Marfa Rabkova's last word in court: “Every time we respond to someone else’s pain we bring our Belarus closer”
On September 6, 2022, the Minsk Municipal court sentenced the coordinator of Viasna’s volunteer network Marfa Rabkova to 15 years of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony and a fine of 22,400 Belarusian rubles ($8,800). Rabkova did not plead guilty to any of the charges brought under 10 articles of the Criminal Code. She became the political prisoner with the longest sentence in a political case among women. On September 17, it will be two years since the human rights defender has been kept behind bars in pre-trial detention center. During this time her father and grandmother passed and her own health deteriorated. We publish the text of the last word that Marfa Rabkova prepared for her speech in court.
“We live in the era of twisted truth—the good is punished, the evil is celebrated, the freedom is possible only within one's own mind,s, and even there it could be attacked with Article 13 of the Criminal Code, ‘the intent’. Thoughtcrime does not only exist in dystopian fiction—it is thriving in Belarusian reality.
I have lived all my life under the rule of Lukashenka. I was born and raised within this system. You are labeling me as ‘extremist’, stating that I was a destructive element, I was hateful, and I had lost my roots. But I am just as much a part of society as the rest of you. The only difference about me is that I call things for what they are and I cannot ignore them. Violence is violence, repressions are repressions, and war is war. There is no other way. I feel ashamed when educated people cover their eyes and ears, mute their moral sense, and do not question their own actions. How much bravery does it take not to do bad things? How much courage does it take to act under human values within one’s sphere of influence? What does it take to stop the chain of evil that has begun? What will we be left with when it is over? What are we going to tell our kids and grandchildren? What will you leave behind in this world? These are the questions you have to answer for yourself and the future. And it is pressing us with every second.
I do not plead guilty to any of the charges. I consider them to be fully fabricated, absurd, and made up by the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime. When there is no organized crime in the country, apparently, it has to be created to justify the existence of this entire department which has grown enormously in the last decade and does not mind using methods resembling those of the Gestapo, rather than officers engaged in the protection of citizens.
Nor do I consider guilty the thousands of people who are suffering in the prisons of our country. Every person has rights, every person is an individual, every opinion must be respected, and life and freedom are the highest and absolute values. Humanism, justice, empathy, development, and responsibility for everything going on around us are the milestones on which the future stands. By rejecting them you are rejecting the future itself, which is approaching and is inevitable. The future is change because progress is always moving and striving forward. The Belarusian people deserve a decent standard of living, respect for themselves, and respect for the rights of every member of society—a state that will be working for the people and not against them.
I want to thank my wonderful husband, my mother, my whole family, friends and relatives, colleagues, attorneys, as well as all caring Belarusians for help and solidarity on this thorny path of imprisonment. Thank you for not forgetting me and staying with me.
I have seen so many kind and bright faces, I have seen so many honest people that I am sure we will make it anyway, there is no other option. Every time we help each other, every time we care, every time we offer a helping hand, express solidarity, respond to someone else’s pain—every such time we bring our future, our Belarus closer. Do not despair and believe in yourselves, in your strength. The truth is on our side.
Long live Belarus and Glory to Ukraine!”
Marfa Rabkova. August 2022