We survey foreign journalists who reported detention during the month in Belarus, in order to analyze the risks that foreign journalists face in Belarus. The following information has been given partially from the questionnaire, partially from the interview to the Radio Svaboda Ukrainian service.
Independent reporter Filip Warwick was detained on March 25 near Victory Square and taken to the department on citizenship and migration of the Partisan district of Minsk (zavulak Stachanaŭski 5). The detention lasted 6 hours.
It was the first time that he visited Belarus, taking the opportunity of visa-free entry for 5 days’ stay.
He was not on assignment, had no accreditation, and during the detention presented himself as a foreign tourist.
The moment of detention:
“Four burly men in riot gear had me in the air and threw my legs first into an OMON truck for detainees – inside there are 4 to 5 cells, all appear similar to a gym locker. The approximate size is 1metre x 1 metre.
A young OMON man inside the truck, though not wearing riot gear, punched me into the cell, as I landed on my back, he stood on my ankle, kicked my thigh, followed up with a kick in the head, thankfully I was hearing a thick woolly hat, that absorbed part of the impact.”
At the police department:
“About 3 hours into my detention, and spontaneously, I was violently picked up by two men in the office and led into the corridor. As I was being dragged away, I remember the female police officer from the room where I had been sitting, named Olga Ivanovna, senior lieutenant, just follow the men, with no reaction. I shouted at the top of my voice for help, people from various neighbouring office rooms along the corridor peered their heads out. One of the burly men shouted something at them and all disappeared as quickly as they had appeared.
Two well-built plain-clothed men, perhaps either police or OMON, twisted my arms behind my back, which resulted in great pain, flipped me upside down, threw me onto the floor, stood on my ankles, while one of the men applied his knee onto my spine. This resulted in crushing my rib cage onto the floor, for a couple of seconds I could not breath, nor catch my breath, and I started to choke. This brought about some considerable laughter among these men.
With handcuffs applied they threw me against the wall, kicked my feet aside, and forcefully went through all my pockets. There was an air of sheer viciousness in how they went about this - I was already handcuffed.
No one introduced themselves. I was not informed of the reason of my detention. I asked police officers for their names: Senior lieutenant - Olga Ivanovna, Senior lieutenant Ivan Ivanovich, Sub-Colonel Alexander Alexandrovich."
The police phoned a woman Tania Rudenko who acted as an English interpreter. The detainee asked her three times to contact the embassy, but she refused. Over the 6 hours of detention, he asked Police at least 10-15 times to contact the UK embassy.
The police drew up two statements. Document 1 was written by policeman Olga Nikolaevna, that had 4 signatures. This document was not shown to the detainee, nor was a copy presented. The detainee had not given a statement.
The 2nd statement (written between 20:00/21:00) – OMON personnel with no tags or rank, dictated the statement (called protocol) to Olga Nikolaevna, his details were mentioned several times.
This document was not translated nor shown, and he cannot verify if it was signed – he did not at any point in time give a statement nor was asked to present one. No documents whatsoever where given upon his release.
Could the detention have been avoided? “OMON jumped on me and threw me into the truck, so no.”
The advice for foreigners – don’t walk alone and have all embassy details.
By the way, the reporter called the embassy, but cell phone network was down.