Leaked police data reveals level of violence against protesters in Belarus

More than 25 people contacted hospitals with broken bones and serious injuries. One young man, 21, was beaten until the main airway in his left lung was ruptured, causing air to escape from his lungs into his chest cavity. Another man the same age received two broken ribs. Indeed, the latter’s whole body was covered in bruises – his chest, back, thighs, knees, shoulders and left hand.

Injuries connected to sexual violence

Three detainees received injuries consistent with sexual violence either at the Akrestsina detention centre or en route there. A 31-year-old man was hospitalised with intramucosal hemorrhages of the rectum, a 29-year-old man had an anal fissure and bleeding. A third party, a 17-year-old man, received – aside from other injuries – an injury to his rectal mucosa.

Ales, a 30-year-old programmer (whose name has been changed), told journalists how he was raped. “The riot police demanded that I unlock my phone, and then called the senior officer. He started threatening me with inserting a riot stick into my anus. I was lying on the floor of the police van, and he cut my shorts and underwear open. He asked his colleagues for a condom. I was lying on the floor face-down, but I could see how he put the condom on the riot baton. And then he inserted it into my anus. He pulled it out and then asked for the password again. And then he began beating me – punching and kicking. I was hit in the ribs, the face, my teeth – two of them were broken.”

10 August: violence on the street – followed by beatings at Akrestsina detention centre, police stations

In Minsk, police organised the most brutal dispersal of protesters on 10 August. On city streets, not counting beatings in police stations and Akrestsina detention centre, 291 people received injuries. That day also saw mass detentions, with more than 3,000 people arrested. In the days after, law enforcement would beat detainees again and again.

Siarhei (name changed) was detained on 10 August, and recalls how he and other detainees were brought to Akrestsina. “When we were released [from the police van], they didn’t explain the rules – you couldn’t look around, they would just hit you and say: ‘Run!’ You run on, they beat you and say: ‘Get down!’ Then you run on and they hit you: ‘Hands behind your back!’ People didn’t understand where they’d ended up, but first they beat you, then they explain. By that point every one had been beaten – perhaps lightly, but still.”

People were then lined up on their knees along the wall in the Akrestsina detention centre yard.

“We ran out of the van and stood next to the fence on our knees,” Siarhei continues. “On our knees. Those who were beaten in the legs could not physically get on their knees and had to sit down. And then they were beaten with riot batons for that. They beat them until they themselves realised that someone couldn’t get on their knees, or they just dragged them away when someone fell.”

The next eruption of violence came on 13 September during a march on the Belarusian government residential compound in Drazdy just outside Minsk. For the first time in a month, more than two dozen cases of violence were reported in our data – and that’s when our data ends.

Belarusian law enforcement beat everybody, including women and teenagers

Violence by Belarusian security forces was conducted en masse and was not selective: officers did not try to suppress specific groups of people whom they considered a threat, but attempted to beat everybody they found.

Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Belarusian state propaganda insisted that the election rallies were attended mostly by drunks and drug users. “Some people are high, a lot of drunks, people with drugs,” is how Lukashenka described protesters immediately after the election. The data in our possession disproves this claim: the number of people whose diagnoses refer to intoxication is insignificant – less than 2%. There are no references in the medical reports of drug use.

The data refers to at least 24 injured persons under 18. They were beaten exactly the same as adults: under-age persons received concussions, cuts and bruises. One 17-year-old, Timur, was beaten to the extent that he had to be placed in a medically-induced coma.

The data refers to 57 women injured during the protests. The oldest of them is 72: on 12 August, police officers beat her near the investigative detention centre on Minsk’s Volodarsky Street, breaking her wrist. Women were subject to torture following detention, too. Judging by the seriousness of the injuries, it’s clear women were beaten exactly the same as men.

As far as we understand, not a single criminal investigation has been opened into the actions of Belarusian law enforcement during the protests. The Minsk Prosecutor’s Office refused to state whether torture committed in the Akrestsina detention centre is being investigated, stating that information was “for internal use”.

On Sunday 11 October, Belarusian law enforcement once again resorted to brutal detentions and beating protesters. The country’s deputy interior minister stated that the police are ready to use lethal force.

Since then, Belarusian authorities have dispersed Sunday protests in the country forcefully, but people continue to attend them. On 1 November, Minsk witnessed a “March against terror” – participants aimed to visit Kurapaty, a Soviet execution site outside the capital. The authorities, however, responded with force, and have charged more than 200 detainees as part of an investigation into “mass unrest” during the march.

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