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#FreeViasna: Weekly news digest on Viasna’s imprisoned human rights defenders

2022 2022-04-11T16:10:15+0300 2022-04-11T16:10:15+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

On September 17, #FreeViasna campaign of solidarity with the imprisoned Viasna members was launched. Here’s the latest news about them.

Human rights defenders meet French Minister of Foreign Affairs

Project director with Freedom House Vytis Jurkonis, Viasna lawyer Pavel Sapelka, Belarusian Human Rights House representative Maryia Lando, French Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian, and the chairman of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Andrei Bastunets

Representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations at a meeting with the French Minister of Foreign Affairs raised the issue of imprisoned Viasna members.  Pavel Sapelka, a lawyer with Viasna, noted that the level of repression and torture used by the authorities against civilians remains unabated, the political prisoners' count is constantly increasing, and seven members of Viasna, including the head of the organization Ales Bialiatski, are still behind bars.

Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapiuk to be tried on April 25

The trial over the coordinator of Viasna’s volunteer network Marfa Rabkova, volunteer Andrei Chapiuk, and eight other political prisoners will start at 10.30 am on April 25 in Minsk City Court. The case will be considered by Judge Siarhei Khrypach. 

Marfa Rabkova is charged under ten articles of the Criminal Code and faces up to 20 years in prison. Andrei Chapiuk is charged under two articles and faces up to 8 years in prison. 

Marfa Rabkova not getting urgent medical aid in jail

The health of political prisoner and human rights activist Marfa Rabkova is seriously deteriorating; she needs urgent examination but is not receiving adequate medical care in jail.

Marfa experience health problems during her imprisonment in pre-trial detention center. She suffers from constant abdominal pain and inflamed lymph nodes on her neck. However, it was not until March 2022 that the ultrasound examination was performed. The test revealed fluid in the small pelvis in the result. This condition requires immediate further examination both by a surgeon and a gynecologist. Surgery may be needed. In addition, the ultrasound revealed many focal lesions and cysts in Marfa Rabkova's thyroid gland. An additional examination is needed to determine the nature of these lesions.

It is known that Marfa started to receive treatment in pre-trial detention center but only in part. She was tested for hormones and started an intravenous antibiotics course. However, no measures are being taken to examine Marfa's thyroid. Also, she is not allowed to visit the dentist for about 9 months already. 

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, issued a statement drawing attention to the condition of political prisoner Marfa Rabkova and urging the Belarusian authorities to release her immediately. 

The Observatory calls for urgent intervention in Marfa Rabkova's case

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Belarus.

No news from Viasna management and volunteers

There was no news last week from Ales Bialiatski, chairman of the organization, his deputy Valiantsin Stefanovich, and Uladzimir Labkovich, a lawyer. No updates come from the head of the Homieĺ branch of Viasna Leanid Sudalenka and volunteer Tatsiana Lasitsa as well. There was also no news from Viasna volunteer Andrei Chapiuk.

Belarusians continue sending letters of support to jails

With the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the correspondence with all political prisoners got significantly worse. As a rule, only letters from family members reach prisoners and even this is not granted. Yet this is not a reason to stop trying!


Thus, on Sunday, April 10, compassionate Belarusians gathered in Vilnius to sign Easter cards for political prisoners of different faiths. More than 100 cards were signed, including for imprisoned Viasna members.