Freed Detainees in Belarus Describe Harrowing Beatings

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

Reports suggest that people who were detained during the protests in the past few days in Belarus have been subjected to torture and mistreatment by Belarussian police and security forces. On Thursday, August 13, 2020, Belarus’ security forces reported that since last Sunday’s contested election, they detained around 7,000 people.

 In this file photo taken on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, women walk through a gate after being released from a detention center where they were detained following protests of the disputed presidential election in Minsk, Belarus. Hundreds of people released from custody after a violent crackdown on protests in Belarus are sharing their accounts of harsh treatment at the hands of police. (AP Photo)
Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, women walk through a gate after being released from a detention center where they were detained following protests of the disputed presidential election in Minsk, Belarus. Hundreds of people released from custody after a violent crackdown on protests in Belarus are sharing their accounts of harsh treatment at the hands of police. (AP Photo)

On Friday, August 14, 2020, ESW learned that Aliaksandr Bystryk, a fellow in New School for Social Research under the Global Dialogues Fellowship Program at the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies, has been among the detainees. Aliaksandr, a Ph.D. Candidate in History at Central European University, has been researching the evolution of the Belarusian national movement, a little known cultural, educational, and political mass mobilization led by Belarusian elites at the end of the First World War. Together with his friends and wife, he was detained, tortured, and threatened to discourage their participation in protests.

According to a report published by the ABC News, detainees have witnessed organized beatings, and people being kept for days without food and threatened with rape. Alina Beresneva, 20, a student of the faculty of journalism, told ABC News that she was picked up by police on the first night of protests shortly after Sunday’s election results were declared giving Lukashenko a landslide amid widespread allegations of ballot-rigging. Beresneva said she and friends had stopped near the protest while coming home, surprised by the riot police lines in central Minsk. Beresneva said when she arrived in the detention center, she witnessed guards screaming derogatory terms at the detainees as they entered. She said guards forced several women to hand over their underwear, and they were placed inside a cell meant for three with 13 other women. From the first cell’s window, she said she watched a group of men detainees being forced to kneel together.

“They were practically naked, on their knees in their underwear. If they moved, they would get hit with sticks,” she told ABC News. At the start of her detention, she said the women had asked to see a lawyer. “They said: You’ve been watching too many American films. This is very different.”