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Maria Rabkova arbitrarily detained

Status: 
Detained & Charged
About the situation

On 20 March 2021, the colleagues of woman human rights defender Maria Rabkova became aware that her detention had been extended for a further three months as a result of additional charges brought against her in February.

On 11 February 2021, woman human rights defender and coordinator of the Volunteer Service at Human Rights Centre Viasna (HRC Viasna) Maria Rabkova was handed an indictment under two more articles of the Criminal Code: “participating in criminal organization” (Part 2 of Article 285 of the Criminal Code) and “inciting racial, national, religious or other social hostility social hostility by a group of individuals” (Part 3 of Art. 130 of the Criminal Code).

On 17 September 2020, woman human rights defender Maria Rabkova was detained in Minsk as part of a criminal investigation opened in relation to ongoing protests in the country. Maria Rabkova’s husband Vadim Zharomsky was detained along side her but later released.

About Maria Rabkova

Maria RabkovaMaria Rabkova is a woman human rights defender and coordinator of the Volunteer Service at Human Rights Centre Viasna (HRC Viasna). Together with Viasna volunteers, Maria Rabkova has been monitoring peaceful assemblies that have broken out across Belarus since the announcement of the 2020 Presidential election results on 9 August. She has also been documenting cases of torture and other ill-treatment against detained protesters. The woman human rights defender played an active role in the independent election observation campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”.

 

25 March 2021
Extension of woman human rights defender Maria Rabkova’s detention

On 20 March 2021, the colleagues of woman human rights defender Maria Rabkova became aware that her detention had been extended for a further three months as a result of additional charges brought against her in February.

 

Maria Rabkova was detained on 17 September 2020 as part of a criminal investigation for “education or other preparation of persons for participation in mass riots, or financing such activities” (Part 3 of Art. 293 of the Criminal Code). On 11 February 2021, Maria Rabkova was charged under two additional articles of the Criminal Code: “participating in criminal organization” (Part 2 of Article 285 of the Criminal Code) and “inciting racial, national, religious or other social hostility by a group of individuals” (Part 3 of Art. 130 of the Criminal Code). If convicted, the charges carry a possible imprisonment sentence of up to 12 years.

The woman human rights defender, who is a coordinator of the Volunteer Service at Human Rights Centre Viasna (HRC Viasna), has been detained in the detention centre No.1 on Volodarskaya street since her arrest. With the latest extension of her detention, Maria Rabkova is due to be detained until 17 June 2021, by which point she will have spent nine months in pre-trial detention.

Since early May 2020, HRC Viasna has faced increased pressure, with 18 members of the organisation, including many local representatives, arbitrarily detained and subjected to judicial harassment and arrests for their human rights work. Maria Rabkova is one of four members of the organisation currently detained, alongside Andrey Chapyuk, Leanid Sudalenka and Taciana Lasica.

Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned by the levying of additional charges against woman human rights defender Maria Rabkova, and the possible 12 year sentence they carry. The initial charges against Maria Rabkova, her detention and the most recent charges against her, can be viewed as an attempt to criminalise her legitimate human rights activities and the work of HRC Viasna. Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Belarus to immediately release Maria Rabkova, drop the charges against her, and cease targeting human rights defenders, HRC Viasna and other human rights organisations in the country.

16 February 2021
Additional charges against woman human rights defender Maria Rabkova

On 11 February 2021, woman human rights defender and coordinator of the Volunteer Service at Human Rights Centre Viasna (HRC Viasna) Maria Rabkova was handed an indictment under two more articles of the Criminal Code: “participating in criminal organization” (Part 2 of Article 285 of the Criminal Code) and “inciting racial, national, religious or other social hostility social hostility by a group of individuals” (Part 3 of Art. 130 of the Criminal Code). If found guilty, Maria Rabkova may be imprisoned for to twelve years.

The new charges were brought against Maria Rabkova shortly after a national television show called "TNT of Protest" was aired, alleging that HRC Viasna and Maria Rabkova were involved in terrorist activities. The woman human rights defender defined it as an information attack and an attempt to slander her and HRC Viasna.

Members of HRC Viasna emphasise that a defamation campaign against Maria Rabkova and HRC Viasna has intensified since the end of January 2021. At the beginning of February, several videos were published by the Investigative Committee connecting human rights defenders with criminal organisations linked to seizing power, organising riots and terrorist activities.

On 17 September 2020, Maria Rabkova and her husband were detained in Minsk by officers from the Main Directorate for Combating Organised Crime and Corruption (GUBOPiK) after they conducted a search of her apartment. Maria Rabkova was handed an indictment for “education or other preparation of persons for participation in mass riots, or financing such activities” under part 3 of Article 293 of the Criminal Code.

After her detention, Maria Rabkova’s lawyer filed a complaint to change the preventive measure of detention and her colleagues collected around 200 guarantees from citizens supporting her, both of which were sent to the Investigative Committee. However, on 14 December 2020 the Partizansky district court of Minsk rejected the complaint during a closed session.

Maria Rabkova has been detained in detention centre No.1 in Minsk for five months. Since her arrest the woman human rights defender’s correspondence has been limited and many of the letters that she sent to her colleagues and relatives were not delivered.

Members of HRC Viasna have been under pressure since early May 2020, with 18 members of the organisation, including many local representatives, arbitrarily detained and subjected to judicial harassment and arrests for their active human rights work. Four members of the organisation and volunteers are currently in jail: Maria Rabkova, Andrey Chapyuk, Leanid Sudalenka and Taciana Lasica.

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned by the indictment of Maria Rabkova under two additional criminal articles and by the ongoing smear campaign against her and HRC Viasna, as it believes that they are being targeted solely as a result of their work in promoting and protecting human rights in Belarus. Front Line Defenders demands the authorities in Belarus to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of Maria Rabkova and to stop the criminal proceedings against her. Front Line Defenders demands Belarusian authorities refrain from falsely linking human rights defenders to “terrorist activities” in an effort to manipulate public opinion and slander the legitimate and peaceful work of human rights defenders.

18 September 2020
Maria Rabkova arbitrarily detained

On 17 September 2020, woman human rights defender Maria Rabkova was detained in Minsk as part of a criminal investigation opened in relation to ongoing protests in the country. Maria Rabkova’s husband Vadim Zharomsky was detained along side her but later released.

Download the Urgent Appeal

Maria Rabkova is a woman human rights defender and coordinator of the Volunteer Service at Human Rights Centre Viasna (HRC Viasna). Together with Viasna volunteers, Maria Rabkova has been monitoring peaceful assemblies that have broken out across Belarus since the announcement of the 2020 Presidential election results on 9 August. She has also been documenting cases of torture and other ill-treatment against detained protesters. The woman human rights defender played an active role in the independent election observation campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”.

On the evening of 17 September 2020, as Maria Rabkova and her husband Vadim Zharomsky were on their way home, several minibuses pulled up alongside them. Officers from the Main Directorate for Combating Organised Crime and Corruption (GUBOPiK) exited the vehicles and pushed the defender and her husband’s face against the ground. The couple were informed that Maria Rabkova was being detained as part of a criminal investigation opened under para. 3 of Article. 293 of the Criminal Code of Belarus for “education or other preparation of persons for participation in mass riots, or financing such activities”.

Maria Rabkova and Vadim Zharomsky were placed in different minibuses. Vadim Zharomsky was brought to their apartment where the officers conducted a search. During the search, equipment, personal belongings and money were seized. Afterwards, Vadim Zharomsky was brought to the office of GUBOPiK where the officers put a sack on his head, questioned him and threatened that they would take him to a temporary detention centre. Later he was released and told that he should return for questioning the following day.

Maria Rabkova was brought to a detention center on Okrestina Street. According to information from the defender’s colleagues, the criminal investigation is being conducted by the Office of the Investigative Committee for Minsk. The defender’s lawyer was informed that the defender would be brought in for questioning on 18 September 2020 at 3pm local time.

Members of HRC Viasna have been under pressure since early May 2020, with many local representatives arbitrarily detained and subjected to judicial harassment or administrative arrests.

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned by the detention of Maria Rabkova as well as the harassment of her husband. Her arrest follows a number of acts of reprisal against and judicial harassment of human rights defenders from the law enforcement representatives in Belarus since the results of the 2020 Presidential elections were announced on 9 August. Front Line Defenders expresses concern that these actions may have a chilling effect on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Belarus, and may be unconducive to the creation of a safe and enabling environment in which defenders can carry out their work.