Front Line Defenders condemns sentencing of Maria Rabkova
Front Line Defenders condemned the sentencing of woman human rights defender Maria Rabkova to 15 years of prison time, as it believes that she is being persecuted for her human rights work. Front Line Defenders reiterates its call upon Belarusian authorities to release Maria Rabkova, guarantee her physical and psychological safety, and stop the nationwide crackdown against human rights defenders for their peaceful and legitimate human rights work.
On 6 September 2022, Minsk City Court sentenced woman human rights defender Maria Rabkova to 15 years of prison and fined her 22400 Belarus Rubles (around $8,800). The Court found her guilty of violating ten Articles of the Criminal Code (CC) of Belarus. The hearing was held behind closed doors.
Maria Rabkova is a woman human rights defender and coordinator of the Volunteer Service at Human Rights Centre "Viasna" (HRC "Viasna"). Her human rights activities involve monitoring the peaceful manifestations resulting from the 2020 Presidential election results and documenting cases of torture and other ill-treatment against detained protesters.
On 6 September 2022, Minsk City Court sentenced woman human rights defender Maria Rabkova to 15 years of prison. The Court found her guilty of "organizing mass riots" (Article 293(1) CC), "preparing for participation in mass riots" (Article 293(1.13, 2) CC), "preparing others for participation in mass riots" (Article 293 (3) CC), "establishment and leading a criminal organization" (Article 285(1)), calling for action against the national security of Belarus" (Article 361(3) CC)," establishing an extremist group" (Article 361-1(1)), "incitement of other social hatered by a group of people" (Article 130(3) CC), "malicious hooliganism" and "particularly malicious hooliganism" (Article 339(2) and 339(3) CC), "desecration of structures and damage to property" (Article 341 CC). The hearing was held behind closed doors.
Since her arrest on 17 September 2020, Maria Rabkova spent almost two full years in pre-trial detention, with limited or no access to medical assistance. While in detention, Maria Rabkova's health has significantly deteriorated. She contracted COVID-19 in pre-trial detention due to overcrowded incarceration units and no sanitary preventive measures. The woman human rights defender experienced significant weight loss, dental problems, and two instances of syncope. On multiple occasions, the authorities denied Maria Rabkova visitation rights, and her correspondence was seized.
Since September 2021, the Belarusian authorities have targeted members of HRC Viasna with raids, arbitrary detentions, trumped-up charges, and judicial harassment for their peaceful human rights work. After more than 200 raids, dozens of prominent human rights defenders have been detained, including representatives of HRC Viasna. Maria Rabkova, Andrey Chapyuk, Leanid Sudalenka, Taciana Lasica, Uladzimir Labkovich, Valiantsin Stefanovich, and Ales Bialiatski remain in pre-trial detention while Maryia Tarasenka was released and issued a travel ban.