“Good afternoon. Unfortunately, over the past year, millions of Belarusians have learned what torture is. Belarusians do not need explanations on what a special “pressure cell” in prison is, why chlorine is poured onto the cell floor in prisons, and gas is dispersed into the keyholes of the apartments – as it was done to Aleh Skarga to draw him out of his house and detain him. But all these must be told in other countries to inform as many people as possible. People must know what Belarusians are facing right now and why we have no right to give up.
We, Belarusians, have no right to surrender because almost everyone has a friend, a relative, or a colleague who has been tortured – or is being tortured right now. These people cannot attend the forum and tell their stories themselves. It’s convenient for the regime – our silence helps it to survive another couple of months, to try trading with prisoners, to torture new hostages. I believe and I’m sure that in the future they all will be released – and their stories will become case files at fair trials. But today I will speak on behalf of them — because right now they can speak only with the help of our voices.
When Stsiapan Latypau is released, he will tell about the tortures in the pressure cell. A pressure cell is a sound-proof room or a cell, where music is played very loudly while a prisoner is beaten and bullied. Stsiapan spent 51 days in such a cell – and tried to cut his throat in the courtroom as an attempt to convey the truth to the world.
When 19-year-old Maryia Zaitsava returns home without being afraid of getting to prison, she will tell how she has been injured with 3 rubber bullets fired by siloviki, and how a flash-bang grenade exploded close to her. Now she needs a hearing aid. A young man was on rehabilitation in the Czech Republic together with her – he had gone through the “corridor of hell”: siloviki were beating him for several hours and threatened to rape him. Another man was also there – siloviki shot his lung and damaged the aorta. Here is that bullet, he gave it to me a couple of weeks ago. And though many months have passed since August, these people still cry when they recollect what happened to them.
When a Swiss citizen Natallia Hersche gets released, she will tell how she was caged in a concrete cell without windows, with a wooden bed fastened to the wall. How she suffered day by day from lice, bedbugs, and cockroaches. How she was repeatedly sent to a punishment cell, where one can only stand, sit or lie on the concrete floor all day long. How the prisoners were sick with coronavirus, and the prison authorities did not provide medical care and used it as a biological weapon.
When 17-year-old Mikita Zalatarou is set free, he will tell how he was detained at the age of 16, and despite being literally a child – was beaten during interrogations to the point where he got epileptic seizures. At meetings with his father, Mikita constantly asked: “Daddy, they beat me every day. Why am I trapped here? When will I be released?“.
The leader of the United Civil Party, Mikalai Kazlou, could have told us how he and seven prisoners were kept in a single cell. How they got 20 liters of concentrated chlorine poured onto the cell floor, how their eyes burned, and their skin bubbled. How, after the arrest, he was taken out of prison in handcuffs, with his head clamped between his knees, and was brought outside the city and thrown out of a car.
But there are those who won’t be released and who will never tell their stories. Vitold Ashurak will not come out of prison. 17-year-old Dzmitry Stakhouski, who committed suicide because of the pressure of the Investigation Committee, will not talk to us. Raman Bandarenka will not reveal what happened in the police department. Aliaksandr Taraikouski will never see his child again, Hennadz Shutau will not kiss his daughter, Aliaksandr Vikhor will not hug his mother. It is an eternal scar in everyone’s heart, and we cannot wait for more victims.
Therefore, we call on the countries’ leaderships to put maximum pressure on the regime and increase assistance to the people who have suffered from it. We call for the creation and enhancement of tools for collecting and systematizing data on crimes and torture. We urge everyone to do everything possible to prevent a second North Korea or prison for 9 million people in the center of Europe.
We call for more decisive and faster actions– after all, the five minutes of my speech, are incomparable with the five minutes spent in a punishment cell by Siarhei Tsikhanouski. Just one day for which the sanctions can be postponed is not comparable to a day in the pressure cell for Stsiapan Latypau. One week of hot summer weather is not comparable to the hell of a 4-bed cell with 16 people in it.
That’s why we must act. It is in your power to promote cases under universal jurisdiction, help collect data and evidence for international investigations of the crimes committed by the regime, speak as loudly as possible in the media about what is happening to innocent people in prisons in our homeland. To bring into action all levels for prosecuting those responsible – both now and at future fair trials of the new Belarus. Belarusian Diaspora, your efforts have already helped us achieve a lot – and now our main task is to prevent trading with human destinies and lives. By working together day by day, we will ensure that all innocent people get released and return home. Thank you”.