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Kazakhstani Lawyer Locked Away in Psych Hospital, Mongolia Mine Dispute Spooks Investors

Plus, Russian church leader says the floods have been good for business, and Serbia looks to rein in private security guards.

by Barbara Frye, Ioana Caloianu, Vladimir Matan, and Sintija Treimane 19 August 2013

1. Kazakhstani lawyer forcibly detained in psychiatric institute

 

Human rights groups are sounding the alarm over the enforced confinement of a lawyer in Kazakhstan to a psychiatric institute.

 

Zinaida Mukhortova
Zinaida Mukhortova was detained earlier this month, Human Rights Watch writes. Her attorney, Amangeldy Shormanbaev, told the organization that Mukhortova’s sister witnessed “four police officers and several medical personnel” taking her away. Last week Shormanbaev was refused permission to see his client and was offered no explanation for her committal, according to HRW.

 

The rights group notes that Mukhortova has been locked up several times since February 2010, a few months after she wrote to the president of Kazakhstan to protest a member of parliament’s interference in a civil suit in which she was involved. That letter resulted in a criminal complaint being lodged against Mukhortova and three others on charges of spreading misleading information.

 

She was diagnosed during her first confinement with a “chronic delusional disorder,” but an independent assessment of her mental health found she suffered from no “mental disorders,” according to HRW.

 

Mukhortova said that during one stay in a psychiatric hospital she was beaten and forced to take medication. She and her lawyer have filed numerous legal complaints, including one that resulted in a court ruling last year “ordering authorities not to subject her to any more forced medical treatment.”

 

Frontline Defenders says that in her 10 years as a lawyer, Mukhortova has offered the local population free legal consultations and spoken out against corruption and political interference in Kazakhstan’s judicial system.

 

2. Tight rules, mine dispute spell trouble for Mongolia’s FDI

 

Mongolia’s parliament will return early from a summer recess to tackle a crisis over the operation of a major mine and a related drop in investment from abroad, Reuters reports.

 

Foreign investment in the country fell by 43 percent in the first half of the year, the news agency writes, citing delays in an expansion of the

 

Clyde Russell writes

 

 

one of the world’s largest untapped copper reserves” in anticipation of a continued strong market for the metal, while the Mongolian government is forecasting export earnings of $7 billion from the mine by 2020 – in a country whose GDP last year was $10.2 billion.

 

Mongolia’s politicians have been under popular pressure to exert more control over strategic resources even as they work to lure foreign investors. In May 2012, parliament tightened rules for foreign investors in certain industries, only to loosen them for private companies this year, notes the South China Morning Post. Now a move is under way to have the Economic Development Ministry, rather than parliament, review major investments by state-backed foreign firms as well.

 

 

Hit by the biggest floods in more than a century, more Russians from the Far East are turning to God, according to the leader of the country’s Orthodox Church, RIA Novosti writes.

 

On 18 August, during a visit to the Solovetsky Monastery on an island in the White Sea, Patriarch Kirill said he was “touched” to see people “finding hope” in Orthodox baptism and urged believers to keep praying for the floods to subside. Russia's hydrometeorology monitoring service is not expecting the waters to recede before September, according to RIA Novosti.

 

Russian authorities declared a state of emergency on 8 August in the Republic of Sakha, the Khabarovsk and Primorye territories, the Amur region, and the Jewish autonomous region. Amur has been the hardest hit among the Far Eastern regions, with thousands of people forced to leave their homes due to the rising levels of the Amur river.

 

Also among the evicted residents were two brown bears from a flooded tourist resort, according to RIA Novosti. A local Emergencies Ministry spokesperson said the bears were sedated before their cage was airlifted to higher ground, where they will remain until the waters recede. They had previously spent two weeks in a flooded cage at the Zelyonaya resort, their home after a local zoo gave them up due to lack of funds. 

 

4. Serbia troubled by security guard violence

 

A Belgrade brawl in which a man was beaten to death has raised questions about the regulation of the private security industry in Serbia, Southeast European Times reports.

 

More than 30 people were involved in a 25 July fight outside a Belgrade night club in which Fedor Frimerman was killed. Witnesses say the chief of the club’s security was involved in the fight, Serbian daily Blic reported earlier this month.

 

Two of the security chief’s colleagues were also arrested, according to another daily, Kurir. The men do not deny being part of the melee but say they did not land the fatal blows.

 

Other people involved in the fight are believed to be security guards of neighboring clubs, inSerbia.info writes.

 

Private security is a huge and largely unregulated business in Serbia, employing from 25,000 to 60,000 people, according to Jelena Milic, director of the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies in Belgrade, who has studied the industry. The country has a 35,000-strong police force and 28,000 soldiers.

 

Milic told SETimes that the security industry’s growth and dominance could create a two-tier system of “classes which can afford security for themselves, and classes which cannot.”

 

“The state must not allow private security companies to become competition in providing the security which the state provides for all,” she said.

 

Milic said many police officers work as security guards off duty, creating a situation ripe for conflicts of interest, and that many private guards lack proper training.

 

Laws are pending before parliament that would regulate the industry, part of Serbia’s efforts to meet EU standards during its accession negotiations, SETimes reports.

 

5. Schindler documents fetch $122,000 at auction

 

Documents that historians say fill in gaps in our knowledge of how German industrialist Oskar Schindler saved Jews during the Holocaust have fetched more than $122,000 at auction, Reuters reports.

 

The entrance to Oskar Schinlder's factory in Krakow. Photo by Bedrick/flickr.

 

One item is a letter granting permission for a Jewish employee to travel to the Sudetenland to unload and assemble machinery. It is dated August 1944, shortly after Schindler learned that the Nazis planned to close factories that were not related to the war effort, Reuters notes. Schindler produced enamelware but was given permission to switch to arms production, allowing him to keep his Jewish workers out of concentration camps.

 

AFP cites a Holocaust historian who says “the letter is valuable evidence that Schindler got top-level permission from Nazi German officials to relocate his operations – and, in turn, his Jewish workers – [to Czechoslovakia] sooner than previously thought.”

 

The other auction lot was a set of expansion plans for his factory in Krakow. The same anonymous buyer bought both lots.

 

Schindler, the subject of the Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning 1993 film Schindler’s List, saved approximately 1,200 Jews from deportation and death in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.

 

Last month a typewritten list of 800 of Schindler’s employees went unsold on eBay with a price tag of $3 million, AFP writes.

Barbara Frye is TOL’s managing editor. Ioana Caloianu is a TOL editorial assistant. Vladimir Matan and Sintija Treimane are TOL editorial interns.
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