Press release

Ukraine Should Not Deport Asylum-Seeking Activist to Kazakhstan

Journalist Zhanara Akhmetova is likely to face mistreatment or torture in response to her work if deported to Kazakhstan

In response to the Ukrainian Supreme Court’s rejection of an asylum appeal by Kazakhstani political activist and journalist Zhanara Akhmetova, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“Ukraine should not deport Zhanara Akhmetova to Kazakhstan, where she is likely to be mistreated or tortured in reprisal for her work,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Freedom House’s Europe and Eurasia programs. “Kazakhstan is notorious for the prevalence of torture in its detention facilities. Multiple foreign governments and courts have acknowledged that individuals in politically charged cases face a serious threat of abuse if returned to that country, and have therefore rejected deportations in keeping with the non-refoulement principle. Ukraine should do the same and make good on its promise to protect those at risk of abuse elsewhere in the region.”


Zhanara Akhmetova first requested asylum in Ukraine in 2017, and she exhausted her appeals with the Supreme Court’s decision on May 14, 2020. Torture and ill-treatment of individuals upon return to Kazakhstan has been a consistent concern, leading the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the United Nations, and various national governments, including those of Austria and Spain, to reject Kazakhstan’s extradition requests. In 2009, the ECtHR prohibited Ukraine from returning a person to Kazakhstan because of the likelihood of ill-treatment and the absence of fair trial guarantees there. The ECtHR ruled similarly on another such case in 2010. In a case in Spain in 2015, UN human rights experts urged the Spanish authorities not to deport an individual to Kazakhstan in light of concerns about possible torture.

Ukraine is rated Party Free in Freedom in the World 2020, Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2019, and is categorized as a Transitional or Hybrid Regime in Nations in Transit 2020.