Responding to the death of peaceful protester Raman Bandarenka, an artist severely beaten by masked men then taken into police custody in Minsk, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Marie Struthers, said:
“The authorities in Belarus continue to rule by terror, targeting dissenting voices with violence and imprisonment. They must immediately launch a prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigation into Raman Bandarenka’s killing and bring the perpetrators to account in fair trials. Instead, the authorities are trying to deflect responsibility by alleging that Raman Bandarenka was beaten by ‘concerned citizens.’
“There is little if any doubt that he was beaten by security force officers, like hundreds of other peaceful protesters that have been attacked simply for raising their voices. Instead of taking him to hospital, police arrested him and took him into custody. It is unclear what happened while he was in custody, but he died in hospital the next day.
There is little if any doubt that he was beaten by security force officers, like hundreds of other peaceful protesters that have been attacked simply for raising their voicesMarie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia
“It is time to put an end to this reign of terror and unmask all those responsible for committing these crimes. If that does not happen, it means security forces under the command of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka continue to deploy the most horrific tactics of repression – merciless torture and even killings – against their own people.”
Raman Bandarenka, a 31-year-old artist and resident of Belarus’ capital Minsk, died in hospital on the evening of 12 November. According to media reports, unidentified masked men came to his neighborhood to remove protest flags and ribbons. They beat him after a verbal confrontation. Police then took him away in a van.
Several hours later, Raman Bandarenka was transferred unconscious to hospital with head injuries and a collapsed lung. Surgeons were unable to save him. Minsk police spokeswoman Volha Chamadanava described the incident as “a fight”, adding that sometimes “concerned citizens are trying to restore order.” The authorities have consistently referred to peaceful protests in Belarus as “war” and “conflict” orchestrated from abroad.
Over the past months, the Belarusian authorities have unleashed gangs of masked men in plain clothes who violently attack peaceful protesters. They are widely believed (and often confirmed) to be security officers. None have been officially identified or prosecuted.