Five years in prison for a teenager with epilepsy; investigations on torture of women and persecution of artists published; EU diplomats visit Viasna Human Rights Center
22 February 2021 | Voice of Belarus
Five years in prison for a teenager with epilepsy
Mikita Zalatarou, a 16-year-old teenager from Homel, arrested on 11 August 2020, was sentenced to five years in a penal colony. Zalatarou suffers from epilepsy. During one of the interrogations, he fell ill and had to be taken away by the ambulance. However, later he was returned back to the detention center from the intensive care unit. Mikita’s father told journalists that his son was beaten every day in the pre-trial detention center. The lawyer filed a complaint, but the authorities did not find corpus delicti, claiming not having found any bodily injuries on Zalatarou. At the trial, Zalatarou stated that he was denied medications in the pre-trial detention center. “The guard says to me: ‘You are political, you will die.’” After the sentence was read out, Mikita went hysterical. Being in a cage, he threw himself onto the bars and shouted: “Let me out of here!”
Together with Zalatarou, 25-year-old Dzmitry Karneyeu (received an eight-year prison sentence) and 28-year-old Leanid Kavaliou (convicted to six years in prison) were involved in the case. Both were accused of participation in mass riots accompanied by “damages and arson, armed resistance to representatives of the authorities”, as well as violence against the police, illegal actions with flammable substances (“Molotov cocktails”); Kavaliou was also accused of “involving a minor in the commission of crimes”.
A report on torture of women arrested at rallies has been published
The International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus published a report on torture and ill-treatment of women in the period between August 2020 and February 2021. Human rights activists interviewed 143 women who had suffered from torture and other actions by the security forces. The main escalation of violence and ill-treatment by the security forces throughout Belarus took place between 9 and 13 August 2020. Although there were fewer women arrested than men, in many cases the level of violence against women was the same. Medical help for women was not provided or was provided in single cases. Body searches of the arrested women were often carried out by men. The conditions of detention in the isolation wards did not comply with the legislation and international treaties: torture and inhuman treatment, overcrowded cells, unsanitary conditions were reported. Sexual violence against women and actions equated to it (threats of rape, humiliation, deprivation of access to hygiene, denial of medical treatment or medication related to menstruation) occurred almost everywhere and at different stages: at the time of arrest, in transportation to and in detention facilities, in prisons and other penal facilities. “The fundamental fact is that these acts, equated to sexual violence, were carried out by the representatives of the state,” the report says. To date, not a single criminal case has been opened on the complaints of torture.
Persecutions of workers of culture continue in Belarus
According to the international human rights organization Amnesty International, persecutions by the authorities that followed the protests against the rigged presidential elections are literally destroying the cultural life in Belarus. Belarusian authorities arbitrarily detain and torture dissenting musicians, writers, artists, and actors, while others are fired from their jobs. Many have been forced to leave the country, and some are in detention and face long prison terms. Not only individuals but entire cultural organizations fall victim to state repressions, Amnesty International states. An example of this is the country’s leading theatre, the Yanka Kupala National Academic Theatre. In August 2020, the theatre’s director Pavel Latushka spoke out in support of peaceful protesters. The contract with him was immediately terminated, and more than 60 theatre employees, including almost all of the actors, left in protest. Five employees were fired from the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre. The first violin of the theatre Regina Sarkisova was forced to leave the country. Many famous musicians took part in courtyard concerts, for which they were repeatedly arrested and fined.
Renowned artist and designer, author of sensational posters against Lukashenko and violence in Belarus, Vladimir Tsesler is also in exile. His works have gained worldwide fame and are kept in the collections of many museums around the world.
EU and US diplomats visited the office of the Viasna Human Rights Center
On Monday, representatives of the embassies of the European Union, United Kingdom, and the United States of America visited the office of the unregistered human rights center Viasna. The office of human rights defenders, who have provided invaluable consulting and moral support to thousands of victims over the past six months, has recently been searched by the authorities. Home searches also took place in the apartments of human rights defenders. Four human rights defenders of the center are detained in criminal cases, another employee is serving 12 days of administrative arrest. The head of the center, Ales Bialiatski, said that he regards the visit of the diplomats as a manifestation of solidarity to all members of the organisation and a clear signal for the Belarusian authorities that human rights defenders are under the protection of international agreements signed by Belarus. Recently, a fake letter on behalf of Viasna centre was sent to European parliamentarians and ambassadors with a request to investigate violations of citizens’ rights in a number of European countries.
For more information on the events of 22 February 2021, please visit Infocenter Free Belarus 2020: