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Belarus: Immediately release human rights defenders Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapyuk

Responding to the news that Minsk City Court today started considering the case against human rights defenders Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapyuk, alongside eight co-defendants, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:

“Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapyuk are victims of a wave of repression that has swept across Belarus over the last two years as the authorities seek to expunge the nation’s civil society. Their case reflects a bleak reality in the country, where critical NGOs have been shuttered, peaceful protesters arbitrarily detained, and human rights activists ruthlessly imprisoned.

Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapyuk are victims of a wave of repression that has swept across Belarus over the last two years as the authorities seek to expunge the nation’s civil society

Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

“Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapyuk should never have been charged in the first place. They must be immediately and unconditionally released. The Belarusian authorities must urgently end their campaign of repression against civil society activists. All others who have already been thrown behind bars simply for carrying out their human rights work must also be released.”

Background

Founded in 1996, Viasna is a leading human rights organization in Belarus that among other things documented human rights violations following the August 2020 disputed presidential election.

Marfa Rabkova worked as a volunteer coordinator for Viasna, and Andrei Chapyuk volunteered for the organization in Minsk. Rabkova and Chapyuk have been charged with organizing and working with an “extremist group.”

Rabkova was initially detained in Minsk on 17 September 2020 and accused of training people to participate in mass riots. In late November 2021, prosecutors also accused her of “damage to property,” “hooliganism,” and “inciting hatred”, among other charges.

Andrei Chapyuk was detained on 2 October 2020 and charged with “participating in mass riots” and “damage to property.”

If found guilty, Rabkova faces up to 20 years in prison, while Chapyuk faces up to eight years.

Tell Belarusian authorities to free Marfa Rabkova

Marfa was arbitrarily detained on 17 Sep 2020, and has been in pre-trial detention ever since, charged with fabricated criminal offences. She could face up to 12 years in prison if convicted. Marfa must be freed immediately and unconditionally.