Hands off Marfa, hands off Viasna!
Minsk – September 18, 2020
On September 17, officers of the Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption (GUBAZIK) detained Marfa Rabkova, coordinator of the volunteer service of the Human Rights Center "Viasna". Along with Marfa, her husband Vadzim Zharomski was also detained, but eventually released.
Their apartment was searched. Equipment, money and personal belongings were confiscated.
During arrest, Rabkova was told that she was detained as part of a criminal case under Part 3 of Art. 293 of the Criminal Code (training or other preparation of persons to participate in riots, or funding of such activities).
Rabkova's whereabouts are still unknown.
Marfa Rabkova is a member of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and coordinator of the organization’s volunteer service. As part of her human rights activities, Marfa, together with Viasna’s volunteers, has observed peaceful assemblies, taken an active part in the non-partisan election observation initiative “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”, participated in documenting evidence of torture and other ill-treatment of detained protesters.
Any attempts to accuse Marfa Rabkova of plotting riots are unfounded, far-fetched and politically motivated.
It should be noted that during the entire presidential election campaign and after the election, members of the regional branches of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" faced pressure and persecution from the authorities, including attempts to institute criminal prosecution and several administrative penalties of detention.
After the tragic events of August 9 and the unprecedented level of mass repressions in the country, we have repeatedly heard threats against the Human Rights Center "Viasna" from representatives of GUBAZIK, who threatened us with violence and persecution.
We, members of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", protest against the blatant persecution and harassment of members of our organization for their legitimate human rights activities.
We stress that such activities are guaranteed to human rights defenders by the Constitutions of the Republic of Belarus, and international human rights standards, including the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, approved by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998.
We regard the persecution of Marfa Rabkova in connection with her legitimate human rights activities as an undisguised campaign of intimidation and pressure on the organization as a whole.
We declare that despite all obstacles and pressure, we will continue our human rights activities for the benefit of the entire Belarusian society.
We call on the authorities of the Republic of Belarus to:
- immediately release activist of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Marfa Rabkova, and stop the criminal prosecution against her;
- stop all attempts of pressure and persecution against members of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and other Belarusian human rights activists.