Annual Report: Belarus 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Belarus 2011

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  • On 18 January the Prosecutor of Soviet district in Minsk turned down a request for a criminal investigation into allegations of torture made by Pavel Levshin. He had been detained by police officers from Soviet district police station on 9 December 2009 on suspicion of theft. Pavel Levshin claims that on 10 December from 5pm to 8pm police officers subjected him to torture and other ill-treatment. In his complaint to the prosecutor he claimed that police handcuffed him, laid him on his stomach and inserted his feet behind his hands in a position known as "the swallow". They beat him with a rubber truncheon and with plastic bottles filled with water. They also put a plastic bag over his head and held it there five times until he came close to suffocating. A forensic medical report confirmed that he had injuries consistent with his allegations, but the Prosecutor quoted the police report and stated that no evidence of torture had been found.

Prisoners of conscience

By the end of the year, 29 people including six opposition presidential candidates, members of their campaign teams and journalists were charged with "organizing mass disorder" in connection with the demonstrations on 19 December. They faced a possible maximum prison sentence of 15 years. Many of them had been charged solely for the peaceful expression of their views; at least 16 of them were prisoners of conscience.

  • Andrei Sannikau, an opposition presidential candidate, was detained during the demonstration on 19 December. He was beaten by riot police and suffered injuries to his legs. He was being driven to hospital with his wife, the journalist Iryna Khalip, when the car was stopped by law enforcement officers and he was taken into custody. On 27 December, employees of child welfare services visited their three-year-old son, Danil, and informed his grandmother that she would need to complete procedures to establish her custody over the child or he would be taken into care. On 29 December Andrei Sannikau was charged with the criminal offence of organizing mass disorder. Iryna Khalip was subsequently also detained and charged. Andrei Sannikau's lawyer was granted only intermittent access to him and expressed fears that he was not receiving adequate medical attention for his injuries. The lawyer was subsequently threatened with disbarment for raising concerns about his client's health.

Military service remained compulsory, but discussions were ongoing with regard to a draft law on alternative service and two conscientious objectors were acquitted during the year.