The problem of children living in boarding schools, prisons and special schools is significant but unnoticed in Belarus. Today no one knows how many children are in the places of detention – their number is in the thousands. For the past six months, “Our House” has been running an advocacy campaign dedicated to the closed institutions for children humanization in Belarus. Today, on World Human Rights Day, we share the results.

Overall results

In six months, we reached a total audience of more than 200,000 people through the advocacy campaign. We released 37 informational releases on different platforms: YouTube, podcasts, Internet radio. Olga Karach and experts prepared six reports, eight monitors in Russian and 8 – in English.

Campaign progress

On May 28, 2021, “Our House” held a closed meeting for regional partners. All partners of the project participated here. The conference touched on the situation and situation with children in the penitentiary system in Belarus. We talked about the goals and objectives of the advocacy campaign, the results and success stories. The partners agreed to continue sharing experiences in child protection and the most successful examples.

On June 24, 2021, Olga Karach participated in the online forum “International Day in Support of Victims of Torture” and presented torture and ill-treatment of children in closed institutions. In her speech, the head of ICCI “Our House” gave specific examples, including driving child inmates to suicide by ill-treatment and torture. The Belarusian diasporas took part in the online forum. See Olga Karach’s speech at this link (from 3:25:48 minutes).

On July 10-11, 2021, a closed Zoom conference of the human rights activists of “Our House” got held to discuss the situation with the rights of children in Belarus today. We evaluated the implementation of the international standards for children’s rights protection in Belarus. We also discussed what steps “Our House” could take to change the situation, especially in the conditions of the growing political repression.

On October 30, 2021, Olga Karach spoke at the World Congress of Belarusian Diasporas 2.0. In her speech, Olga Karach told about the situation of children in closed institutions in Belarus, including the torture and ill-treatment of children. Adolescents who had been in closed institutions and had been victims of torture by police officers participated in the speech. They shared their stories of ill-treatment by law enforcement officers. Watch the video at this link.

On September 10, 2021, we had a voice chat in Telegram with Svetlana Tarabanova, children’s rights expert and coordinator of the Child Rights Protection Department of the Women’s Consortium of Ukraine. Svetlana talked about the relevance of reception centres in the XXI century and the violations of children’s rights experienced in reception centres. This lack of quarantine measures, prohibition of contact with relatives, and constant stress for the kids. Street children, migrants and children whose parents place them in such institutions appear here.

On September 18, 2021, Ukrainian human rights activist Sergey Pernikoza spoke in the voice chat of the Telegram channel “Our House” with the report “Children in places of detention. Do they have a chance for the future?” Sergey talked about what children face in prisons and orphanages. Also, he touched on integrating children after places of detention and spoke about the problem of teenage pregnancies in orphanages and boarding schools.

In the fall, we began an information campaign to draw international attention to the torture of children in international institutions. “Our House” began producing podcasts about it with the help of international experts. You can also listen to them here. We have produced a big podcast about the situation of the rights of minors in closed institutions. Here are links to where you can listen:

1) On Spotify: the entire podcast is here
Release #1
Release #2
Release #3

2) On Deezer: entire podcast here
Release #1
Release #2
Release #3

3) On Belarus FM internet radio
Release #1
Release #2
Release #3

4) On YouTube
Release #1
Release #2

On November 20, 2021, Olga Karach published a post on her Facebook page. There, she demanded the abolition of reception and placement centres for children in Belarus: “These reception and placement centres are still in the Ministry of Interior system and resemble prisons where children who have done nothing wrong are tortured and ill-treated. It is especially true for migrant children who have lost their parents for some reason. Support us and put the poster to yourself on social media with the hashtag #end_immigration_detention_of_children.” The post got 591 “likes”, and 36 people reposted it.

 

Monitoring

“Our House” prepared eight monitoring reports on torture and ill-treatment of children in closed institutions in Belarus. We prepared monitoring of the individual case of Mikita Zalatarou, a juvenile political prisoner, and a review of the state media coverage of the situation in closed institutions in Belarus where children live (we were primarily interested in the “hate speech” against these juveniles).

We want to remind you of the links to the significant monitoring reports:

Special closed-type reception centres for adolescents: how children are accustomed to prison culture and why they run away from the colleges

Monitoring of conditions in a juvenile detention centre: how children’s rights got violated behind closed doors

Monitoring on child labour slavery: child labour slavery was legalized in Belarus. How schoolchildren and students turn into low-paid workers

State propaganda bullying on the screen. How protests have changed coverage of drug crimes

We translated these monitors into English and distributed them to our international partners. Also, we published a book published by ADC Memorial: School Crisis and Children’s Rights: Psychotherapeutic Guidelines for Teachers and Parents Regarding “Problematic” Students.

We thank ADC Memorial and its partners from the Eastern Partnership countries for their support of the project “Promoting Modern International Standards of Children’s Rights: Deinstitutionalization and Humanization of Closed Institutions in Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine”.

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