Responding to the news that a court in Belarus has sentenced human rights defenders Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chapyuk and their eight co-defendants to lengthy prison terms, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:
“The harsh sentences meted out to human rights defender Marfa Rabkova and her co-defendants are as shameful as the arrests and countless reports of torture and other ill-treatment of protesters that preceded today’s judgement. This trial, which brought charges for fictitious ‘mass riots’, was nothing more than a mockery of justice representative of the broader crushing of Belarussian civil society.
The harsh sentences meted out to human rights defender Marfa Rabkova and her co-defendants are as shameful as the arrests and countless reports of torture and other ill-treatment of protesters that preceded today’s judgementMarie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia
“There were no mass riots in Belarus. Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapyuk should never have been charged in the first place, nor any of their co-defendants. 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 peacefully exercising their human rights must also be released immediately and unconditionally.”
On 6 September, the Minsk City Court sentenced Rabkova, a coordinator of the volunteer service of the Human Rights Center Viasna, a banned human rights organization in Belarus, to 15 years in prison, while Chapyuk, a volunteer for Viasna in Minsk, was handed a 6-year sentence.
Rabkova and Chapyuk were arbitrarily detained on 17 September and 2 October 2020, respectively, for documenting human rights violations that occurred following the August 2020 disputed presidential election. After the vote, thousands of overwhelmingly peaceful protesters took to the streets but the authorities labelled the demonstrations as “mass riots” in their efforts to crush all forms of dissent.
Marfa Rabkova was found guilty of “organizing, participating in and training others to participate in mass riots”, “inciting social hostility towards the government” and “involvement in a criminal organization”, among other charges. Andrei Chapyuk was found guilty of “participating in mass riots” and “involvement in a criminal organization”.
Their co-defendants, Akihiro Haeuski-Hanada, Alyaksandr Frantskevich, Alyaksei Galauko, Alyaksandr Kazlyanka, Pavel Shpetny, Mikita Dranets, Andrei Marach and Daniil Chul, were dealt between five and 17 years in prison.