Belarus: a new report of human rights’ defenders on tortures and refusal of the authorities to investigate them

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26 January 2021

Today, two human rights organizations – the Russian Committee Against Torture and the World Organization Against Torture (WOAT) – published a report which contains evidence of victims of illegal violence by law-enforcement agencies of Belarus, as well as describes how the Belarus authorities are not investigating hundreds of similar applications.

“Truncheons’ corridor”: the path of the Belarus authorities. Report on political violence” is based on the investigation performed by lawyers with the Committee Against Torture in Belarus from 22 August till 12 November 2020. It describes in detail the cases of thirteen citizens who, just like hundreds of others, suffered from violence by authorities in the period from 9 to 13 August 2020. The majority of the victims were forced to pass through these corridors, when law-enforcement officers lined up in two ranks in order to be able to hit with truncheons the apprehended persons who were running between them.

For example, one person’s eardrum was broken, others got various fractures. Some victims reported sexual violence or threats of sexual nature and abuse. Other infringements by law-enforcement officers involve many-hours-long keeping the apprehended in unnatural poses, as well as keeping them in overcrowded cells without water or food. The majority of these thirteen people were passers-by who did not participate in protest rallies against re-election of president Lukashenko.

“Law-enforcement officers actively applied force against already detained persons who did not present any threat and did not render any resistance, – lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Dmitry Kazakov comments. – It is obvious that it was aimed at intimidation, humiliation and punishment of people for participating in rallies which were predominantly peaceful. The collected data gives evidence of intentionality of the acts of brutal treatment”.

By 9 September 2020, according to the official data, over one thousand eight hundred complaints from citizens against torture and illegal use of violence by law-enforcement officers were submitted to the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus. As of 31 December 2020, not a single criminal case was opened against law-enforcement officers.

The report features detailed information on how the Belarus authorities sabotage the effective investigation of the citizens’ complaints in every way under the cover of the formal compliance with the law. Such tricks involve opening criminal cases against the citizens who complained of torture, obstructing the lawyers to represent the victims’ interests, striking some of them off their licenses and even opening criminal cases against them, joining hundreds of cases into one and ungrounded suspending of the investigation.

In addition, the police superiors of the Republic of Belarus refused to provide the contacts of their employees who participated in violent acts, thus depriving the investigative authorities from an opportunity to interrogate them, and the Minister of the Interior and President Lukashenko officially justified the violence by the police officers by the necessity to protect the police officers’ families, as well as the country, as a whole.

“During the investigation, our Russian colleagues identified a number of various tricks used by the Belarus officials to actually dismiss the claims to investigative the facts of outrageous behavior of the law-enforcement officers, – General Secretary of the World Organization Against Torture Herald Staberok said. – What we are observing, is a politically motivated dismissal of justice. Considering the absence of independent investigation inside the country, we think that it is time to establish an international body that would investigate the human rights violations committed in Belarus on a large scale”.

For full text of the report in Russian – see specialized website. The same resource features the stories of torture victims and illegal violence applied by the Belarus law-enforcement.