By now volunteers of the “Zvyano” NGO have found in hospitals in Minsk 120 and interviewed 30 people who received injuries of various severity. However, we believe there are many more, but the autorities are hiding information and it takes a lot of effort to trace the injured. Some cases are supported with audio and video materials. At the moment we are aware of 7 injured in critical condition in resuscitation departments. We interviewed ambulance workers and injured people in the Military Hospital, the Emergency Care Hospital, Minsk City Clinical Hospital No. 6, and Minsk City Clinical Hospital No.2.
Based on the results of the survey we hereby report the following human rights violations:
- The right to life:
The Belarusian law enforcement agencies used firearms against the protesters, which indicates that people were deliberately deprived of their lives. We were informed about gunshot wounds by an ambulance team that worked on the night of August 10-11 in the vicinity of the Pushkinskaya Metro Station in Minsk. According to ambulance driver’s report, those who suffered from gunshot wounds were taken to the Military Hospital. He also reported 3 people dead in the area. One of the injured, Sergey by name, was shot with a rubber bullet in the elbow in Rokossovskogo Avenue on August 11, 2020 at 22.00. According to him, there were people around him who were unconscious, and when the ambulance arrived, the doctors failed to rescue one of the injured. That man died in the hands of doctors who were installing an IV drip to him. There is a person with a gunshot wound in the intensive care unit of Minsk City Clinical Hospital No.4, who was admitted on the night of August 9-10, 2020 (we have the name of this person). Meanwhile, the authorities reported only one death in the vicinity of Pushkinskaya Metro Station. The version of the Ministry of Internal Affairs about this case raises many questions, since the video distributed by journalists shows that nothing exploded in the hands of the person, who was later found dead. It also shows that the person was shot dead with a fire arm, not killed with an explosion of an object in his hands. The victim’s wife believes that her husband is in the video. An official investigation into the protest participant’s death has not been launched, no investigative actions or examinations have been conducted, and no witnesses have been sought or questioned, which indicates that the authorities are not willing to provide a quick, effective and independent investigation into the death of the protest participant’s death.
- Non-provision of medical care:
We have evidence from people who were admitted to hospitals with broken ribs, arms, eye sockets and other injuries that require immediate medical attention. All of them claim that medical assistance was provided 6-12 hours after the injury, some were attended to only after they fainted. One person was taken away by ambulance only because he did not fit in the prisoner transport vehicle leaving for the prison in Zhodino. However, he was arrested around 21.00-22.00 on August 11, 2020 in the Independence Avenue in the Uruchie district, and arrived at the Emergency Care Hospital around 22.00-23.00 on August 12, 2020. He did not receive any medical assistance for 24 hours. According to him, many of those put in the prisoner transport vehicle that left for Zhodino were severely injured. We also call attention to the fact of death in Gomel, when the deceased had asked for help and was denied. This case is not investigated either, and the request for forensic examination of the causes of death was denied. Furthermore, people with chronic diseases (asthma, diabetes, etc.) did not have prescribed medicines with them, and the prison authorities did not allow relatives to bring them to the detainees.
- The right to personal freedom and inviolability:
Most of the injured report that they were detained without grounds. This applies not only to peaceful demonstrators who went out to protest. People who were not part of the protests were also detained: pedestrians, drivers and bicyclists who were near their homes, were going home or left the cafe in the street. At the same time, no one informed detainees’ relatives about the detention. All detainees were deprived of their mobile phones and access to lawyers. Almost all of the injured claim that law enforcement officers requested them to provide mobile phone passwords and viewed their personal information. If someone refused to tell the password, they were severely beaten. Most of the victims say that their phones were taken away immediately after arrest in a single package, without registering their identity in any way, and most did not receive them back.
On August 10, 2020 around 21.30 one of the victims, Alexey, and his three friends were nearby GUM in Minsk. They went into a cafe, ordered shawarma and went out on the street to wait for the order. A van pulled up and people in balaclavas with no identification signs ran out of it. He started running away along with other pedestrians, but they were beaten and thrown on the floor of the van, where the beating continued. In a while they were transferred to a prisoner transport vehicle where they were kept until delivery to the temporary detention facility around 3.00 on August 11, all this time they were occasionally beaten by police officers.
- Freedom from torture and ill-treatment:
The injured testify that they did not resist arrest, however, they were severely beaten with batons in the course of arrest, in the prisoner transport vehicle and upon arrival at the police department or temporary detention facility in Minsk. In the prisoner transport vehicle, police departments and temporary detention facility, people were kept on the ground in a kneeling position, standing against the wall, or lying in rows. New arrivers were forced to walk on those lying on the floor. Detainees spent 6-12 hours without being able to go to the toilet and without water or food. Some people stayed in crowded prisoner transport vehicles in the sun in a cramped position for over 6 hours. According to the injured, in temporary detention facilities people who wore t-shirts with “Pagonya” were doused with water and hit with stun guns, some people were forced to eat their white bracelets. There is one report of intramuscular injections of sulfozinum in relation to foreign citizens, so as not to leave traces of beatings. There is also an injured person admitted to the Emergency Care Hospital, who was given psychotropic medications (a tablet under the tongue), after which she could not speak and had difficulty breathing. Many people report threats of murder and rape, putting a gun to their head, being stripped naked and leaving them in the open ground. Police responded to requests for medical help or water with beating. Several witnesses claim that they practiced beating up people “according to the instructions”: one held the detainee, the other told how to turn him for beating. Prisoners were also beaten for no reason from time to time. All the prisoners say that for two days they did not receive food, only water, and later they were given bread and porridge once a day in insufficient quantities. 40-50 detainees were held in cells designed for 8-10 people.
- Disproportionate and illegal use of force:
Many of the victims were injured and burned by stun grenades, but they were unarmed and did not attack the law enforcement officers, they were on the sidewalk. Grenades were thrown directly at people or in close proximity to people, causing serious injuries. One of those wounded was injured as a result of deliberately throwing a grenade into a car – a soldier of the internal troops broke the side window. We also have a witness who was injured when he went out on the road to pick up an injured person. He was alone and unarmed, but when he approached the lying man, grenades from the security forces flew at him. Many injuries are associated with the use of rubber bullets, including shooting at close range of several meters. We managed to find the victim, who had not only a bullet stuck in his leg, but also a shell casing the wound. He was moving along the Rokossovskogo Avenue on August 11, 2020 and tried to take a video of the military on the road. He was stopped at gunpoint, ordered to get out of the car and shot in the hip from a distance of one meter. Another man, a cyclist, was arrested at the “Minsk the Hero City” Stella on August 10, 2020 around 22.00. In the course of the arrest his eye socket was broken with a baton. He claims that after their detention they were transported with bags on their heads, forced to crawl about 150 meters on their knees from the prisoner transportation vehicle to the building and all the time beaten with batons, the money that he had with him was taken by a policeman and it was not documented, protocol on the seizure of possessions was not drawn up.
- Lack of legal remedies:
None of the victims could rely on legal protection by lawyers. Many people were allowed to leave by ambulance only on the condition of signing a protocol, where the detainee agreed that they resisted police officers or participated in an unauthorized event. Many injured received threats that if they claim to have been subjected to illegal physical force and torture, they will be brought to justice under a criminal article. There are known facts when, after applying for medical help, the injured were taken away by the authorities in an unknown direction. Due to this and fears of criminal prosecution, many of those injured are afraid to seek medical care in state institutions.
A fact of violation of the rights of a minor who was admitted to the hospital on the night of August 7-8, 2020 was recorded. At 21.45, he was attacked by law enforcement officers in the area of Pobedy Avenue, hit with a baton on the head and taken to a police department. There he received no medical care for a long time, and his mother was told that he was all right from his phone. When his father came for him, he called an ambulance and the child was admitted to the Emergency Care Hospital. On August 10, 2020 at 23:30, a representative of the Investigative Committee came to his house and questioned him without a lawyer and without the permission of his parents, which they expressed over the phone.
The “Zvyano” NGO requests that all interested parties pay due attention to this information.