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Belarus: Release human rights defender Marfa Rabkova

    Friday, September 25, 2020 - 10:23

    Marfa Rabkova © Spring


    Woman human rights defender Marfa Rabkova is being held as a criminal suspect under false pretext.  On the evening of 17 September, officers of the Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption (GUBAZIK) detained her. Her husband Vadzim Zharomski was also detained but released shortly after. Marfa Rabkova may face criminal charges. She is a prisoner of conscience, targeted solely for her peaceful human rights work and must be immediately and unconditionally released.


    On 25 September, Marfa was charged under Article 293(3) of the Criminal Code ("training or other preparation of persons to participate in riots, or funding of such activities.") If convicted, she faces up to three years in prison. She is currently in pre-trial detention centre No. 1 in Minsk.

    The apartment of Marfa Rabkova and her husband, Vadzim Zharomski was searched by GUBAZIK officers on 17 September. The officers seized money, personal belongings and IT equipment. Vadzim Zharomski was later released but Marfa Rabkova was remanded for ten days 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”). This offence carries a prison sentence of up to three years. 

    Marfa Rabkova is a prisoner of conscience, targeted solely for her legitimate activities as a human rights defender. She has monitored demonstrations and documented evidence of human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment currently faced by peaceful protesters who have been 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.

    The Belarusian authorities must stop persecuting members of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” and other civil society activists, and respect the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression of all.

    Please send a message to the Prosecutor General.

    • Start with Dear Prosecutor General and a sentence about yourself to make your message unique.
    • Raise concern about the detention of Marfa Rabkova, a woman human rights defender and coordinator of the Volunteer Service of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”.
    • Ask him to immediately terminate criminal proceedings against Marfa Rabkova and ensure that no criminal charges are brought against her.
    • Call on him to take all necessary steps to ensure that Marfa Rabkova and all other prisoners of conscience in Belarus are released immediately and unconditionally. 

    Write to

    Alyaksandr Kaniuk
    Prosecutor General of the Republic of Belarus
    Internatsiyanalnaya str. 22
    220030 Minsk, Belarus
    Please copy

    Mr Evgeny Russak
    Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy for Belarus
    350 Sparks St, Suite 908
    Ottawa, Ontario K1R 7S8
    Fax:         613 233 8500
    Phone:        613 233 9994  or  613 232 0255 

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus

    Additional information

    Marfa Rabkova is a member of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" where she coordinates the organization’s Volunteer Service. According to Viasna, throughout the presidential election campaign, during and after the 9 August election, members of Viasna faced harassment from the authorities, including arbitrary detentions, so-called administrative arrest and attempted criminal prosecution in connection with their human rights activities.

    The detention of woman human rights defender Marfa Rabkova comes in the context of a drastic deterioration in the human rights situation in Belarus. During the electoral campaign period and following the presidential election on 9 August, there have been mass peaceful protests including against the widely disputed official results. Throughout, the authorities have engaged in an escalating campaign against the opposition and all dissenting voices. Thousands of people have been arbitrarily arrested by police, an overwhelming majority of them peaceful protesters or bystanders, and many apprehended in abduction-style arrest by masked plain-clothed men. 

    According to countless first-hand testimonies, widely available photographic and video material, and medical documents, many if not all those detained have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. The detention centre on Akrestsina, in the capital Minsk, where Marfa Rabkova too was initially held, has become synonymous with the practice of vicious beatings and other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Dozens of high-profile political and civil society activists and their associates have been arrested under trumped-up charges and subsequently remanded as criminal suspects – a fate Marfa Rabkova must be spared. They should all be immediately released, and all other human rights violations must stop immediately, including the dispersal of peaceful assemblies, mass arrests and the widespread ill-treatment and torture of detainees.

    If you want Updates on this case, send your request to with “Keep me updated on Marfa Rabkova” in the subject line.