Belarus refuses to open criminal investigation into police abuse during August 2020 protests

Belarusian investigators have refused to open a criminal case in response to 680 separate complaints about police abuse amid the suppression of opposition protests last summer.

On Thursday, August 26, the Belarusian Investigative Committee issued a statement claiming that the collected evidence, including the Interior Ministry’s own video recordings, testifies to the fact that security forces officers used physical force and special equipment in accordance with the requirements of the law.

According to the statement, investigators “did not find objective confirmation” of reports about “alleged abuse of office, in the form of torture [and] sexual abuse.” 

The agency also stated that from August 9–15, 2020, more than 2,000 people were detained during protests and held in the Okrestina Street detention center and the Minsk Police’s temporary detention center. Among these 2,000 detainees, 680 people filed reports to the Investigative Committee due to the alleged illegal actions of prison officials, the statement said.

However, according to the Investigative Committee, these reports were filed so they could allegedly be used “as fictitious tools for obtaining ‘political asylum’ in other countries.”

During the opposition protests that erupted in Belarus after the 2020 presidential elections, the Okrestina Street detention center in Minsk gained a notorious reputation due to reports of physical abuse and dehumanization. There is widespread evidence that detainees were beaten up and tortured inside Okrestina, including testimonies from victims, and reports by journalists, doctors, and human rights activists. According to the United Nations, there were more than 450 cases of torture and mistreatment documented there during the first three weeks of the protests alone.

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