Human rights defender Oleg Volchek has filed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee regarding detention conditions at Minsk’s notorious Okrestina Jail.
The site protivpytok.org reports that his complaint relates to the inhuman and degrading treatment he received while serving his sentence for administrative arrest at the isolation center.
As Mr. Volchek explains, “I spoke with many other prisoners when I was in prison. They were mainly simple people serving time for things like drunken brawls and shoplifting. Some people were arrested to meet monthly quotas, and some people shouldn’t have even been arrested at all. But they were all united by the terrible detention conditions in the temporary facility. It was awful. It was cold and dirty, there was no drinking water, the air was stale, etc. People had to sleep in their clothes on boards. One prisoner even told me that prison administrators had removed taps for hand washing from the bathrooms because of members of the opposition”.
“This is when I set myself the goal of changing this Stalinesque system, where a human being is kept in conditions worse than the conditions a good owner provides for his livestock. The specific goal I set was having the isolation center closed for major repairs. And we have achieved this goal through great efforts. I have to give the authorities their due for actually launching repairs during a year in which government spending faced cuts. I have always called on all citizens to fight for their rights. No one will change anything until we ourselves become active citizens of our country. This is another joint victory in the battle human rights defenders have waged to create humane detention conditions for citizens under administrative arrest.”
However, the closing of this jail for repairs is not the final goal for Mr. Volchek. Despite this achievement, he has still not been able to prove that the conditions of his detention were inhuman because courts have refused to review his complaints related to the violation of his human rights. He is now working to secure changes to the law, and he has also tried to assert his rights at the national level, but without success.
Mr. Volchek calls upon the UN Human Rights Committee:
1. To recognize that Article 2(3)(a), Article 7, Article 10(1) and Article 14(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights have been violated;
2. To recommend that the Belarusian government provide effective remedy, including compensation.