Marfa Rabkova charged with a false crime
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 administrative arrest, arbitrary detentions and attempted prosecution in connection with their human rights activities.
Marfa Rabkova and her husband, Vadzim Zharomski, were detained on the evening of 17 September 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 for ten days as a suspect under Art. 293(3) of the Criminal Code.
The detention of 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 against the widely disputed official results as well as against police violence and widespread human rights violations. 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 of those detained have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. The detention centre on Akrestsina, in the capital Minsk, where Marfa Rabkova was initially held, has become synonymous with the practice of vicious beatings and sexual violence 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 – as is the case with Marfa Rabkova. 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.