On 20 July 2018, Elena Semenova was arrested at her home in Pavlodar by three police officers. During her arrest, the human rights defender managed to send an SMS message to a colleague stating «I’m being taken to the Department of Internal Affairs. They came for me». According to her lawyer, Elena Semenova is charged with «spreading false information» under Article 274 of the Criminal Code of Kazakhstan in relation to statements that she had previously made to Members of the European Parliament.
From 3 to 5 July 2018, Elena Semenova described brutal conditions present in prisons and detention centres in Kazakhstan in a number of meetings with Members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. According to the defender, instances of torture and ill-treatment in the places of detention included beatings, rape, acts of humiliation and denial of medical treatment.
Elena Semenova was previously targeted in 2016 by Kazakh authorities when she was detained and sentenced for picketing in front of the Atyrau City Court building where a court hearing for the case against human rights defenders Talgat Ayan and Max Bokaev was about to begin.
Front Line Defenders expresses its concern over the arrest and charges against Elena Semenova as it believes that they are in reprisal for her communication with Members of the European Parliament in the course of her peaceful and legitimate work in the defence of human rights.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Kazakhstan to:
1. Immediately and unconditionally release Elena Semenova and drop all charges against her, as Front Line Defenders believes that she is being held and charged solely as a result of her peaceful and legitimate work in the defence of human rights;
2. Ensure that the treatment of Elena Semenova, while in detention, adheres to the conditions set out in the «Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment», adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;
3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Kazakhstan are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.