The Belarusian Helsinki Committee requests prosecutors in Minsk and Brest to remove the restrictions on parcels for individuals serving an administrative arrest and check the detention conditions.
The information from public sources indicates the Akrestsin Street Detention Centre and the Temporary Detention Centre of the Minsk Executive Committee’s Main Internal Affairs Directorate accept parcels for those detained only once a week, namely each Saturday between 10:00 and 17:00, allegedly „for the provision of security and mitigation of risks posed by the spread of COVID-19 in the Republic of Belarus”.
According to multiple testimonies of eyewitnesses (those who have been detained or serving an administrative arrest in the above mentioned facilities), the parcels accepted from relatives for those detained virtually never end up in prison cells. Once released from a place of detention, the persons receive their parcels, but the authorities compel them to sign a paper proving that the parcel had been received timely.
It is also known that since 5 July, 2021, parcels for those detained or serving an administrative arrest have been temporarily suspended at the Temporary Detention Centre of the Department of Interior Affairs of Leninsky District of Brest, allegedly “in connection with epidemiological activities against coronavirus”.
The position of human rights defenders in this regard can be briefly stated as “respect your own laws” and “remember your international responsibilities”.
Speaking in more detail, the following points should be made:
None of the legislative acts of Belarus mentions „the provision of security and mitigation of risks posed by the spread of COVID-19 in the Republic of Belarus” among the reasons for imposing limitations on parcels. Therefore, the decision to suspend or pose limitations on parcels should be revoked as unlawful (by the way, you can check the analysis of the legislation and regulations concerned by the link).
Restriction or suspension of parcels is a response inadequate to the stated goal. Moreover, such measure disproportionately aggravates the situation of those arrested. Therefore, the measure in place can be seen as the one aimed solely at inflicting moral and physical suffering to those serving an administrative arrest or detained, which is unacceptable.
The decision posing limitations or restricting parcels does not take into account the rights of those who for some reasons avoid certain foods or components (for example, dairy and animal based products), as well as those who do not consume certain foods for medical reasons.
The Republican Center for Hygiene and Epidemiology of the Department of Finance and Logistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus is the institution responsible for monitoring compliance with sanitary and epidemiological measures to minimize the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in isolation wards. However, as far as we know, the Department of Finance and Logistics did not impose any limitations on parcels in order to ensure compliance with sanitary and epidemiological requirements.
We remind that the Belarusian Helsinki Committee has raised a similar issue concerning the Zhodzina Temporary Detention Centre in early February. After a while, the Centre started accepting parcels again.