Under-age strikers beaten by police officers after detention, students say

29 October 2020 | Viasna Human Rights Center
Detention of a student.
Source: BELSAT footage via Viasna Human Rights Center

Five 17-year-old students of one of the Minsk universities were detained on 27 October after a rally of solidarity with the students on strike. All five were detained in the courtyard of the Belarusian State University, on the Law School and Chemistry Department campuses. Four of them were severely beaten by police forces in a police vehicle. Once at the hospital, the students were diagnosed with a concussion, TBIs, a nose fracture, and other injuries. The Kastrychnitski District Department of Internal Affairs pressed charges against four students under two Administrative Code articles – 23.34 (participation in an unauthorized mass assembly) and 23.4 (disobedience to a lawful order or requirement of an official on duty). The students told the Viasna human rights group how they faced the brutality of government law enforcement agents. 

According to the students, four police vans were actually waiting for the students participating in the rally at the Belarusian State University. Four students were standing next to the entrance to the Stalitsa shopping center when they saw a plainclothes man heading towards them. When they went down to the underground pedestrian crossing, some riot police officers were already there waiting. The students were detained at Independence Square.

“The officers were having fun pouring water on us”

When I was running, I was tripped up and so I fell. Immediately I was grabbed and taken to the van. I was hit in the face twice because I was trying to raise my head. I was thrown into the vehicle, my classmate was already there. The riot police officers were with us, and, as I could judge by their voices, they were in their twenties. They never stopped beating me on the head.

Then we were taken into another van. The other guys we were at the BSU with were already there. Later they said they were severely beaten too. We were all piled up on the van floor, on top of each other. Two people were lying on me, although there were vacant seats.

My backpack was snatched away from me – they just pulled the straps so hard that now it’s totally ruined. They were looking for something there, yet found nothing but water. Then the officers decided to have fun and started pouring water on us.

We were also beaten and humiliated in the police vehicle. Our classmate got his nose broken. The guy in an orange cap was beaten the most severely. Probably because the cap was bright and eye-catching. We were insulted, threatened with, “Let’s shower them all with pepper spray.” We were beaten with fists, insulted, sworn at, intimidated with prison, threatened that they’ll kill us.

When I was released from police custody, I went to the hospital and was diagnosed with a concussion. Luckily, I have no other serious injuries. They mostly beat me on the head. I only have a bump.

I still don’t get it – why were we detained?

The students were taken to the Kastrychnitski District Department of Internal Affairs, but, according to them, no physical force was used against them there. All of them were released, and four were charged with administrative offenses.

A detained student’s medical certificate.
Highlighted text: Diagnosed with mild closed TBI on 27.10.2020. Brain concussion.
Source: Viasna Human Rights Center

“They said that if he stained the van with blood, he would lick it off”

Unlike her classmates, a 17-year-old student was not beaten. However, administrative charges were pressed against her under Articles 23.4 and 23.34.

Classmates’ blood on student’s jacket after they were piled up on each other in the police van.
Source: Viasna Human Rights Center

At one point we were all thrown face down on the floor piling up on top of each other. We were not allowed to raise our heads, but one of the riot police officers pulled me out by the arm. I was seated next to him and he told me to calm down. All the way to the police station, they kept telling us we would be locked up behind the bars, expelled [from university], but he was the one to say everything would be fine.

When we all were thrown down on the floor, our classmate got a nosebleed. His pants were all blood-stained. At first, he was not allowed to wipe the blood from his face, but then they gave him his own hoodie and threatened that if he stained the van with blood, he would lick it off.