Arrest of Yevhenii Vasyliev and Konstantin Reutski and search at home of Taciana Reviaka
On 14 August at approximately 2am, Yevhenii Vasyliev and Konstantin Reutski were released from their detention centre on Akrescina street in Minsk. They had been held in detention since 12 August 2020.
On 12 August 2020, Ukrainian human rights defenders Yevhenii Vasyliev and Konstantin Reutski were detained in Minsk by traffic police officers. Their whereabouts are currently unknown. Later that same day, a search was conducted at the home of Belarusian human rights defender Taciana Reviaka, where the two human rights defenders had been staying.
Yevhenii Vasyliev the coordinator of programs monitoring human rights violations for the civic movement Vostok SOS. Vostok SOS is an initiative which focuses on providing aid to people who have been exposed to violence in Ukraine, including political violence. It also monitors human rights violations in the east of Ukraine. The movement was established in 2014 as a result of the merging of human rights centre 'Postup' (Path) and human rights centre 'Diya' (Action).
On 13 August 2020 at approximately 5am, Kryscina Vitushka was released from the detention centre on Akrescina street in Minsk, where she had been held since 10 August 2020. On 14 August at approximately 2am, Yevhenii Vasyliev and Konstantin Reutski were released from the same detention centre on Akrescina street. They had been held in detention since 12 August 2020.
Woman human rights defender Kryscina Vitushka and her husband Andrey Vitushka were detained on 10 August near Centralny district police station in Minsk while seeking information about the whereabouts of their 16-year-old son, Miron Vitushka. She reported being detained in a cell of 10 square meters holding 55 people, designed to hold four people. None of those detained slept due to the overcrowding and lack of ventilation, nor were the detainees provided with any food or basic hygiene facilities.
Kryscina Vitushka is a diabetic and had her medication on her at the time of her detention, but this insulin was taken from her at the detention centre. A medical personnel told her that “they were not going to feed her anyway, so she would not need it”. During her detention the defender was provided with insulin twice a day.
In the three days she was detained, Kryscina Vitushka did not have access to her lawyer, and was not allowed to contact her family. The exact location of where the defender was being detained was not officially known until she was released. Andrey Vitushka was released on the night of 13 August from a detention centre in Zhodzina.
Human rights defenders Yevhenii Vasyliev and Konstantin Reutski were forcibly detained by traffic police in Minsk on 12 August 2020 at approximately 5pm, whilst they were filming the brutal detention of a person on the street for no obvious or apparent reason. The two Ukrainian human rights defenders arrived in Belarus that morning on a monitoring mission, and their presence there was in accordance with the law.
Following their detention, the two defenders were brought to Sovetsky district police station, where they were separated and questioned, and both reported being accused of being coordinators and that they had come from Ukraine to “organise a Maydan”. They were then brought to the same room and ordered to state their names and the purpose of their visit in front of a camera.
The defenders report then being taken to a courtyard where all their personal belongings were confiscated and they were forced to spend 17 hours standing against a fence with their legs stretched apart, their arms extended up and their palms turned back. The defenders estimate there were 50 detainees held in such a way and reported that if any of them tried to change their posture, they were beaten with a truncheon. Yevhenii Vasyliev and Konstantin Reutski reported witnessing many detainees being tortured, beaten and threatened with rape.
After hours of mistreatment , the detainees were forced to sign investigative reports, but were not permitted to read what the reports said. According to the defenders, those who refused to sign the report were beaten until they agreed, under duress, to sign it. Yevhenii Vasyliev and Konstantin Reutski report then being transferred to a detention centre – which was later confirmed as the detention centre on Akrescina street in Minsk – by riot police, who further beat the detainees. As they were loading the detainees into the vans, they were unable to find Yevhenii Vasyliev’s name on their list, but upon finding out that he was from Ukraine, the officers began shouting “coordinator” at him, and then formed a 10 meter long corridor of officers and forced him to walk through it, while beating him with truncheons as he passed by.
In the detention centre, a trial of sorts took place, however Konstantin Reutski believes that the person who presided over the unofficial trial was not a judge but a judicial conveyor. The two defenders were eventually released in the early hours of 14 August, and although they were returned some of their personal belongings, their phones and passports were withheld.
While Front Line Defenders welcomes the release of Kryscina Vitushka, Yevhenii Vasyliev and Konstantin Reutski, it believes they never should have been detained in the first place for their peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights. Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned by the detention conditions in Belarus, including reports of torture, physical assault, statements obtained under duress, denial of access to food, water and hygiene supplies, and denial of detainees their right to contact their lawyers and families.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Belarus to ensure that the treatment of human rights defenders, while in detention, adheres to the conditions set out in the ‘Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment',adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988.