The conditions of detention in the Republic of Belarus

02/09/2008
Report
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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" launch the report of an international fact-finding mission on the conditions of detention in Belarus.

This report is an scarce source of recent information on the conditions of detention in Belarus. Due to the absence of independent mechanisms for the control and monitoring of the penitentiary system, both at national and international level, conditions of detention in the country still remain largely unknown. This absence of monitoring is all the more preoccupying as the death penalty has not been abolished yet and executions are still practised in complete secrecy.

This report, which is based on interviews with former detainees, members of their families, lawyers and representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), presents a very grim picture of the penitentiary system in Belarus.

Detainees are systematically deprived of legal protection. The conditions of detention for administrative detainees are reported to be particularly harsh, with overpopulated prisons, no beds or bedding in cells, administrative detainees are regularly being deprived of showers and of the right to take walks, to receive parcels with food supplies, as well as poor quality of food and water. The detention centres of the Ministry of the Interior (Home Office) are also overpopulated. The air in cells is very poor in summer and heating in the cells is totally inadequate in winter, food is of mediocre quality and a tuberculosis epidemic is ravaging amongst the prison population. Prisoners placed in solitary confinement de facto find themselves held incommunicado, with cells sometimes unheated and their size prohibiting any physical activity. Food rations for these prisoners are very small. The conditions of transportation for detainees to be taken to the courts are also extremely preoccupying, with persons sometimes deprived of food and water for several days.

The mission delegates have also gathered testimonies revealing torture and inhumane and degrading treatment during the administrative and penal investigations, where beating and all kinds of humiliation are widespread.

In conclusion of the report, the FIDH and Human Rights Center "Viasna" call upon the Belarusian authorities to:

- Abolish administrative arrest, as it does not offer the necessary fair trial guarantees;
- Adopt an immediate moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards abolition;
- Open independent and impartial enquiries in case of allegations of torture ; and establish criminal, civil and administrative sanctions for violation of legal procedures (arrest, interrogation, treatment of detainees);
- Implement the recommendations of the UN bodies with regards to Belarus and respond positively to the requests made by some of these mechanisms to carry out a visit to the country;
- Ratify the optional protocol of the UN Convention for the Prevention of Torture, as well as the Council of Europe Convention for the Prevention of Torture.

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