Belarus: Upcoming trial and deteriorating health condition while in detention of Marfa Rabkova

06/04/2022
Urgent Appeal
Viasna

New information
BLR 001 / 0920 / OBS 102.2
Degradation of health condition /
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Belarus
April 6, 2022

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Belarus.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the ongoing arbitrary detention, deterioration of health condition and upcoming trial of Maria (a.k.a Marfa) Rabkova, Coordinator of volunteer services at the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” who notably participated in documenting evidence of torture and other inhuman treatment of detained participants in the post-election demonstrations in Belarus. The Minsk City Court will consider the case against Ms. Rabkova on April 25, 2022.

Marfa Rabkova’s health has drastically deteriorated in the past months due to the lack of adequate medical care. She has been denied any dental treatment over the past nine months, even though her teeth appear to be deeply fractured and a part of her front tooth has chipped off. In early 2022 she had Covid-19 symptoms but the prison authorities failed to test her. Since then, Marfa Rabkova suffers from abdominal pain and inflamed lymph nodes on her neck. By the end of 2021, her blood tests showed low levels of hemoglobin and the presence of inflammation. Yet, it was not until March 2022 that she underwent ultrasound examination, despite her multiple requests. On April 4, 2022, she started being treated with an intravenous antibiotics course but was still denied comprehensive medical care and examinations.

The Observatory recalls that Ms. Rabkova has been detained in pre-trial detention center №1 on Volodarskogo Street in Minsk since her arrest, on September 17, 2020, on charges of “training or other preparation of persons for the participation in mass riots, or financing of such activities" (Article 293.3 of the Belarus Criminal Code). Since then, her pre-trial detention period has been repeatedly extended.

On February 11, 2021, the Investigative Committee of Belarus charged Marfa Rabkova with “incitement of racial, national, religious or other social enmity or discord, committed by a group of persons or resulting by negligence in the death of a person or other grave consequences” and “involvement in a criminal organization”. In November 2021, Marfa Rabkova informed her family that she would face trial under a total of 10 charges [1]. If found guilty, she could face up to a total of 20 years in prison.

In December 2021, her case file was transferred to the Investigative Committee of Belarus, and in January 2022 it was sent to the Prosecutor’s Office to be sent to Minsk City Court. On April 6, 2022, it became known that the Prosecutor’s Office filed Marfa Rabkova’s case with the Minsk City Court. The hearing is scheduled for April 25, 2022. Nine people are accused under the same case together with Marfa Rabkova, including the volunteer of Viasna, Andrey Chapiuk. In the case file, the Investigative Committee described Marfa Rabkova as a leader of “an organised criminal group that had autonomous cells in the regions of Belarus”. The basis of these accusations remains unknown.

As part of her human rights activities, Marfa Rabkova, together with Viasna volunteers, including Mr. Chapiuk, monitored peaceful assemblies, took an active part in the independent election observation campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections", participated in documentation of evidence of torture and other cruel treatment of detained protesters, and helped families of political prisoners.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over Ms. Rabkova’s deteriorating health condition while in detention and urges the authorities in Belarus to grant her immediate access to adequate and comprehensive medical treatment, and to immediately and unconditionally release her, as her detention is arbitrary and is only putting her life at risk.

The Observatory condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention of Viasna members, including Ales Bialiatski, head of Viasna, Valiantsin Stefanovic, member of Viasna’s Board and Vice-President of FIDH, Uladzimir Labkovich, lawyer and coordinator of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”, Leanid Sudalenka , lawyer of the Homieĺ (Gomel) branch of Viasna and volunteers Tatsiana Lasitsa and Andrey Chapiuk.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Belarus to urge them to:

i. guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Marfa Rabkova, as well as of all Viasna members and all other human rights defenders in Belarus;

ii. immediately and unconditionally release Marfa Rabkova, since her detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at punishing her for her legitimate human rights activities;

iii. guarantee the unhindered access of Marfa Rabkova to adequate medical care, a lawyer of her choice and to her family members;

iv. put an end to all acts of harassment -including at the judicial level- against Marfa Rabkova as well as all Viasna members and Belarussian human rights defenders, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.

Addresses:

· Mr. Aliaksandr Lukashenka, President of Belarus, Email: contact@president.gov.by;
· Mr. Andrei Shved, General Prosecutor of Belarus, Email: info@prokuratura.gov.by;
· Mr. Oleg Slizhevsky, Minister of Justice of Belarus, Email: kanc@minjust.by;
· Mr. Vasily Gerasimov, Acting Chairman of the State Control Committee of Belarus, Email: kgk@mail.belpak.by;
· Mr. Ivan Kubrakov, minister of Internal Affairs of Belarus, Email: pismo_mvd@mia.by;
· Mr. Yury Ambrazevich, Permanent Mission of Belarus to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission.belarus@ties.itu.int;
· H.E. Mr. Aliaksandr Mikhnevich, Embassy of Belarus in Brussels, Email: belgium@mfa.gov.by

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Belarus in your respective countries.

***
Geneva-Paris, April 6, 2022

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· Email: appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39
· Tel FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18

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