Immediately release Marfa Rabkova

Posted September 8, 2022

Scholars at Risk sent the below letter to authorities in Belarus expressing grave concern over the 15 year prison sentence given to Marfa Rabkova and calling for her immediate release. After nearly two years in pretrial detention, on September 6, 2022, the Minsk city court sentenced Ms. Rabkova, a student at European Humanities University, to 15 years in prison on 13 charges for her nonviolent expressive activity and work monitoring nationwide protests calling for Alexander Lukashenko’s resignation.

You can support Ms. Rabkova by signing this letter in your own name.

Via email to the Honorable Alexander Lukashenko, President of the Republic of Belarus

September 8, 2022

RE: Immediately release Marfa Rabkova

Your Excellency:

I write on behalf of Scholars at Risk to express grave concern for Marfa Rabkova, a student at European Humanities University (EHU), Lithuania, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in apparent retaliation for her nonviolent expressive activity.

Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of more than 600 universities and colleges in 42 countries dedicated to protecting the human rights of scholars around the world, and to raising awareness, understanding of, and respect for the principles of academic freedom and its constituent freedoms of expression, opinion, thought, association, and travel. In cases like this, involving infringement of these freedoms, SAR intervenes hoping to resolve matters favorably.

SAR last wrote to you about Ms. Rabkova on February 11, 2022, in response to the thirteen charges against Ms. Rabkova, including “organizing, participating in, and training others to participate in mass riots,” “inciting social hostility towards the government,” and “involvement in a criminal organization.”

Ms. Rabkova is a third-year student at the International Law and European Union Law program at EHU and the coordinator of the Volunteer Service at Human Rights Center Viasna. In that capacity, Ms. Rabkova monitored the nationwide protests calling for President Lukashenko’s resignation. On September 17, 2020, officers from the Main Directorate for Combatting Organized Crime and Corruption (GUBOPiK) arrested Ms. Rabkova and her husband, Vadzim Zharomsky. The GUBOPiK officers searched Ms. Rabkova and Mr. Zharomsky’s home, seized their personal belongings, and later released Mr. Zharomsky.

Over the past two years, Ms. Rabkova’s health has deteriorated; however, authorities have continued to deny her access to appropriate medical care. Authorities extended Ms. Rabkova’s pretrial detention multiple times and indicted her with several charges until her trial, which was closed to the public, began four months ago. On September 6, 2022, the Minsk city court sentenced Ms. Rabkova to 15 years in prison.

I welcome any additional information that may explain these events or clarify my understanding. Absent this, Ms. Rabkova’s detention, judicial harassment, ill-treatment, prosecution, and sentencing —in retaliation for exercising her rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association—suggest a troubling disregard for international standards of due process, fair trial, and the humane treatment of prisoners, as guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Belarus is a party.

I therefore respectfully urge you to instruct the relevant authorities to immediately release Ms. Rabkova and drop all charges against her; and, pending such action, ensure her well-being and access to proper medical treatment, legal counsel, and family.

I appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to your reply.

Robert Quinn
Executive Director


The Honorable Igor V. Karpenko
Minister of Education of the Republic of Belarus

The Honorable Ivan Kubrakov
Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus

The Honorable Ivan Naskevich
Chair of the Investigative Committee

The Honorable Vladimir Makei
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus

The Honorable Michelle Bachelet
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Honorable Anaïs Marin
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus

The Honorable Valentin Rybakov
Permanent Representative of Belarus to the United Nations

The Honorable Josep Borrell Fontelles
European Commission High Representative/Vice President

The Honorable Robert Biedroń
Vice-Chair of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with Belarus

The Honorable Petras Auštrevičius Standing Rapporteur on Belarus

The Honorable Dirk Schuebel
Head of European Union Delegation to Belarus

The Honorable Eamon Gilmore
European Union Special Representative for Human Rights

Dr. Wolfgang Benedek
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Rapporteur

Ms. Karinna Moskalenko
UN Human Rights Office’s Fact-Finding Mission on Belarus
c/o Rupert Colville

Mr. Marko Milanović
UN Human Rights Office’s Fact-Finding Mission on Belarus

Ms. Susan Bazilli
UN Human Rights Office’s Fact-Finding Mission on Belarus