards faster, since there were too many of them. He also couldn’t recall the law allowing such an attitude towards administrative detainees. Replying to a statement that such an attitude towards one of the detainees in the Central District Department of Internal Affairs was the subject of consideration by the UN Committee against Torture, he said that “this is their opinion, there was no abuse of power.”
It should be noted that the practice of keeping detainees this way is not new – such facts were reported back in 2017 in the Central, Moskovsky district police department of Minsk. This year the situation has worsened. In August 2020, people were not just held with their hands up on the wall, but lying on the ground, and in some cases, throughout the night. Human rights activists regard this as torture.
By Belarusian criminal legislation, torture is classified as a crime against humanity (Article 128 of the Criminal Code). It is punishable by imprisonment for a term of seven to twenty-five years, or life imprisonment, or the death penalty. This is a crime with no statute of limitations.