Detained Rights Defender Denied Medical Care
The detention of human rights defender Marfa Rabkova and other activists came 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 2020, there were mass peaceful protests against the widely disputed official results as well as against police violence and widespread human rights violations. Throughout, the authorities engaged in an escalating campaign against the opposition and all dissenting voices.
Thousands of people were arbitrarily arrested by police, an overwhelming majority of them peaceful protesters or bystanders, and many apprehended in abduction-style arrests by masked plain-clothed men.
Marfa Rabkova, a member of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" where she coordinates the organization’s Volunteer Service, and her husband, Vadzim Zharomski, were detained on the evening of 17 September 2020 by officers of the Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption (GUBAZIK). Their apartment was searched and money, personal belongings and IT equipment were seized. Vadzim Zharomski was later released but Marfa Rabkova was remanded and held in pre-trial detention. She was indicted for “training or other preparation of persons for participation in mass riots, or financing of this activity” (Part 3 of Art. 293 of the Criminal code), “participation in a criminal organization in any other form” (Part 2 of Art. 285 of the Criminal Code) and “incitement to hatred” (Art. 130 of the Criminal Code).
On 11 February 2021 Marfa Rabkova faced new criminal charges of “inciting social hostility to the government by a group of unidentified individuals” (Part 3 of Art. 130 of the Criminal Code) and “involvement in a criminal organization” (Part 2 of Art. 285 of the Criminal Code). If found guilty, Marfa Rabkova may be imprisoned for up to 12 years.
While being in pretrial detention Marfa's health deteorited significantly and she is not receiving medical care.
According to the Human Rights Center "Viasna", throughout the presidential election campaign, during and after the 9 August election, 2020 members of Viasna faced harassment from the authorities, including administrative arrest, arbitrary detentions and attempted prosecution in connection with their human rights activities.
Seven Viasna members are currently in prison: chairperson Ales Bialiatski, deputy chairperson Valiantsin Stefanovich, lawyer Uladzimir Labkovich, Marfa Rabkova, head of Viasna's office in Homiel Leanid Sudalenka, volunteers Tatsiana Lasitsa and Andrei Chapiuk. On 3 November 2021 the court sentenced the head of Viasna’s Homiel office Leanid Sudalenka and Viasna’s volunteer Tatsiana Lasitsa to three and two and a half years in prison, respectively.
On 17 September 2021 dozens of Belarusian and international human rights organizations including Amnesty International, launched a campaign of solidarity with the imprisoned human rights activists of Viasna, #FreeViasna.