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What happens to Belarus army hazing death investigations?
Mikhail Byavzyuk, Alexander Korzhych, Artsiom Bastuyk, Ihar Trapets. Photo from social media.
On 25 October, Belarus' Investigation Committee head Ivan Naskevich promised to re-examine the results of inquiries into the deaths and injuries of soldiers in the Belarusian Army over the past six years. Some of the cases that did not end up in court would be re-investigated, he did not rule out.
Ihar Trapets brought his case documents to the Barysau military police on 15 November. Nothing has happened ever since
After Naskevich's statement, news came that the law-enforcement revises the case of Ihar Trapets, a soldier from Stolin who was gravely injured during a tank firing expercise in September 2016. The young man admitted to Euroradio earlier that he had lost hope for justice long ago.
"We wrote to the Soldiers' Mothers Committee and received nothing but formal replies back. My mother wrote to the defense minister three times... I don't know where else I can complain. They closed the case and that was it."
On 15 November Ihar Trapets brought his papers and epicrisis to the military police office in Barysau. 2 months have passed. Noboday contacted him. He does not know how things are with re-examination of the case.
Mikhail Byavzyuk. We have not been called anywhere yet
A similar story repeated in the case about the death of another army soldier Mikhail Byavzyuk from Azarychy. The tragedy occured in March 2015. Before death, the young man had sent letters to his relatives, complaining about hazing and abuse. he had called his brother who was going to bring a parcel for him in the military unit right before the tragedy.
Investigation into the death lasted for several months but investigotrs concluded that the soldier committed suicide.
"Nothing is happening. They are simply delaying time"
The investigation into the death of yet another soldier Artsiom Bastyuk from Minsk was stopped by the Investigation Committee but was resumed after media and public frenzy in early October. Two months have passed since then.
"Nothing is happening. They are simply delaying time. We called after one month and the investigator says it is in progress and proloned for two months... That's it" says Тatsiana Bastuyk, the mother of the dead soldier says. "Neighbors are telling us that investigators were walking around asking to characterize my son, his begavior. Our son was a Red Cross volunteer, a donor. But they are still walking around looking for some pretext."
According to Tatsiana, their beat officer came with the same goal in mind. She is confident the new investigator is looking for ways to reconfirm the conclusions that his predecessor arrived at, namely that Artsiom Mastyuk committed suicide and nobody incited him.
This is strange because the circumstances of Artsiom Bastyuk's death point to the opposite. On 30 March 2017 the young man in presence of his parents and the military unit commanders pronounced the names of the abusers. On the next day, he was found hanging. But the investigator is still looking for evidence in the house where the parents live - not the military unit he died in...
"The investigator says: "You know they say at the military unit that Artsiom did not dress neatly". I say: "How can that be possible? He always paid attention to his looks. He had long hair and would not leave the house without washing it. Please explain!", the mother continues. "Well, he kept his belt loose and did not close the top button," the investigator replied. What can I say... a bold negligence of the attire, isn't it?"
Given how Artsiom Bastuyk's case investigation was prolonged, we should expect the results in mid-January.
"The doctors are to blame. But I cannot interrogate them"
Inquiry into the case of Alexander Korzhych, 21-year-old Pinsker found hanging in a military unit in Pechy on 3 October 2017, is in full swing. The soldier's mother Sviatlana Mikalayeuna goes to Minsk from time to time. She left a written statement not to disclose the details of the case, so she is not in the position of revealing much.
"I reckon the doctors are to blame. I cant talk much... If he got medical treatment on time, this would not have happened. He was carried around mental clinics with acute pain. Is it normal?! tells Sviatlana Korzych. But the doctors have refused to talk to us, and I have no power to interrogate them."
Investigation Committee: "People who kept silence before are starting to talk"
Investigation Committee's spokesperson Siarhei Kabakovich says one should not expect quick results from the re-investigation:
"The volume of information to be crosschecked is huge. We do not have a specially designated unit, hence it will not be fast. We are looking at the case from another angle also because people who kept silence before are starting to talk."