Human Rights Activists Publish Report On Torture Against Women In Belarus

The International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus has published the third report on torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of women. Human rights activists analyzed the period from August last year to February this year. They interviewed 143 women, victims of torture and other actions of security forces (riot police, Ministry of Internal Affairs, employees of penitentiary institutions, etc.). The report is also based on information from open sources, stories of witnesses of human rights violations, monitoring of peaceful rallies.

Main conclusions

  • A significant escalation of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by law enforcement agencies in Belarus took place on August 9-13, 2020. Violence against peaceful protesters continued by the authorities until the end of 2020 and January 2021.
  • Physical torture against women on August 9-13 had less coverage than against men. However, the percentage of women detained at rallies on these days is significantly lower.
  • Direct violence, various forms of inhuman and degrading treatment of human dignity were used against women.
  • Medical assistance was not provided to women or was provided in isolated cases.
  • Transportation to penitentiary institutions and conditions of detention there do not meet international standards and national legislation and constitute torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
  • The authorities do not react to the complaints filed with the prosecutor’s office about the conditions of detention and continue the purposeful practice of creating cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions for women in places of detention.
  • Not a single criminal case has been opened on allegations of torture.

Excerpts from the report

  • Several women said that they were trying to get home and had to hide in the bushes at the intersection of Timiryazev and Kalvariyskaya Streets, as security forces fired indiscriminately with rubber bullets at the bushes. After that, they started clearing the area, everyone ran across the bridge, and security forces shoot them in the back.
  • Women who provided medical care to protesters and identified themselves or vehicles with a red cross caused particular aggression. They stopped cars marked with a red cross, accused people of helping the protesters, which served as an additional incentive for aggression and humiliation. “As soon as they saw the crosses on the car, they looked so excited, shouted gleefully ‘Oh, doctors, you, animals, get out, filth.'”
  • Some women were beaten in police vehicles. Female citizens of other countries were treated with particular cruelty. Thus, when a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania was brought to a police station, a riot policeman said: “Ah! You’re a Lithuanian. You have feminism in Lithuania. Well, it means that you will be treated like everyone else!” and repeatedly hit her on the shoulders and head.

  • Everyone was forbidden to raise their eyes and look at those who beat the detainees. The women kept in the police department cells were forced to urinate either directly on the floor, or into a plastic bottle in turns.
  • In one police department, a riot policeman marked a girl with a black marker: wrists, chest and forehead, she was very frightened and wet herself, as they threatened to rape her. “We were told: ‘You are bitches, you shouted ‘shame on us’, now we will take turns to rape you.'”
  • Victim N., 60 years old. On 8 November, at the end of the rally, two buses stopped near Nemiga Street, riot policemen jumped out of it and began to grab people. On the sidewalk, there was a woman with an icon and a banner “God sees everything.” They tore out the icon, the banner, threw them on the ground, and hit the woman. They put a white-red-white flag on the second step of the paddy wagon and forced people to step on it. In the paddy wagon, one of the riot police officers insulted her and swang a truncheon at her. Then she and the other women were transferred to another paddy wagon, where they were placed in “glass” [a solitary narrow cell] with bars. Nine people were pushed into a cell for three. Then they sprayed pepper gas at them. The detainees coughed and gasped.
  • On 26 October, victim K. was in the Frunzensky district police department of Minsk. She said: “Three more guys were brought in, each of them had a white-red-white flag wrapped all over their faces up to their throats, wet and dirty. It looked like they were dragged right through the mud, face down. Three of them sat separately and forced to lower their heads very low and not remove these flags, i.e. they sat like this, wrapped in these flags, and I don’t know how they managed to breathe. Nightmare. Their hands were behind their backs, their heads down, and they were treated harshly. They brought two guys. They have such injuries on their faces everywhere, and they both limped, pulled their legs.”

A full report in Russian can be found here.