14 December 2017, Thursday, 16:19

Vitsebsk Activist Whips Vorsha Detention Center’s Administration Into Shape

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VASIL BERASNIOU

Human rights activist Vasil Berasniou successfully achieved walks for prisoners in the Vorsha detention center.

According to the court decision, human rights defender and activist of the BHC Vasil Berasniou was one of the organizers of the “Non-Parasites” March in Vorsha on March 12. He served 14 days of administrative arrest in the local detention center. Vasil Berasniou described this experience for the website "Vitsebsk Spring":

“I was under arrest before, in 2006. So I met many policemen I used to know.

In general, the Vorsha detention center is considered the best, exemplary in Belarus. It was recently built. Although the detention center is new, it’s already muddy, neglected, dirty. The schedule says that every week you need to do a general cleaning, but no one does it.

The cell, which I got into, was designed for two people, but I was actually alone most of the time. Twice they placed cell-mates to me only for a short while, when the detention center was overcrowded. Then I was transferred from cell to cell several times, but there I was alone. The guards told me that there was such an order that the political inmates should have no contacts.

When brought to the cell, there was a whole load of dirt in it.

The cell was 6 meters long and 3 meters wide - 18 squares of total area. The toilet was in the corner, fenced off by a barrier. They gave no toilet paper, and instead of it, if you really demanded, they gave some old magazine, glossy. There was no soap, either.

The bed was a roughly welded two-level metal frame, with a mattress on it. This mattress, apparently, was post-war. And maybe even pre-war. It was very dirty, all crumpled. But I was lucky - I could use two mattresses, so I felt a little less of metal. And the sheets and pillow cases looked as though they had been used for more than a decade, but even these have not been given before. And the pillow was very small, such that if you folded it, you could put it in your pocket.

There was no airing of the cell. Everything was clogged there. The air was stale.

There was a radio. No news. Music was playing, but quietly – it gave pain in the ears.

Every morning and evening there was a check. The brigade came into the cell, taped the walls, climbed everywhere, looked to see so that there were no explosives, could be looking for drugs. They didn’t take the inmates out of the cell during the check. I didn’t let them touch me, I told them straightaway - no personal search.

When I came, I looked at the instructions they had pinned to the door. I noticed the instruction was different from the proper one. I then demanded to bring me a law, to which the instructions referred. They refused, having answered that they did not have written documents, only in the electronic form. Then I told them that I would write to the prosecutor. After that, I was summoned to a meeting with the chief of the detention center.

The chief was polite, smiling. He said that he would not give me this law, because it refers to criminals. And in the detention cneter, 95% are administrative offenders. There are only a few people involved in criminal cases, only those under investigation. And only for them these instructions are suitable.

I achieved walks, they didn’t have any before, although there is an equipped place for them. They started to take people out for a walk.

As for the parcels, they passed them. But not everything was allowed. Only the registered newspapers. They tried to pass me the REP trade-union newspape, it was not allowed. But "Narodnaya Volya" was accepted, "Komsomolka", "Arguments and Facts". And they themselves do not have any newspaper files - neither the local Vorsha papers, nor "Soviet Belarus."

There is a small library. I took something took from there, and then they brought me books from home. I played checkers with myself - I had a book with combinations there. I also did some gymnastics. I kept a prison diary - writing utensils were allowed.

The shower was allowed once a week. I went there twice. Nobody shouted at me to do it faster, I washed myself for as long as I wanted.

As for food, it was real prison food. On the first day they did not feed me at all. For breakfast they gave porridge cooked on water, and a cup of boiling water. For dinner there was, for example, some soup made of old sour cabbage, which apparently existed since perestroika. For the second course - cabbage already stewed, or porridge or pasta. There was some fish cutlet, but not always. And for dinner - porridge, and they could add some jelly. I asked what their standard was. They replied that they do not know, they distributed food by eye. But they gave me plenty of bread. No vitamins. No vegetables, nothing. But in fact some people stay there for a long time. They told several Ukrainians stayed there for half a year.

During my stay in the detention center, none of the representatives of the authorities that should control food, everyday life, sanitary conditions, came. Nobody came - no judge, although they are sent there, no sanitation services. The prosecutor doesn’t go there either – no one has ever seen him. No one heard that the prosecutor came - and it's his duty to watch what is happening there.

The only thing, a deputy from the district department of internal affairs came, who apparently just wanted to take a look at me. He came - stood, was silent, then said: "Have you been here many times?" - "It’s my second time", - I answered. And that was all - he left. "