Civic Solidarity Platform calls to release Marfa Rabkova
Statement by the member of the Civic Solidarity Platform
29 September 2020
We, the undersigned members of the international NGO network The Civic Solidarity Platform, express our strongest indignation about the arrest and criminal persecution of Belarusian human rights defender Marfa Rabkova, coordinator of the Volunteer Service of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna”, and demand her immediate and unconditional release and dropping of all charges against her.
Human Rights Centre “Viasna” is a member organisation of the Civic Solidarity Platform and a recipient of the 2020 Democracy Defender Award, established by OSCE participating states.
Marfa Rabkova and her husband, Vadzim Zharomski, were detained on 17 September in Minsk by officers of the Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for Combating Organised Crime and Corruption. Their apartment was searched and money, personal belongings and IT equipment were seized. Vadzim Zharomski was later released but Marfa Rabkova was remanded as a suspect under Art. 293(3) of the Criminal Code (“training or other preparation of persons to participate in riots, or funding of such activities”) which carries a prison sentence of up to three years. On 19 September, she was transferred to the pre-trial prison No. 1 in Minsk where she is currently being held. On 25 September, she was officially charged under Art. 293(3) of the Criminal Code
Belarusian human rights NGOs consider Marfa Rabkova a political prisoner. Amnesty International recognised her as a prisoner of conscience. Her arrest follows a number of acts of reprisal against and judicial harassment of human rights defenders by law enforcement representatives in Belarus since the results of the 2020 Presidential elections were announced on 9 August. These actions may have a chilling effect on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Belarus.
We believe that Belarusian authorities persecute Ms. Rabkova solely for her peaceful and legitimate human rights work such as observing demonstrations and documenting evidence of human rights violations, including torture and ill-treatment of peaceful protesters detained by law enforcement officials. Marfa Rabkova has committed no crime and there are no grounds for her prosecution. Her arrest, detention and prosecution are retaliation for her human rights work and constitute a major breach of Belarus’ obligations under international human rights law and OSCE commitments.
We demand that Belarusian authorities immediately and unconditionally release Marfa Rabkova, terminate criminal proceedings against her and guarantee her physical and psychological security and integrity. Authorities should also stop pressure and persecution against members of Human Rights Center “Viasna” and all Belarusian human rights activists and guarantee that all human rights defenders in Belarus are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions in all circumstances.
We urge OSCE executive and political bodies, institutions and participating States to take active public, diplomatic and other steps to ensure that Belarusian human rights defender Marfa Rabkova is immediately released and persecution against her is stopped.
- Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Russia
- Netherlands Helsinki Committee
- Freedom Files, Poland
- Public Association “Human Rights Movement: Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan”
- Center for Civil Liberties, Ukraine
- Foundation for the Promotion of Civil Society and Human Rights "Women of the Don", Russia
- Public Verdict Foundation, Russia
- Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
- Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly - Vanadzor, Armenia
- Swedish OSCE-network
- Sova Center for Information and Analysis, Russia
- Helsinki Committee of Armenia
- DRA – German-Russian Exchange, Germany
- Public Association “Dignity”, Kazakhstan
- Article 19, UK
- Truth Hounds, Ukraine
- LIBERECO Partnership for Human Rights, Germany
- Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Poland
- Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Lithuania
- Belarusian Helsinki Committee
- The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House, Lithuania
- Human Rights Center “Memorial”, Russia
- IDP Women Association “Consent”, Georgia
- Index on Censorship, UK
- International Partnership for Human Rights, Belgium
- Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law