After the rigged presidential election in Belarus on August 9, 2020, thousands of people protested for new elections. The peaceful opposition was then brutally crushed by the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko. Now the International Committee to Investigate Torture has published a report on the mistreatment of demonstrators in Minsk’s notorious Okrestina prison. The tortures by the security forces are reproduced in detail.
56 page document with reports from more than 100 inmates
The 56-page document, which only recaps the first five days, contains accounts from more than 100 former inmates who recount brutal violence and inhuman prison conditions. In the Okrestina prison, more than 3,000 people were accommodated over a period of five days, although it is only designed for 110 people.
Minors, the elderly, people with disabilities and random passers-by were also among the inmates, according to the committee. The conditions were inhuman. Detainees were apparently held in overcrowded cells for days.
Belarusian authorities deny any torture
Police officers, prison guards and medical staff are all accused of carrying out the violence. According to the report, the victims produced medical and other documents to support their statements. However, the Belarusian authorities continue to deny any torture.
The Committee reports that newly arriving inmates were herded into the prison courtyard by lines of security guards who beat them with batons. They were also made to kneel against a concrete wall for hours while the police beat them. Getting up wasn’t allowed. According to the report, demonstrators were strip-searched in front of large numbers of other detainees. A witness recalled that a guard hit the naked men in the testicles with a club.
“The men in particular were severely beaten with clubs”
The torture did not end even after the investigations. “People were screaming all the time. The men in particular were beaten so hard with clubs that you could hear bones cracking, the screams were so loud that it sounded like people were being burned alive,” says a witness in the report.
A woman tells of the humiliation of a man who had to mop up his blood with his own body. “One of the men was beaten so much that he wet himself with blood. The policemen shouted at him to wipe up the urine and blood from the floor. The man cried and replied that he had nothing to wipe up since he was naked. The police then kept beating him and shouting for him to wipe it up with his body.”
The arrests of the protesters, however, continue unhindered. The secret service still uses photos and videos to identify the demonstrators. The conditions of detention for political prisoners should remain unchanged, as the human rights activists explain.