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Statement By Ales Mikhalevich


A concentration camp in the center of Minsk

Despite the fact that I, Ales Mikhalevich, a presidential candidate in the 2010 presidential elections, am bound by written cognizance not to disclose the materials of investigation, I consider it my duty to tell what is being done to the detained and the imprisoned in the KGB detention center. The greatest "secret of investigation" lies in the ways and methods applied in order to force those people to sign the necessary "prejudicial evidence" and statements. I consider that these unlawful actions which infringe not only Belarusian laws, but also international agreements, including the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, are not to be covered up by the "nondisclosure of the prejudicial inquiry materials" -- the so-called "secret of investigation".

I was one of the seven presidential candidates detained by the special services following the events of December 19 and one of the several dozens of democratic activists kept in the KGB detention center.

I refused to read out a TV statement condemning the other candidates. The summons to the KGB officers started right from the very first hours after my detention. Questioning was carried out without my lawyer and without examination records, in breach of all legal procedures.

Starting approximately from December 26, they began to apply tortures against me. On leaving the KGB detention center, my diary containing all my daily records was confiscated by the KGB officers. However, it is impossible to wipe from my memory the things that took place within those walls. Some facts are listed in the document below.

By snatches of words I heard from behind the cell doors, I gathered that similar pressure was also being applied against other activists who had refused to sign the "evidence" required from them. The lawyers are not given access only to prevent the people under investigation from informing them about the facts of torture. I am extremely concerned about the fate of all those detained and imprisoned, especially those who have not had contact with their lawyers since the end of last year. I realized that everything that they were doing with us was aimed at breaking the opposition leaders. For me, there were two choices: either to remain in detention until the trial, or to pretend that I was ready to comply with the orders of the KGB officers.

The condition of my release under the cognizance not to leave my place of residence was formulated as signing an agreement of "collaboration." I deliberately took that step, not because of the pressure or the tortures, but driven by the wish to pass to the world the information of what is being done to the prisoners.

I openly state that I have never been and never will be a KGB agent. By this public statement, I renounce the obligation stated in the aforementioned document.

I realize that even before the day is out, I could find myself back in the KGB detention center cell and that this time I will be treated in a far harsher manner. However, I want to do everything I can to save those who are still in that prison, to alleviate the destiny of those people, to stop the tortures. I want them to have the chance to get out -- not as broken people, not having to turn to collaboration with the KGB, and above all to get out alive.

In my address, I deliberately do not disclose the names of the officers and other case circumstances. However, all the unlawful actions which were applied against me -- including the listed facts -- have been stated in the claim I am sending to the Prosecutor's Office and in the special form which will be sent to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. I consider that it is the duty of the Prosecutor's Office is to carry out an inspection and to put an end to the atrocities.

At the same time, I made a detailed description of everything that was done to me and passed it to be kept in a safe place. That evidence will be out in the public domain in case I am detained and imprisoned again.

I will do all that I can to make this concentration camp in the center of Minsk disappear forever.

Torture methods

Amerikanka

1. On January 10, the "guards' guards" -- people wearing black masks without identification marks -- dragged me out of the cell, handcuffed me, and lifted my arms up by handcuffs so as to lower me face down to the concrete floor. They dragged me down a spiral staircase to a basement room. After twisting my arms behind my back as far upward as they would go, until my joints started cracking, they told me I needed to do everything requested of me. They kept my arms in this position for a long time and pushed them higher and higher until I said I would comply with all requests. The pretrial detention center personnel were not seen even in the corridors while this was going on.

2. Systematically, five-six times a day, we were taken out "to be searched" -- for a body search. During this, we were made to stand naked in a "stretch vise": our legs were tripped up, forcing them to be stretched almost to a full split. When our legs were tackled, I felt the ligaments breaking, it was difficult to walk after this procedure. We were made to stand naked about one meter away from the wall, the masked people forcing us to lean with our hands against the wall. In a room in which the temperature did not exceed 10 degrees Celsius, we were kept this way for 40 minutes until our hands were getting swollen. Several times I was ordered to put my hands on the wall with my palms facing upward and to remain standing in this position.

3. During the so-called "body search," we were all herded into a cold room, stripped, and made to sit down and stand up abruptly -- repeatedly several dozen times. Prisoners with weaker health were nearly passing out during this, but it didn't stop the masked people.

4. At night, the day lamps were not switched off. We were ordered to lay down with our faces under lamps and forbidden to cover our faces with handkerchiefs in order that they could see our faces. My sight started deteriorating as a result. We were ordered to sleep with our faces turned to the spy hole on the door. If we turned in our sleep, they walked in and woke us up, ordering us to lay down as ordered. In practice, this became sleep-deprivation torture.

5. The cell floor was painted with acetone-based paint and we were ordered to remain in this nonventilated room until the paint had fully dried. They added fresh paint several times. This was carried on continuously for over 40 hours.

6. In the cells, the temperature did not exceed 10 degrees Celsius, and there was virtually no heating. There was black mold on the walls that grew when a small window vent was closed.
We were told that the people in our cell could visit the doctor only on Thursdays (instead of the ability to contact the doctor on demand, as is stated in the prison rules). During blood pressure measurement, the doctor forbade a prisoner to look at the monitor, so that they could not see the values. The doctor noted the person's medical history in a journal, covering it with a piece of paper. Everyone was pushed out for a walk in the freezing weather, even those who had made a doctor appointment and those without warm clothes.

Defense lawyers were not admitted, although there were plenty of spare rooms; we saw free offices en route to our own interrogations. None of us was given an opportunity to meet with a defense lawyer one-on-one. This was done deliberately, to prevent the prisoners from telling them about the tortures.

The Internal Procedure Rules were taken away from the cells, because the administration was breaching dozens of provisions of this document. The "masked people" warned that we would be "hung by handcuffs" again in the event of complaints.

During the time of active pressure on me, I was led out to the so-called body search eight times a day.

An Afghan citizen who shared a cell with me and had previously been imprisoned by the Taliban said that in the Taliban prison they did not have such "modernization" (pointing to bed linen and bunk beds) but that people were treated far better there.

Volodarka, where I was moved to scare me (this is what the masked people in Amerikanka told me)

There were 15 people in an eight-place cell that stunk of cigarette smoke. If the shift to sleep was at daytime, we had to choose between sleep and a walk. During the search, all 15 people were led out into a 5 square-meter box room for an hour, where some people fainted. Such searches were carried out every day after my arrival, in order to set my cellmates (who were not political prisoners) against me.
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