Kazakhstan Forced psychiatric confinement of Zinaida Mukhortova
15 August 2013

Kazakhstan Forced psychiatric confinement of Zinaida Mukhortova


Forced psychiatric confinement was a well-known tactic under the Soviet-rule to silence regime critics or perceived troublemakers. With the end of the Soviet-system this tactic has unfortunately not disappeared. The case of Zinaida Mukhortova demonstrates that in Kazakhstan it is still used to silence human rights lawyers.


On the evening of 9 August 2013, four police officers, one doctor, two nurses and two medical staffers broke the door of Zinaida Mukhortova’s apartment and forced her into an ambulance, which brought her to the psychiatric hospital of Balkhash. When Zinaida Mukhortova’s legal representative, Mr Amangeldy Shormanbaev, called the deputy head of the psychiatric hospital and inquired about the reasons of her confinement, he was informed she was confined because she had previously refused hospitalisation. When Shornmanbaev notified the doctor that refusal cannot be a legal reason for forced psychiatric treatment of a person, the phone was hung up.

Zinaida Mukhortova is a lawyer with more than 10 years experience in the legal practice. She has provided the local population with free legal consultations and has publicly denounced cases of corruption and interference of political interests in the judiciary.

The recent forced psychiatric confinement of Zinaida Mukhortova seems to be connected to her legitimate activities as a lawyer. In September 2009, Zinaida Mukhortova sent, together with three other lawyers, a complaint to the president of Kazakhstan on the interference in the administration of justice by Member of Parliament Nigmatullin. In response to this complaint, a criminal investigation was launched against Zinaida Mukhortova for the “deliberate false filing of a complaint” under point 2, Article 351 of the Criminal Code. On 12 February 2010, she was arrested in the courtroom of the Balkash city court, and detained in the pre-trial detention facilities. In July 2010, a psychiatric examination was ordered and Zinaida Mukhortova was diagnosed with a ‘delusional disorder’.

Zinaida Mukhortova was detained in a psychiatric hospital for more than eight months. During her detention in the hospital, she was examined three times, after which the doctors informally confirmed her sanity but kept the official diagnosis unchanged allegedly due to external pressure.

In September 2012, an independent medical expert invited by local lawyers defending her case certified Zinaida Mukhortova’s sanity. The court, however, rejected this report to be part of her file. She filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, which is due to be reviewed this month.

L4L has grave concerns over the situation of Zinaida Mukhortova. It seems that the forced psychiatric confinement is an attempt by the government to curb her legitimate activities as a lawyer defending human rights in Kazakhstan. L4L called upon the Kazakh authorities to immediately release Zinaida Mukhortova and to guarantee her physical and psychological integrity while in psychiatric hospital.

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