Blogger detained in psychiatric hospital
Aigul Utepova is a well-known blogger and activist and has 8,000 followers on Facebook and a large following for her YouTube channel. In 2015 she put herself forward as a candidate in the presidential elections, but later withdrew. She is accused of being a follower of the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan opposition party. On 13 March 2018, the party was arbitrarily declared to be an “extremist” organization for “inciting national discord” in accordance with vaguely worded anti-extremism legislation.
Aigul Utepova has been under house arrest in Nursultan, the capital of Kazakhstan, since 17 September, and on 19 November a court approved the investigator’s request for a judge’s order to forcibly place her in a psychiatric hospital “for observation”. Her lawyer fears that this puts her at risk of being arbitrarily diagnosed with a mental health condition and forcibly treated and held at the psychiatric hospital for a prolonged period of time. Upon arrival to the hospital with a family member on 23 November they were informed that Aigul Utepova would not be allowed any contact with the outside world.
It is not unusual for critics of the government or those who oppose vested interests to be subjected to lengthy psychiatric observation and assessment. In 2019 the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that Zinaidi Mukhortova had been subjected to arbitrary detention and torture and other ill-treatment because she had been detained and treated against her will in psychiatric institutions on five separate occasions.
Aigul Utepova should never have been prosecuted and placed under house arrest, and this measure contradicts Kazakhstani law which stipulates that house arrest should be used only in cases where the maximum sentence is five years or more and only if there are substantive reasons why lesser restrictive measures cannot be applied. Aigul Utepova’s prosecution and house arrest are a form of reprisal for her outspoken criticism of the government.
See Public Statement: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur57/3357/2020/en/