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Head of the World Organization Against Torture: A Crime Against Humanity Has Been Committed in Belarus

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Head of the World Organization Against Torture: A Crime Against Humanity Has Been Committed in Belarus
PHOTO: BELAPAN

Torture and brutality by the security forces continue to this day.

The current crisis in Belarus is not only political in nature - it is a crisis in the field of human rights in general, said Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of the World Organization against Torture (OMCT) at a press conference on September 16, the website naviny.by writes.

The conference was held in a video format.

"Torture, with the evidence of which we have come across, is a characteristic feature of repression against the background of this crisis," he stated. "After the elections, we were shown a deliberate, planned, and organized policy of brutality, in which torture and cruel inhuman treatment were deliberate. Since all this was large-scale, planned, and organized, it is a crime against humanity. "

Staberock stressed: "torture and cruelty" by the security forces "continue to this day," and the authorities "do not want to understand this whole situation," which only confirms "the fact of committing a crime against humanity."

"We see that [on the part of the authorities] there is no recognition of the problem, no sympathy for the victims, no apology," the head of the OMCT stressed. - Victims who seek medical attention run the risk of being prosecuted. People who write complaints are faced with the fact that they are being illegally charged. Thus, torture is a deliberate policy."

Staberock noted that a debate on the situation in Belarus will be held at the UN Human Rights Council session on September 18, during which the OMCT and the Belarusian human rights center "Spring" will present a report on torture as a state policy of the Belarusian authorities in the post-election period.

"I believe it is vital that in a situation where the authorities are unwilling to recognize the crisis in the country, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a clear resolution demanding an end to human rights violations and initiated an effective process of collecting evidence of violations, as has been the case in other countries," - he declared.

Valiancin Stefanovich, deputy chairman of the "Spring" center and vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights, drew attention to the fact that the presidential elections in Belarus "were accompanied by numerous repressions from the very beginning."

According to human rights activists, from May 6 to August 8, at least 1,500 people were detained, more than 200 of them were subjected to short-term arrests, more than 300 were punished with fines. In addition, at least 27 criminal cases have been opened against potential presidential candidates, members of their teams, bloggers.

"The elections themselves were not free and democratic, especially the counting process, which was completely non-transparent," Stefanovich said. "This was the reason that people went to a protest action right after the August 9 elections, and the demonstrations took place not only in Minsk but throughout Belarus. The police attacked peaceful demonstrators using special means against them. Violence against citizens was disproportionate. For the first time in the history of Belarus, at least three protesters were killed as a result of the actions of the police, more than 7 thousand protesters were detained."

"These events - torture, cruel and inhuman treatment - shocked our society even more. Several days after August 9, Belarusian law enforcement officers inflicted physical pain and mental suffering on the citizens of Belarus <...> both during arrests and during detention. The victims were subjected to torture and cruel, inhuman treatment: they were insulted, beaten with truncheons, traumatized, shocked, and shot with rubber bullets. The police sprayed gas in rooms with people inside; they were forced to kneel naked for hours; they were threatened with weapons and sexual violence. The detainees were deprived of sleep, hygiene products, food, and water; they were denied medical assistance and necessary medicines," said the human rights activist.

According to Stefanovich, it is safe to say that we are talking about crimes against humanity, which "have no statute of limitations in the Belarusian national legislation." However, at the moment, he added, "the prosecutor's office and the Investigative Committee have not opened a single criminal case on the facts of torture." On the contrary, recently, "the authorities have been claiming on television that all these stories do not correspond to reality."

"The situation in Belarus as a whole has been deteriorating in recent weeks. Police continue to use violence against peaceful demonstrators. Even if not as systematically as before, but, in any case, they continue to apply it, including against women," Stefanovich emphasized.

Three victims also spoke at the press conference on the condition of anonymity. They were detained during the post-election protests, beaten, and held in inhuman conditions.