In light of the shocking details of torture and ill-treatment by GUBOP officers, voiced by Mikalai Dziadok in court on 1 July 2021, we, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, urge the General Prosecutor's Office and the Investigative Committee to institute criminal proceedings, identify those responsible for torture and ill-treatment and take measures to hold them responsible.
We also demand an inspection of other cases of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by GUBOP officers, in particular of Stsiapan Latypau, Ivan Bahdzevich, Ihar Yarmolau, Aliaksandr Marjasau, David Slashchou, Vital Shyshlou, Artsiom Anishchuk, and many others, and to take appropriate measures to bring the perpetrators to justice and prevent such actions in the future.
We demand once again that criminal cases be opened and an effective and independent investigation conducted into the mass torture of citizens detained in August 2020, as well as the deaths of protesters.
According to Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
We recall that the Republic of Belarus, as a State party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, has undertaken to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial, and other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction, and to ensure that its competent authorities carry out prompt and impartial investigations, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.
We regret to note that the Republic of Belarus, despite the calls by the Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture, has still not criminalized all acts of torture and ill-treatment in accordance with the definition of the Convention against Torture. Nevertheless, the criminal and criminal procedure legislation have a sufficient set of measures to ensure accountability for such acts.
We draw attention to the fact that the right not to be subjected to torture is an absolute right, which means that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability, or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
We also draw the attention of judges who hear criminal cases in which defendants allege torture, to the fact that, according to the Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Belarus, evidence obtained in violation of the law has no legal force and cannot form the basis of charges. We also recall that in accordance with its international obligations under the Convention against Torture, the Republic of Belarus must ensure that any statement found to have been made under torture shall not be used as evidence in any proceedings.
We recall that in its Concluding Observations on the Fifth Periodic Report of Belarus 2018, the Committee against Torture expressed grave concern that law enforcement officials in Belarus frequently resort to torture and ill-treatment to extract confessions from suspects held in pretrial and temporary detention facilities, and that in many cases where criminal defendants have stated in court that they have been tortured, presiding judges did not request investigations or found their testimony admissible, despite the dictates of national law. In this regard, the Committee against Torture noted that the Republic of Belarus should ensure in practice that statements obtained under torture are not admissible as evidence in any proceedings. The Republic of Belarus should ensure by law that in all cases where an individual alleges that a confession was obtained through torture, the case is suspended until the allegation is thoroughly investigated.
At the same time, we demand that the relevant authorities stop all acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, in particular, deliberately creating unbearable conditions for people serving administrative arrest, detention, or criminal sentences under politically motivated court rulings.
The application will be sent to the General Prosecutor's Office, the Investigative Committee, and the Supreme Court.
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Human Rights Center "Viasna
Belarusian PEN Center
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Lawtrend Center for Legal Transformation
Belarusian Documentation Center