Harsh sentences to Viasna members spark international outcry
The sentencing of human rights defender Marfa Rabkova, Viasna volunteer Andrei Chapiuk, and eight other political prisoners, who were sentenced to a total of 94 years in prison on September 6, 2022, sparked international outrage.
The U.S. Embassy strongly condemned the conviction of Marfa Rabkova and other defendants in the criminal case:
The U.S. condemns the disgraceful sentencing of human rights defender Marfa Rabkova and 9 other political prisoners. We stand united with our EU partners and the people of Belarus to hold the regime accountable for these egregious violations of human rights and dignity.
Eamon Gilmore, European Union Special Representative for Human Rights, also spoke in support of the convicted political prisoners:
#Belarus: Today @viasna96 volunteers Marfa Rabkova (27), Andrei Chapiuk (26) and 8 other political prisoners were sentenced to combined 94 years in prison in a closed trial. The EU calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all 1300+ political prisoners. #FreeBelarus
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor expressed words of solidarity in her tweet:
Yesterday's sentencing of Belarusian HRDs Marfa Rabkova & Andrei Chapiuk to 15 & 6 years in jail is deplorable. My thoughts & solidarity are with them & all detained Belarusian HRDs. Neither closed-door trials nor detention can cut you off from the global human rights community.
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) called the sentences of Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapiuk new evidence of repression against human rights defenders in Belarus:
“The space for human rights defenders in Belarus to carry out their important work is continuing to shrink,” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “Today’s sentences are further testimony to the organised repression of human rights defenders, which is having a chilling effect on all those active in combating human rights violations and upholding fundamental freedoms in the country. ODIHR remains ready to assist Belarus in coming in line with international standards and ensuring the human rights of all are protected.”
Mecacci stressed that the OSCE ODIHR remains ready to help Belarus meet international standards and ensure the protection of human rights for all:
“In this context, ODIHR is deeply concerned by the violations of the right to a fair trial, including closed court proceedings as well as the unjustified and excessive sentences handed down to human rights defenders. ODIHR once again reiterates the offer it has made on a number of occasions to undertake fair trial monitoring in Belarus.”
The Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also tweeted a message in support of Marfa and Andrei:
Today‘s Minsk court‘s decision to imprison activists and human rights defenders, including #EHU student Marfa Rabkova from @viasna96 , once again proves the repressive lawlessness of Lukashenka’s regime. #FreeViasna Freedom to all political prisoners in #Belarus!
Members of the Finnish League for Human Rights came to the Belarusian embassy and called for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Belarus and courageous fellow human rights defenders:
Helding candles in front of the Embassy of #Belarus and showing our support to human rights defenders Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapiuk who received shocking prison sentences. We demand to release of all political prisoners. #freeviasna #freemarfa #freeandrey @fidh_en @viasna96
The Clooney Foundation for Justice came out in support of the imprisoned members of Spring:
Two members of the @Viasna96 Human Rights Centre received prison sentences yesterday, as the group continues to be persecuted for its support for political prisoners and their families. Later this month, Viasna will receive our Justice for Democracy Defenders Award at #TheAlbies.
After the verdict was pronounced, the Austrian branch of Amnesty International launched a petition for the immediate release of Marfa Rabkova. More than 3,000 people have already signed it.
The Polish branch of Amnesty International also launched an urgent action for the release of Marfa Rabkova.
The European Students' Union (ESU) also condemned the politically motivated criminal charges against Marfa Rabkova and demanded her immediate release.