Interdepartmental Commission on inquiry of mass torture on 9-12 August: how things go?


Since 9 August, 2020, thousands of people across Belarus have taken to the streets of their cities in spontaneous actions against gross violations during the elections and expressed their disagreement with the policy pursued in the country. The actions were peaceful. 

Evidence proves that between 9 and 12 August, the country has experienced massive torture, acts of brutality committed in response to the political views of the population, i.e. actions under Art. 128 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus.

These gross violations were committed by state officials in an official capacity and represent an example of intentionally cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The state should have condemned such actions as violations of human rights.

On 25 August, 2020, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee submitted a proposal to the House of Representatives to establish a parliamentary commission to investigate the justifiability of the use of a full range of special means (firearms, stun grenades, tear gas, etc.) on 9-12 August, and to investigate mass torture, cruel and inhuman treatment of detainees in police stations, detention centers, prison vehicles, etc.

We received a response to this proposal signed by I. Volkau, the Deputy Chairman of the Permanent Commission on Government-sponsored Construction, Local Government and Rules of Procedure. The reply stated that "in order to organize the work on proceeding of citizens' appeals on the use of physical force and special means during the mass events, the General Prosecutor's Office established in August 2020 an interdepartmental commission, which included representatives of the General Prosecutor's Office, the Investigative Committee, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the House of Representatives and other State bodies. The members of the interdepartmental commission were instructed to oversee the activities of State bodies when considering such appeals and conducting investigation on them, as well as to consolidate the information obtained and, based on a comprehensive assessment of the data received, make proposals for improving the respective activities. "

Since then, almost a year has passed. Today we appealed to the House of Representatives and the General Prosecutor's Office. The BHC wants to know about the the results of the Commission’s work.

The Belarusian Helsinki Committee has stated the following questions:

1) What measures have been taken to clarify the circumstances of the use of physical force and special means by law enforcement officers during the mass events on 9-12 August, 2020 as set out in the statements submitted by citizens to the Investigative Committee and its regional offices and to the Prosecutor's Office in August, 2020 and the following months?

2) Have any criminal cases been initiated based on these facts? If so, under which articles? How many cases have been initiated? 

3) Have any law enforcement officials been prosecuted for the disproportionate use of force and special means against protesters in mass events on 9-12 August, 2020 and in the following months?

Furthermore, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee asks the House of Representatives to provide information on the measures have been taken by them to determine the circumstances of torture, acts of brutality, inhuman and degrading treatment by law enforcement agencies in relation to those detained during mass events on 9-12 August, 2020 and in the following months.

Lastly, the BHC asks the General Prosecutor's Office what measures have been taken by the General Prosecutor's Office.