Ms. Marfa Rabkova is a third-year student at the International Law and European Union Law program at European Humanities University (EHU), Lithuania, who has been imprisoned in Belarus since September 17, 2020. Nearly two years later, Ms. Rabkova was sentenced to 15 years in prison in apparent retaliation for her nonviolent participation in nationwide protests over the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko. Read more.
In addition to her studies at EHU, Ms. Rabkova is 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. The results of the August 9, 2020 election had President Lukashenko, who first took office in 1994, winning re-election for a sixth term with more than 80% of the vote. Election workers and activists inside Belarus, as well as international observers, immediately condemned the result, charging that the election was marked by widespread electoral fraud. Concerns about a fraudulent election triggered mass demonstrations across the country involving hundreds of thousands of protesters.
On September 17, 2020, officers from the Main Directorate for Combatting Organized Crime and Corruption (GUBOPiK), driving in multiple vans, followed Ms. Rabkova and her husband, Vadzim Zharomsky while they were en route home, forced them to pull over, and arrested them. The GUBOPiK officers searched Ms. Rabkova and Mr. Zharomsky’s home, seized their personal belongings, and later released Mr. Zharomsky. Ms. Rabkova has been in custody in Minsk Detention Center No. 1 ever since.
Authorities extended Ms. Rabkova’s pretrial detention multiple times and indicted her with several charges. On February 11, 2021, Ms. Rabkova received an indictment of two additional charges: “participating in a criminal organization” (Criminal Code Article 285(2)) and “inciting racial, national, religious or other social hostility by a group of individuals” (Criminal Code Article 130(3)). On November 28, Ms. Rabkova’s family reportedly received a letter with a list of eleven additional charges against her.
On September 6, 2022, the Minsk city court sentenced Ms. Rabkova to 15 years in prison. The trial was closed to the public and lasted for four months.