Minsk – September 21, 2020
On September 17, officers of GUBAZIK (Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption) detained Marfa Rabkova, coordinator of the Volunteer Service of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”. Her husband Vadzim Zharomski was also detained, but eventually released.
The couple’s apartment was searched and equipment, personal money and belongings were confiscated.
During arrest, Rabkova was told that she was being detained as part of a criminal case under Part 3 of Art. 293 of the Criminal Code (training or other preparation of persons to participate in riots, or funding such activities). Marfa was then placed in a detention center. On September 19, she was transferred to pre-trial prison No. 1 in Minsk.
Marfa Rabkova is a member of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and coordinator of the organization’s volunteer service. As part of her human rights activities, Marfa, together with Viasna’s volunteers, observed peaceful assemblies, took an active part in the independent observation campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”, and participated in documenting evidence of torture and other ill-treatment of detained protesters.
It should be noted that throughout the presidential election campaign and after the election, members of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” faced pressure and harassment from the authorities, including attempted criminal prosecution, administrative arrest and detentions. On Election Day, August 9, seven members of the regional offices of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" were arbitrarily detained in connection with their human rights activities.
It should be reminded that such activities are guaranteed to human rights defenders by the Constitutions of the Republic of Belarus, international human rights norms, including the Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Individual Groups, Individuals and Public Bodies to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which was approved by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998.
According to Art. 12 of this Declaration, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The state must take all necessary measures to ensure the protection, through the competent authorities, of any person acting individually and in association with others, from any violence, threats, retribution, negative discrimination, de facto or de jure, pressure or any other arbitrary actions in connection with the lawful exercise of his or her rights under this Declaration.
In this regard, we, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, believe that the imprisonment of Marfa Rabkova is the result of her non-violent activities aimed at protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Based on this, guided by paragraph 3.1 b) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners, adopted at the 3rd Belarusian Human Rights Forum, we, representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations, consider human rights activist Marfa Rabkova to be a political prisoner and call on the authorities to:
immediately release Viasna’s human rights activist Marfa Rabkova and stop the criminal prosecution against her;
stop all attempts of pressure and persecution against members of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and all Belarusian human rights activists;
strictly fulfill their international obligations to ensure guarantees of human rights activities in the country.
Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Advisory center on contemporary international practices and their legal implementation “Human Constanta”
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Center for Legal Transformation “Lawtrend”
Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Belarusian Documentation Center