Yelena Alexandrovna Semyonova, born on 27 October 1968, human rights defender, civil society activist, citizen of the Republic of Kazakhstan, ethnic Russian, has a higher education, head of We Are Against Torture non-government organization, former chair of the Commission of Public Oversight of Penitentiaries in Pavlodar Oblast, resides in the city of Pavlodar, Pavlodar Oblast.
While exercising her right to freedom of speech and expression and having the knowledge of the human rights situation in penitentiaries, expressing her critical opinion of the conditions in which the prisoners are kept, in particular with regard to the quality of medical assistance they receive, on 21 January 2020 Ms. Y.A. Semenova published an article on her Facebook page entitled “Who benefits from this and how easy it is to get rid of those who are inconvenient!” in which she criticized the poor quality of food at UK-161/2 facility that, according to her, had resulted in a number of food poisonings. She stated that the inmates were not afforded a full extent of medical assistance when they turned to the facility’s medical unit for help.
On 14 April 2020 she posted a publication on Facebook entitled “To some, war is hell, and to others, it is a kind mother,” in which she voiced her personal opinion of the unlawful acts by the staff at ES-164/4 facility committed against inmate M.V. Sanin (based on his own verbal account).
Following those two publications, lawsuits were filed against Ms. Semyonova, seeking protection of the honour, dignity and business reputation (article 143 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan) of Ms. G.A. Myrzaly, a deputy head at UK-161/2 and ES-164/4, who is responsible for medical and preventative work with inmates.
In both lawsuits, the demands were made that Ms. Semyonova should refute the information she had included in her articles, apologize, and publish a refutation.
On 10 June 2020, an initial court hearing of Ms. G.A. Myrzaly’s complaint was held at the Pavlodar city court (judge Ms. S.G. Khusmatullina). A review of the article was presented by Ms. G.V. Mustakimova, an expert for the complainant, that maintained the texts in question did contain words and expressions that may be considered as denigrating the honour, dignity and business reputation of a medical professional, deputy head of UK-162/2 facility.
To that, an attorney for Ms. Semyonova presented an opinion by Ms. R.D. Karymsakova, an expert with the Public Centre for Expertise in Information and Document Disputes under Adil Soz Public Foundation for the Protection of Freedom of Speech, which stated that “based on the information material presented for an expert review (a fragment of a screenshot), it seems impossible to state with an acceptable degree of certainty that the person depicted there is a particular individual, in this case, Ms. Gulmizra Abdikhalykkyzy Myrzaly.”
The next hearing is scheduled for 17 June 2020, with expert R.D. Karymsakova, in attendance.
On 11 June 2020, an initial court hearing of the lawsuit filed by ES-164/4 facility was held at the Pavlodar city court (judge Ms. G.Kh. Yusupova).
During the hearing, inmate M.V. Sanin was questioned who did not deny the fact of unlawful acts committed against him by the staff of ES-164/4 facility, and gave a detailed account of the chain of events that took place on 10 April 2020.
Ms. Semyonova’s attorney presented to the court an opinion of her article by an expert with the Public Centre for Expertise in Information and Document Disputes under Adil Soz Public Foundation for the Protection of Freedom of Speech.
The next court hearing is scheduled for 18 June 2020.
Legal assistance to Ms. Semyonova has been provided by Mr. M.U. Musinov, an advocate with the Pavlodar Oblast Collegium, with the support from the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.
Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law
11 June 2020