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The case of Zinaida Mukhortova: a human rights defender from Balkhash has been forcibly admitted to a psychiatric hospital

The Open Dialog Foundation hereby demands the immediate release of Zinaida Mukhortova, a human rights defender of the town of Balkhash. The authorities are obliged to carry out an independent investigation into the violent kidnapping of the human rights activist which was carried out in order to force her to undergo treatment by police workers and medical staff at a neuropsychiatric clinic.

Zinaida MukhortovaOn 9 August, 2013, at approximately 11:00 a.m., four police officers and five healthcare workers – two orderlies, two nurses and one doctor broke down the door and barged into the apartment of Zinaida Mukhortova, an attorney in the town of Balkhash (Karaganda Province, Kazakhstan). Using brute force, they ejected her out in to the street whilst she was dressed only in her underwear, pushing her into an ambulance and  before delivering her to a local mental hospital. The abduction of the human rights activist was witnessed by her sister, Natalia Abent, to whom health care workers and policemen  also caused injuries whilst she was trying to protect Zinaida.

When commenting on the actions of the law enforcement agencies and his employees, Rysbek Iskakov, the head doctor of the medical treatment facility ‘Neuropsychiatric Clinic’ in Balkhash, stated that Zinaida Mukhortova, despite the order to undergo outpatient treatment in connection with a diagnosis of ‘chronic delusional disorder’ failed to report to the clinic and refused to allow entry to doctors who appeared at the door of her apartment.

However, the head of the civil society organisation ‘Kadіr-Kasiet’, Anara Ibrayeva, explained to the Open Dialog Foundation that Rysbek Iskakov was referring to the ruling of the Talgarsky District Court of 6 September, 2011 which was the basis of subjecting Zinaida Mukhortova to compulsory medical treatment. However, on 13 September, 2012, the Cassation Board of Almaty Regional Court reversed that decision, and thus, the actions of 9 August, 2013, carried out by the medical staff as well as the police, constitute a flagrant violation of the rights of Zinaida Mukhortova. The questions raised by the Open Dialog Foundation were also answered by Maks Bokayev, the head of the Atyrau non-governmental organisation ‘Arlan’, who believes that the persecution of Zinaida Mukhortova by state authorities goes beyond all imaginable limits. At the same time, he recognises that at present, the forced psychiatry is not a systemic phenomenon in Kazakhstan: “I do not think that in this case they want to intimidate anyone else, but Zinaida. In a small town, like Balkhash, it’s rather a case of high-handed feudal lords, [trying] to destroy [a woman] who dared to oppose them”.

On 12 August, 2013, Amangeldi Shormanbayev, Zenaida Mukhortova’s defence lawyer, addressed a statement to the Prosecutor’s Office of Balkhash, in which he demanded the initiation of a criminal investigation into the illegal forced hospitalisation and ill-treatment of his client.

Amangeldi Shormanbayev was denied access to his client without any explanation, despite the fact that he had submitted all relevant statements to the Prosecutor’s Office of Balkhash and the head doctor of the local neuropsychiatric clinic. Rysbek Iskakov, the head doctor of the medical treatment facility ‘Neuropsychiatric Clinic’ in Balkhash, during a telephone conversation on 16 August, 2013, refused to comment on the situation to the Open Dialog Foundation and to provide an opportunity to talk to the human rights defender Zinaida Mukhortova, referring to the fact that “everything will become known after the trial”.

On 14 August, 2013, the local Prosecutor’s Office appealed to the Balkhash City Court with a request that forced hospitalisation of the human rights activist in the mental hospital be sanctioned, pursuant to Art. 309 of the Civil Procedure Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan. On 16 August, 2013, at 3:00 p.m., in the building of neuropsychiatric clinic, to which the woman was forcibly admitted on 9 August, 2013, a meeting of the Balkhash City Court (Judge Mayra Ibragimova) was held. During the conversation with the judge, Zinaida Mukhortova stated that she had been detained groundlessly and requested that the judge appoint her a new forensic psychological examination, which would be carried out by experts from Astana. The petition of Natalia Abent, Zinaida’s sister, requesting the rescheduling of court’s meeting to 19 August, 2013 due to the absence of Mukhortova’s second representative, Amangeldi Shormanbayeva, was granted.

On the evening of 16 August, 2013, for the first time after numerous denials, Zinaida Mukhortova was allowed to visit her daughter. The human rights activist said that she had suspended her hunger strike on 9 August, 2013, when she was forcibly dragged out of her apartment because she felt bad (she suffers from a heart defect). Up to that time, employees of the ‘Neuropsychiatric Clinic’ in Balkhash had showed continuous resistance to daily efforts, made by her family members, to meet with Zinaida. Yekaterina, Zinaida Mukhortova’s eldest daughter, told the Open Dialog Foundation that to date, her family members have only been able to see Zinaida on only one occasion through a window, on 11 August, 2013, and during this visit they noticed that the human rights activist was suffering from an allergic rash. Her daughter fears that the rash is a result of the forced administration of medication.

On 19 August, 2013, at 5:00 p.m., the hearing in the case of Zinaida Mukhortova was resumed. The next day, Judge Mayra Ibragimova decided to grant the request of the Prosecutor’s Office of Balkhash to carry out an involuntary hospitalisation of the human rights activist, Zinaida Mukhortova, and added that her decision may be appealed within 10 days. Andrey Tsukanov, the leader of the organisation ‘Communists of Kazakhstan’, who was present at the trial as an observer, stated that this verdict is a “demonstrative oppression exerted by an anti-national state”. 


A brief history of persecution

Zinaida MukhortovaZinaida Mukhortova, born in 1958, a resident of the town of Balkhash (Karaganda Province), mother of three adult offspring. She became engaged in advocacy and human rights activism in 1995: she provided the local population with free legal advice and condemned the incidents of corruption in the judiciary.

On 30 July, 2009, she and three other residents of the town of Balkhash – Klara Kambetbayeva, Lyudmila Kashtanova and Yekaterina Gur, sent a collective appeal to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, as well as the Public Commission on Combating Corruption with the People’s Democratic Party ‘Nur Otan’ in connection with illegal actions, undertaken by a member of Majilis for Balkhash region, Yerlan Nigmatulin (currently, Yerlan Nigmatulin is a member of the Senate, and his brother, Nurlan Nigmatulin, is the Chairman of the Majilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan). According to the human rights activist, Mrs. Mukhortova, she had  reasonable grounds to believe that the member of Majilis or the attorneys, particularly Noylya Rozhentseva, using their connections with the politician, had exerted pressure on the court resulting in bias during civil cases against Klara Kambetbayeva, Lyudmila Kashtanova and Yekaterina Gur.

On 18 August, 2009, Yerlan Nigmatulin, in his letter to the prosecutor, labelled the accusations set out in the letter “slander, designed to tarnish his parliamentary activity”. At the same time, lawyers whose names were cited in the complaint, addressed the court, demanding the bringing of Zinaida Mukhortova and other signatories to criminal liability for giving false information. As a result, a criminal case was initiated against all four women: the human rights defender and three victims on charges of knowingly making a false accusation of corruption (Article 351 of the Criminal Code, section 2, punishable with deprivation of liberty for up to 6 years).

On 12 February, 2010, Zinaida Mukhortova was taken into custody from the courtroom of the court building in Balkhash, as the measure of restraint was altered from house arrest to detention. On 26 February, 2010, the judge granted the motion of the plaintiff, Noylya Rozhentseva, and so Zinaida Mukhortova was transferred from the Balkhash temporary detention facility to the detention centre No. 16 in Karaganda in order to subject her to a forced forensic psychological and psychiatric examination. However, Karaganda’s doctors could not form a clear conclusion of their examination within a period of one month. Therefore, in order to ‘clarify the situation’, the human rights activist was transferred to the National Scientific Research Centre of Psychiatry and Addiction in Almaty, where on 7 July, 2010 she was diagnosed with ‘delusional disorder in relation to specific individuals’.

On 5 August, 2010, the Balkhash City Court found the four defendants: Zinaida Mukhortova, Klara Kambetbayeva, Lyudmila Kashtanova and Yekaterina Gur, guilty of making false accusations, convicting three of them to two years’ conditional sentence under Article 351, section 2 of the Criminal Code. In turn, Zinaida Mukhortova, on the basis of a comprehensive inpatient psychiatric examination No. 156 of 7 July, 2010, was released from criminal responsibility and sent for compulsory treatment to a state psychiatric hospital of a specialised type in the village of Aktas, Talgarsky District, Almaty Province. But she was admitted to the hospital only on 12 January, 2011, having spent more than 5 months in a detention centre without the existence of an arrest warrant. This psychiatric hospital is designed  to house and treat perpetrators, convicted of murder or declared insane: maniacs, serial killers, cannibals.  Zinaida Mukhortova enunciated that during her stay in the hospital, she was subjected to psychological pressure and physical violence, “I have been administered Aminazine forcibly. I began to have terrible headaches, blood was streaming from my nose, my face became swollen, and I developed an allergy. I refused to take the medication, but I was beaten, tied to a bed, my teeth were prised open with a spatula and the pills were pushed down my throat”.

On 6 September, 2011, owing to the decision of the Talgarsky District Court, Zinaida Mukhortova was transferred from the psychiatric hospital in the village of Aktas to the inpatient neuropsychiatric clinic of a general type in Balkhash. On 22 September, 2011, having obtained the opinion of a special commission stating that the woman’s mental condition does not pose any danger and can be treated by a psychiatrist within her place of residence, Mukhortova was released. However, on 23 September, 2011, when the human rights activist reported to the local psychiatric hospital along with her sister, Natalia Abent, the doctors refused to register her, citing the fact that ‘no diagnosis had been reached’.

On 12 December, 2011, Zinaida Mukhortova was again forcibly admitted to a local neuropsychiatric hospital, where she was lured on the pretext of a need to talk with the most senior doctor.  Observers have noted that she was ‘hidden’ in a psychiatric hospital after the Supreme Court of the Republic Kazakhstan received the appeal of the human rights activist against the opinion issued on 7 July, 2010 by the Almaty physicians. She remained in the clinic until 29 December, 2011. According to human rights activist Anara Ibrayeva, Zinaida Mukhortova appealed against her involuntary stay in the hospital from 12 December, 2011 to 29 December, 2011; however, “when the case reached the cassation instance of the Karaganda Province Court, she received information via a phone call that the review would not take place in connection with the expiration of the term for appeal”.

Zinaida MukhortovaOn 31 January, 2012, the supervisory board of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kazakhstan overturned the decision of the Balkhash City Court of 5 August, 2010, against Zenaida Mukhortova and sent the case back for reconsideration. On 26 July, 2012, the Balkhash City Court, on the basis of Article 517, section 2 of the Code of Criminal Procedure ruled to dismiss the case against the accused and to release her from compulsory medical treatment. The decision was later confirmed by the appellate board of the Almaty Regional Court on 13 September, 2012. Thus, the decision of Talgarsky District Court of 6 September, 2011, lost its validity. In addition, on 5 October, 2012, Zinaida Mukhortova’s mental health was confirmed to be sound by  an expert from the Russian Federation, Kyuri Idrisov Ph.D., who, during the period from 25 to 27 September, 2012, conducted a psychiatric examination of the victim at the request of the NGO ‘Kadіr-Kasiet’ in connection with the project ‘Monitoring the security situation of human rights defenders in Kazakhstan’.

The illegal hospitalisation of the human rights activist, Zinaida Mukhortova in a neuropsychiatric clinic was widely publicised. Human rights activists in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Poland and Tajikistan formulated a general statement which was subsequently sent to the President, Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The international human rights organisation ‘Front Line Defenders’ suggested that Mukhortova’s compulsory psychiatric treatment may have been carried out in retaliation for her human rights activities. In turn, ‘Human Rights Watch’ demanded her immediate release due to gross violation of Article 7 (prohibition of treatment or punishment that humiliates human dignity) and Article 9 (prohibition of arbitrary arrest or detention) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is binding for Kazakhstan.

The Open Dialog Foundation hereby expresses its support of the above cited statements, emphasises the unacceptability of persecution and forced ‘psychiatric treatment’ of Zinaida Mukhortova for conducting human rights work, and urges the authorities of Kazakhstan to unconditionally release her. We also demand that all those involved in the illegal detention of the human rights activist be brought to justice, and an independent investigation with the participation of representatives of civil society in Kazakhstan and international observers be carried out.

All those wishing to support our appeal are asked to contact the following addresses:

  • State Institution ‘Neuropsychiatric Clinic’, Balkhash, Republic of Kazakhstan, Karagandy Province, the town of Balkhash, 1 Bolnichnyi Gorodok Street, phone: +7(71036) 4-37-63 (the head – Rysbek Iskakov Rakhimzhanovich), 4-00-68 (secretariat), fax: +7(71036) 4-20-91, e-mail: [email protected].
  • The Ministry of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan, – 010000, Astana, Left Bank, 8 Orynbor Street, House of Ministries, entrance No. 5. Phone: +7 (7172) 74-32-43, +7(7172) 74-32-40 (office),fax: +7(7172) 74-36-50, e-mail: [email protected].
  • The Balkhash City Court – 100300, Republic of Kazakhstan, Karaganda Province, Balkhash, 44 Lenina Street. Phone: +7(71036) 4-87-06 (secretariat), +7(71036) 4-34-67 (Judge Mayra Nabiyevna Ibragimova), e-mail: [email protected].
  • The Prosecutor’s Office in Balkhash – Republic of Kazakhstan, Karaganda Province, Balkhash, 37A Sabitovoy Street. Phone: +7(71036) 4-20-34 (secretariat).
  • The General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Kazakhstan – 010000, Republic of Kazakhstan, Astana, 14 Orynbor Street. Phone: +7 (7172) 71-26-50 (prosecutor on duty).
  • The Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Kazakhstan – 010000, Republic of Kazakhstan, Astana, 1 Tauelsizdik Prospekt. Phone: +7 (7172) 71-40-12 (the secretariat of Marat Demeuov, First Deputy Minister), e-mail: [email protected].
  • The Senate of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Republic of Kazakhstan, Astana, Building of the Senate of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Phone: +7 (7172) 74-72-37, +7 (7172) 74-72-53 (Reception of statements of citizens), e-mail: [email protected].
  • Majilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Republic of Kazakhstan, Astana, House of the Majilis of the Parliament. Phone: +7 (7172) 74-67-79 (secretariat of the Committee on Legislation and Judicial Reform), e-mail: [email protected].