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European observers can contribute to a fair consideration of the appeal in the case of Zinaida Mukhortova

On 22 October, 2013, the Karaganda Regional Court will consider the appeal filed by the Kazakh human rights activist Zinaida Mukhortova against the court’s decision regarding the forced hospitalisationThe presence of independent observers from the EU and the OSCE at the hearing is essential, as the practice of using forced psychiatry as a method for dealing with dissidents in Kazakhstan have become ever frequent.

The address of the Karaganda Regional Court: 100000, Karaganda, 37 Bukhar Zhyrau Prospekt. Tel. +7 7212 42 40 61. The commencement of the meeting – at 3:00 p.m. local time.

On 9 August, 2013, the human rights activist from the city of Balkhash (Karaganda Province), Zinaida Mukhortova was forcibly hospitalised in the local neuropsychiatric clinic with a diagnosis of ‘chronic delusional disorder’. On 20 August, 2013, the Balkhash City Court approved forced psychiatric treatment of Zinaida Mukhortova. The human rights activist appealed against the decision. On 22 October, 2013, the Karaganda Regional Court is to consider her appeal.

The human rights activist is currently undergoing a psychiatric examination at the Medical Centre for Mental Health Problems in Astana. This decision was made by the Prosecutor’s Office of Balkhash in order in order to eliminate the contradiction between the two findings of two state psychiatric institutions. On 2 September 2013, the Medical and Pharmaceutical Activity Control Committee concluded that there is no need to confine Zinaida Mukhortova to the hospital for compulsory treatment. However, one week later, on 9 September, 2013, doctors of the regional neuropsychiatric clinic in Karaganda, conducted an examination of the human rights defender and formed the conclusion that Zinaida Muhortova requires compulsory treatment.

The beginning of Zinaida Mukhortova’s persecution coincides with the beginning of her conflict with a member of the lower house of parliament, Erlan Nigmatulin. On 30 July, 2009, the human rights activist accused the member of parliament of using his esteemed official position to exert pressure on a court, forcing it to issue favourable decisions. Subsequently, on 5 August, 2010, the court found Zinaida Mukhortova guilty of false accusation. She was released from criminal responsibility and sent for compulsory treatment on the basis of the forensic psychiatric examination of 7 July, 2010. On  22 September, 2011, having obtained the opinion of a special commission, stating that the mental condition of the woman did not raise concerns and that she could undergo treatment from a qualified psychiatrist at her place of residence, Zinaida Mukhortova was released. The next day, the human rights activist went to the local psychiatric clinic, but the doctors refused to register her, citing the fact that she had ‘no diagnosis’. On 31 January, 2012, Supreme Court overturned the verdict against Zinaida Mukhortova regarding the charges of false accusation. The human rights activist was exempted from compulsory medical treatment.

Involuntary psychiatric treatment of Zinaida Mukhortova is a consequence of her professional legal and human rights activity – this opinion is shared by representatives of the European Parliament and the European bar associations. We hereby call on the diplomatic missions of the EU, the United States and the OSCE in Kazakhstan to send their representatives as observers to the hearing regarding the consideration of the appeal filed by Zinaida Mukhortova. Kazakh authorities must take into account the possibility that the decision regarding the compulsory treatment of Zinaida Mukhortova has questionable grounds and is politically motivated. They should also ensure the opportunity for all human rights defenders in the country to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals and restrictions, including judicial harassment.