International Committee For Investigation Of Torture In Belarus Releases New Report

*The International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus has prepared the second interim report on the situation with torture and inhuman treatment in relation to detained citizens from September to November 2020.

The average age of the wounded is 31 years

The report points to disproportionate use of force during detention. It says that the main method of suppressing peaceful protests of citizens in September-November was the use of force to disperse and detain protesters, followed by bringing them to either criminal (Articles 293, 342) or administrative (Article 23.34) liability.

During this period, thousands of peaceful citizens’ assemblies were held mainly on Sundays, and the most massive ones were in Minsk. According to Mediazona, during the protests in August-September alone, at least 1,373 people (1,316 men and 57 women) were injured by law enforcement officers in Minsk.

About 500 people were beaten during the rallies, every third was injured of moderate severity and mutilation. Most of the victims of violence at peaceful gatherings are young men. The average age of the wounded is 31 years. The most serious injuries are from special equipment: rubber bullets and stun grenades.

Detention conditions

The report reads that upon admission to a temporary detention facility, some detainees were put into narrow 1 m² cells (“glasses”), 4-5 people in each. People were left there for 1,5-2 hours. Officers are rude to the detainees, shout obscenities, humiliate, threaten with criminal prosecution.

The decision to provide medical assistance depended on the discretion of the militia officers. In a number of cases, medical assistance was provided not timely, or security forces completely refused to provide it, even if the injuries threatened the health and life of the detainees.

“Detentions, as before, are carried out as abductions — militia officers do not allow detainees to call their relatives to inform them of their whereabouts. In addition, they do not notify relatives of the detention of people, despite appropriate requests, and sometimes provide false information. Another alarming trend is the deliberate creation of inhumane conditions of detention in places of detention in order to punish detainees.

State bodies deliberately do not take any measures to protect detainees from contracting coronavirus infection and to isolate and treat those who have symptoms of the disease. In such conditions — mass arrests and lack of preventive measures — places of detention have become places of mass infection with COVID-19.”

The respondents stated that it was difficult to identify the persons involved in torture and ill-treatment because law enforcers didn’t have identification marks, didn’t wear a uniform, some had their shoulder straps turned inside with marks. Many officers work in balaclavas.

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