Kazakhstan: Closure of the criminal case against Ms. Elena Semenova

Urgent Appeal

KAZ 001 / 1215 / OBS 107
December 15, 2015

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Kazakhstan .

Description of the situation :

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the closure of the criminal case against Ms. Elena Semenova. Ms. Semenova is the Head of the association "Housing for the People" (ру. "Отсавим народу жилье"), as well as a member of the Public Monitoring Commission (PMC - Pavlodarsk oblast) and of the National Preventive Mechanism Against Torture and ill-treatment (NPM) [1] based in Pavlodar. She has been vocal in denouncing torture in places of detention in Pavlodarsk oblast, and has submitted numerous appeals since June 2015, requesting national authorities to solve the problem of ill-treatment of detainees.

According to the information received, on December 8, 2015, Ms. Elena Semenova was informed about the closure of a criminal case against herself under Article 274 part 2 clause 3 of the Criminal Code, for "spreading of wilfully false information in social networks".

Indeed, on October 27, 2015, as Ms. Semenova was leaving the prison AP 162/3, colony 18 in Pavlodar, a police officer had delivered her a summons to appear the same day in a local Department of Internal Affairs. She was threatened with coercion in case she would not appear.

However, as Ms. Semenova refused to appear without proper legal representation, it is only on October 29, 2015 that she presented herself at the police department with a lawyer. She was interrogated as a suspect in the above-mentioned criminal case under Article 274 part 2 clause 3 of the Criminal Code, for "spreading of wilfully false information in social networks". The accusation referred to the information Ms. Semenova posted on her Facebook account concerning torture, beatings and ill-treatment in detention places.

In addition, on October 30, 2015, before her regular monitoring visit to prison facility AP 162/2 in her capacity as a PMC and NPM member, Ms. Semenova was forced to undress completely, allegedly for security reasons, in a room with video camera surveillance. Ms. Semenova claimed this was the first time herself and any PMC monitor was subject to such humiliating search.

Ms. Semenova was interrogated again on December 4, 2015 by investigator Mr. Jaslan Dusenov, senior lieutenant of the Police Investigation Unit of Pavlodar City. During the interrogation, Ms. Semenova was asked whether she maintained an up-to-date index of incoming and outgoing correspondence of all documents, both to authorities and with detainees. She was also asked to provide names of detainees whose cases of ill-treatment she mentioned in her social network posts.

The Observatory welcomes the closure of the criminal case against Ms. Elena Semenova, but calls upon the relevant authorities in Kazakhstan to put an end to any kind of harassment, including at the judicial level, against herand to ensure that she is not hindered further in her capacity as a detention facilities monitor.

In particular, the Observatory is concerned that Ms. Semenova has undergone humiliating treatment and judicial harassment as a suspect in the above-mentioned criminal case that appears to sanction her denunciations of torture and human rights violations in detention facilities in Pavlodar oblast, Kazakhstan.

The Observatory also calls on the Kazakhstan authorities to prevent any recurrence humiliating treatment against prison monitors, as well as against all human rights defenders in Kazakhstan.

Actions requested :

Please write to the authorities of Kazakhstan, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Elena Semenovaand all human rights defenders in Kazakhstan;

ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment and humiliating treatment against Ms. Elena Semenova, and against all human rights defenders in Kazakhstan;

iii. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with:

- Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;

- its Article 12. 2 which states that “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Kazakhstan.

Addresses :

Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Republic of Kazakhstan, Fax: +7 7172 744 085 / 744 073, Email: press@akorda.kz/ akorda.press@gmail.com

Erlan Idrissov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax: +7 7172 72 05 16, Email: kezekshi@mfa.kz

Kalmoukhanbet Kassymov, Minister of Internal Affairs, Fax: +7 7172 37 36 01; Email: usmvd@asdc.kz

Prosecutor General of Kazakhstan, Fax: +7 7172 33 39 28, Email: procuror@nursat.kz

Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations, Fax: +41 (0) 22 788 66 02, Email: mission@kazakhstan-geneva.ch

Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Brussels, Email: kazakstan.embassy@swing.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Kazakhstan in your respective countries.

Paris-Geneva, December 15, 2015

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
Read more