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Kazakhstan Human Rights - History

Kazakhstan Human Rights - History


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While the constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, the government limited freedom of expression and exerted influence on media through a variety of means, including laws, harassment, licensing regulations, internet restrictions, and criminal and administrative charges. Judicial actions against journalists and media outlets, including civil and criminal libel suits filed by government officials encouraged self-censorship. The law provides for additional measures and restrictions during “social emergencies,” defined as “an emergency on a certain territory caused by contradictions and conflicts in social relations that may cause or have caused loss of life, personal injury, significant property damage, or violation of conditions of the population.” In these situations the government may censor media sources by requiring them to provide their print, audio, and video information to authorities 24 hours before issuance or broadcasting for approval. Political parties and public associations may be suspended or closed should they obstruct the efforts of security forces. Regulations also allow the government to restrict or ban copying equipment, broadcasting equipment, and audio and video recording devices and to seize temporarily sound-enhancing equipment.

During a September altercation between foreign workers, mostly Indian construction workers, and local security at a major construction site in Astana, which resulted in dozens of foreign workers being deported, citizens reported that access to social media, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and WhatsApp, was partially or fully blocked in multiple instances. The government denied responsibility and said that technical difficulties were to blame.

Freedom of Expression: The government limited individual ability to criticize the country’s leadership, and regional leaders attempted to limit criticism of their actions in local media. The law prohibits insulting the president or the president’s family, and penalizes “intentionally spreading false information” with fines of up to 12.96 million tenge ($40,000) and imprisonment for up to 10 years.

On January 24, the Astana city court found the chief editor of Central Asia Monitor newspaper and Radiotochka.kz web portal Bigeldy Gabdullin guilty of extortion in return for nonpublication of negative information about wrongdoing. According to several media outlets, including Zakon.kz, Kazinform, Tengrinews.kz, and Ratel.kz, Gabdullin admitted his guilt in full, repented, and restituted the injured parties’ material losses. The court sentenced Gabdullin to five years of probation.

On February 17, police stopped the Aktau reporter of Radio Azattyk, Sania Toiken, under the pretext she did not have a seat belt fastened. Police took her to a station for interrogation in regards to the oil workers’ hunger strike she witnessed in her reporting work. Police held her in the station for two hours, causing her to miss the regional governor’s press conference.

The Independent Tribuna newspaper’s chief editor, Zhanbolat Mamay, was arrested on February 10 and charged with money laundering. The Tribuna newspaper has been a target of investigation and litigation since its founding in 2012. The newspaper closed in June after Mamay’s arrest. On September 7, the Medeu district court in Almaty found him guilty of money laundering and sentenced him to three years of restriction of freedom, confiscation of property, and a three-year ban on journalistic activity.

Press and Media Freedom: Many privately owned newspapers and television stations received government subsidies. The lack of transparency in media ownership and the dependence of many outlets on government contracts for media coverage are significant problems. Companies allegedly controlled by members of the president’s family or associates owned many of the broadcast media outlets that the government did not control outright. According to media observers, the government wholly or partly owned most of the nationwide television broadcasters. Regional governments owned several frequencies, and the Ministry of Information and Communication distributed those frequencies to independent broadcasters via a tender system.

All media are required to register with the Ministry of Information and Communication, although websites are exempt from this requirement. The law limits the simultaneous broadcast of foreign-produced programming to 20 percent of a locally based station’s weekly broadcast time. This provision burdened smaller, less-developed regional television stations that lacked resources to create programs, although the government did not sanction any media outlet under this provision. Foreign media broadcasting does not have to meet this requirement.

Violence and Harassment: According to the NGO Adil Soz, through October authorities prevented reporters from carrying out their duties in 30 instances. Adil Soz found that authorities denied or significantly restricted journalists’ access to public information 138 times.

Journalists working in opposition media and covering stories related to corruption reported harassment and intimidation by government officials and private actors. According to media watchdog organization Adil Soz, the internet portal Zhumyrtka.kz News closed on January 24 as a result of threats of criminal persecution and prison sentences for their publications.

On March 2, the Kapshagay city court ruled that, pursuant to the amnesty law, the prison term for the president of the Kazakhstan Union of Journalists, Seitkazy Matayev, should be cut in half. On November 16, the Kapshagay city court ruled to release Matayev, and he was released from prison on December 4.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The law enables the government to restrict media content through amendments that prohibit undermining state security or advocating class, social, race, national, or religious discord. Owners, editors, distributors, and journalists may be held civilly and criminally responsible for content unless it came from an official source. The government used this provision to restrict media freedom.

The law allows the prosecutor general to suspend access to the internet and other means of communication without a court order. The prosecutor general may suspend communication services in cases where communication networks are used “for criminal purposes to harm the interests of an individual, society, or the state, or to disseminate information violating the Election Law… or containing calls for extremist or terrorist activities, riots, or participation in large-scale (public) activities carried out in violation of the established order.”

By law internet resources, including social media, are classified as forms of mass media and governed by the same rules and regulations. Authorities continued to charge bloggers and social media users with inciting social discord through their online posts.

In July Uralsk police opened a criminal investigation against blogger Aibolat Bukenov for allegedly disseminating false information presenting a danger to the public order or the rights and legal interests of citizens or organizations. On Facebook, Bukenov posted his criticism of the Uralsk government spending 25 million tenge (approximately $77,000) for a pyramid of flowers. He opined that that money should have been spent on road repairs instead. On January 10, a court in Almaty found activist Zhanar Akhmet guilty of illegally organizing a rally. She posted a call to her followers to attend an appeal hearing on the case of movie director Talgad Zhanybekov to support him during his trial. Zhanar Akhmet was found guilty and punished by an administrative fine of 113,450 tenge ($350).

Libel/Slander Laws: The law provides enhanced penalties for libel against senior government officials. Private parties may initiate criminal libel suits without independent action by the government, and an individual filing such a suit may also file a civil suit based on the same allegations. Officials used the law’s libel and defamation provisions to restrict media outlets from publishing unflattering information. Both the criminal and civil codes contain articles establishing broad liability for libel, with no statute of limitation or maximum amount of compensation. The requirement that owners, editors, distributors, publishing houses, and journalists prove the veracity of published information, regardless of its source, encouraged self-censorship at each level.

The law includes penalties for defamatory remarks made in mass media or “information-communication networks,” including heavy fines and prison terms. Journalists and human rights activists feared these provisions would strengthen the government’s ability to restrict investigative journalism.

NGOs reported libel cases against journalists and media outlets remained a problem. Media freedom NGO Adil Soz reported 13 criminal libel charges and 73 civil libel lawsuits filed against journalists and media.

On April 4, a district court in Almaty ruled in favor of ex-minister Zeinulla Kakimzhanov’s lawsuit claims against Forbes Kazakhstanmagazine and news site Ratel.kz, assigning 50.2 million tenge ($155,000) in damages as compensation for a story “harming Kakimzhanov’s honor and dignity.” Media and civil society activists criticized the court proceedings for a number of procedural violations.

National Security: The law criminalizes the release of information regarding the health, finances, or private life of the president, as well as economic information, such as data about mineral reserves or government debts to foreign creditors. To avoid possible legal problems, media outlets often practiced self-censorship regarding the president and his family.

The law prohibits “influencing public and individual consciousness to the detriment of national security through deliberate distortion and spreading of unreliable information.” Legal experts noted the term “unreliable information” is overly broad. The law also requires owners of communication networks and service providers to obey the orders of authorities in case of terrorist attacks or to suppress mass riots.

The law prohibits publication of any statement that promotes or glorifies “extremism” or “incites social discord,” terms that international legal experts noted the government did not clearly define. The government subjected to intimidation media outlets that criticized the president; such intimidation included law enforcement actions and civil suits. Although these actions continued to have a chilling effect on media outlets, some criticism of government policies continued. Incidents of local government pressure on media continued.

INTERNET FREEDOM

Observers reported the government blocked or slowed access to opposition websites. Many observers believed the government added progovernment postings and opinions in internet chat rooms. The government regulated the country’s internet providers, including majority state-owned Kazakhtelecom. Nevertheless, websites carried a wide variety of views, including viewpoints critical of the government. Official statistics reported more than 70 percent of the population had internet access in 2016.

The Ministry of Information and Communication controlled the registration of “.kz” internet domains. Authorities may suspend or revoke registration for locating servers outside the country. Observers criticized the registration process as unduly restrictive and vulnerable to abuse.

The government implemented regulations on internet access that mandated surveillance cameras in all internet cafes, required visitors to present identification to use the internet, demanded internet cafes keep a log of visited websites, and authorized law enforcement officials to access the names and internet histories of users.

NGO Adil Soz reported that during the first nine months of 2016, courts blocked 55 websites for “propaganda of religious extremism and terrorism.”

In several cases the government denied it was behind the blocking of websites. Bloggers reported anecdotally their sites were periodically blocked, as did the publishers of independent news sites. On June 15, James Palmer, a reporter for Foreign Policymagazine, published an article critical of government expenditure for Expo 2017. Two days later, the magazine’s website was blocked in Kazakhstan and an Expo spokesperson made a statement asserting Palmer never visited the country and fabricated the story. The Minister of Information published a statement denying the government blocked the website.

Government surveillance was also prevalent. According to the Freedom on the Net 2017 report, “the government centralized internet infrastructure in a way that facilitated control of content and surveillance.” Authorities, both national and local, monitored the internet traffic and online communications. The Freedom on the Net report stated that “activists using social media were occasionally intercepted or punished, sometimes preemptively, by authorities who had prior knowledge of their planned activities.”

Freedom on the Net reported during the year that the country maintained a system of operative investigative measures that allowed the government to use surveillance methods called Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). While Kazakhtelecom maintained that it used its DPI system for traffic management, there were reports that Check Point Software Technologies installed the system on its backbone infrastructure in 2010. The report added that a regulator adopted a new internet monitoring technology, the Automated System of Monitoring the National Information Space.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

The government generally did not restrict academic freedom, although general restrictions, such as the prohibition on infringing on the dignity and honor of the president and his family, also applied to academics. Many academics practiced self-censorship.


Kazakh independent expert: Human rights NGOs enjoy more influence

Kazakhstan has made considerable progress in its human rights record in recent years, independent expert Nazgul Yergalieva told EURACTIV in an interview, describing how the authorities in the central Asian country are now cooperating with NGOs in improving human rights protection.

Nazgul Yergalieva was a keynote speaker at a briefing for the diplomatic corps in Kazakhstan, organized by the country’s Supreme Court in early June. The Supreme Court Chairman Zhakup Asanov described her as an independent expert who “boldly criticises the courts” and has successfully defended three alternative reports on Kazakhstan to the UN on human rights and won a number of individual complaints to the UN Committees on Torture against the states of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Nazgul Yeargalieva spoke to EURACTIV’s Senior Editor Georgi Gotev via VTC.

Your professional background is in human rights, fighting torture, etc. and you have been the author of three “alternative reports” about the human rights situation in Kazakhstan. Can you explain? What are these reports and in what way are they different from the official reports?

I am an independent consultant, working in the areas of human rights since 1999. From 1999 to 2008 I worked for the Open Society Institute for Central Asia, from Budapest. Later I moved to Kazakhstan, first worked for an NGO and then became an independent consultant, working on various projects, mostly on the legal sector, institutional reform, reform of the prosecutor’s office, police reform.

As an independent expert, I was hired by international organisations, including the EU, to provide services, producing alternative reports about Kazakhstan, a work which I could describe as advocacy on human rights, to promote better human rights protection in the country.

In 2005 I was involved in an Open Society project focused on combating torture in the region of Central Asia. At that time all the governments of the region didn’t admit to having instances and practices of torture, and it was not possible to have any meaningful engagement with the governments on this particular topic. Then we realised that the only group that was more or less independent, and that could work on this issue were the lawyers.

This is how under the project, teams of lawyers in each country, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, were formed and trained on how to develop cases on torture, how to take cases them to UN Human Rights committees, respectively the UN Human Rights Committee and UN Committee Against Torture. And all of these cases were successful.

Regarding the so-called “alternative reports”, I should explain that as a member of the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Kazakhstan needs to produce reports to the world organization every four years. The reports are based on questions asked by the UN to the respective country, and the same questions are answered in parallel by NGOs. The UN comes up with concluding observations based on the two reports – by the government and by the NGOs. The reports by NGOs as a rule are more critical, compared to the official views.

Back in 2014, when I was doing this work, the government wasn’t sufficiently self-critical and that the independent judgement was very useful for the UN body, which in turn issued very useful recommendations to the country.

You mean that things have changed since?

Indeed, a lot has changed, and progress was also due to the active work of the national human rights organizations in the country. More specifically this applies to the criminal justice system, an area in which a new code of Criminal Procedure was adopted in 2014, containing elements of safeguards advocated by NGOs. Another example is a next wave of reforms in 2016 aimed at modernising the law enforcement agencies. In this area too, NGOs brought additional safeguards, decreasing the time of detention before charges are pressed.

Another example was in 2018 when I had the chance to work closely with the general prosecutor’s office to develop an action plan to combat torture. This effort produced an historic document, because, for the first time, the Coalition Against Torture worked very closely with the key stakeholder, which is the general prosecutor’s office, to come up with a comprehensive action plan that would touch upon all the aspects of prevention and investigation of torture.

However, at the time, there was no support from the Minister of Interior and most of the recommendations were not implemented in the law. Nevertheless, the document produced is still valid and serves as a policy and advocacy blueprint.

What has changed over the years and are people like you, human rights experts representing the civil society, seen as a friend or a foe by the authorities?

In general, the nature of cooperation of the government agencies with the NGOs, and with the civil society and independent experts has changed for the better and working with the authorities has become more meaningful.

There is an active dialogue of the government agencies with the civil society organisations and human rights NGOs on specific reform initiatives. And that engagement makes the reforms every time better than before. That dialogue and engagement has really improved the quality of the reforms. So I think this is the major development over the years.

Although the issues remain complex, as “the devil is in the details”, the government agencies are trying to hear the arguments of the NGOs and were taking them into consideration when reforming legislation. Technology has also greatly improved cooperation and transparency.

Transparency brings more quality information for advocacy purposes, it brings more opportunities for monitoring the activities of the government. It brings more opportunities, again, for information campaigns. So because of this technological development, human rights organisations are also enjoying more influence.


Kazakhstan Human Rights - History

Human Rights Reform in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan’s leaders have long expressed ambitious goals for the country’s development, and worked to make the country a force in international affairs. To a considerable degree they have succeeded. Kazakhstan has played an important role in international organizations, including chairing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and obtaining a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The country has also played an important role in international peace and security, including through its support for nuclear non-proliferation and its mediation of a number of international disputes. These many steps on the international scene have provided Kazakhstan with considerable goodwill and respect. Meanwhile, Kazakhstan’s leadership have set ambitious goals for the country’s future. These include a closer partnership with the European Union through an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, the goal of obtaining membership in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, and most potently, for Kazakhstan to be part of the world’s 30 most developed nations by 2050.

Kazakhstan’s international image, and its ambitious development goals, have one thing in common: their biggest challenge arises from certain aspects of Kazakhstan’s domestic situation, particularly those relating to individual rights and freedoms. As became clear during Kazakhstan’s candidacy for the OSCE chairmanship, international concerns regarding individual rights and freedoms in the country constituted a significant challenge that led to reservations from influential member countries and, fairly or not, delayed Kazakhstan’s chairmanship. More broadly, while Kazakhstan’s contributions to international peace and security are widely recognized, criticism concerning human rights issues in the country continue to emerge both from partner governments, international organizations, and non-governmental bodies.


The State of Human rights in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan: Principles vs. Practices

Central Asian countries share much in common in terms of their post-Soviet authoritarian legacy and weakness of democratic institutions. As a matter of fact, their post-soviet transition has been marred by a series of authoritarian malpractices, ranging from centralization and personalization of power to extensive crackdown on civil liberties and political freedoms. According to widely- held beliefs many factors can account for this state, including economic slowdown, traditional culture, weak civil societies, post-Soviet authoritarian legacies, as well as ethnic cleavages. A question arises as to how the leadership changes in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have influenced the state of human rights in these Central Asian countries.

While the three Central Asian states have signed up to major international conventions on human rights, their implementation remains a significant problem. Notably, the three countries are members of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) with ensuing commitments to respect human rights in compliance with CSCE Helsinki Final Act 1975, The Copenhagen Document 1990 and other related OSCE documents. Moreover, Kyrgyzstan has ratified the 1995 Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Table 1 (UN Treaty Body Database)

Human rights treatiesKazakhstanKyrgyzstanUzbekistan
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or PunishmentAccessionAccessionAccession
Optional Protocol of the Convention against TortureRatificationRatification
International Covenant on Civil and Political RightsRatificationAccessionAccession
Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced DisappearanceAccession
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against WomenAccessionAccessionAccession
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial DiscriminationAccessionAccessionAccession
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural RightsRatificationAccessionAccession
Convention on the Rights of the ChildrenRatificationAccessionAccession
Convention on the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesRatificationSignedSigned

To assess the implementation level of the commitments assumed under these treaties, it is necessary to refer to the concluding observations made by the international human rights treaty monitoring bodies.

On the freedom of expression in Kazakhstan, Human Rights Committee (hereinafter – Committee) notes, “laws and practices that violate freedom of opinion and expression, including: (a) the extensive application of criminal law provisions to individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression.. (b) the blocking of social media on national security grounds.. (c) the shutting down of independent newspapers and magazines, television channels and news websites for reportedly minor irregularities or on extremism-related charges”. Regarding Kyrgyzstan, the reports of persecution of human rights defenders, journalists, and other individuals for expressing their opinion remain of serious concern. As for Uzbekistan, the Committee notes that defamation, insult of the President, dissemination of false information continues to be criminalized. Moreover, the existing legislation regulating mass communication, information technologies and the use of the Internet unduly restricts freedom of expression. Another set of concerns has to do with ongoing imprisonment of individuals on extremism-related and other politically motivated charges. It has not been uncommon for the authorities to target independent journalists, human rights defenders, and bloggers, for the mere reason of being outspoken and critical.

On the torture and ill-treatment, main concerns include the reported high rates of torture and the high number of claims of torture dismissed at threshold due to the allegedly excessive evidentiary standard required to pursue an investigation under the new Criminal Procedure Code the reported unduly prolonged duration of investigations into allegations of torture and/or ill-treatment failure to provide full reparation to victims of torture or ill-treatment, etc. With respect to Kyrgyzstan, while welcoming legislative and administrative measures aimed at preventing torture, including the amendments to the Criminal Code, the Committee emphasizes a series of malpractices, including the practices of torture and ill-treatment of detainees the number of deaths in custody and the fact that none of the cases reported to the Committee led to any conviction. As for Uzbekistan, the Committee notes that the definition of torture in article 235 of the Criminal Code limits the range of possible victims to “participants in criminal proceedings or their close relatives” and does not apply to all types of perpetrators.

On violence against women, the Committee alarmingly notes that domestic violence remains prevalent and largely underreported in Kazakhstan due to the prevailing stereotypes. Protective measures and support services for victims of violence, including State funding for crisis centers, remain insufficient. Similarly, violence against women remains underreported in Kyrgyzstan, where domestic violence seems to be socially acceptable to a great extent. As for Uzbekistan, main concerns include the reports of forced and early marriage the fact that domestic violence is not explicitly criminalized in the newly adopted relevant legislation limited protection, as well as insufficient psychological, social, legal, and rehabilitative services provided to the victims of domestic violence and their families, etc.

Moreover, the Committee expresses concerns over the reports that no independent, impartial, and effective investigation has been conducted into the human rights violations committed regarding the protests in Zhanaozen on December 16 th and 17 th of 2011, that led to casualties. Similarly, the Kyrgyz government’s failure to fully investigate human rights violations committed during and in the aftermath of the June 2010 ethnic conflict in the south of Kyrgyzstan remains of serious concern. The situation seems to be even worse in Uzbekistan. The Committee repeatedly expresses concerns over lack of an in-depth investigation into the atrocities committed by military and security services during the Andijan events in May 2005.

In terms of minority rights, even a quick glance at the international human right watchdogs’ reports shows severe violations of LGBT rights the Central Asian countries. Even though the LGBT climate in Kazakhstan is better than in the rest of Central Asia, but violence and discrimination still exist. Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Defense classifies homosexuality as a “mental disorder” and bans gays from performing military service. A 2017 NGO survey within the LGBT community, shows that almost half of the respondents experienced violence or hate because of their sexual orientation. Meanwhile, there were no prosecutions of anti-LGBT violence.

In Uzbekistan homosexuality is still officially illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison. Anti-LGBT discrimination permeates every section of the society with ensuing adverse effects on all aspects of LGBT persons’ lives, including employment, housing, family relations, and access to education and health care. Meanwhile, there are no known LGBT organizations to advocate the community members.

As for Kyrgyzstan, even though the country does not criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults or speech that supports LGBT issues, LGBT persons whose sexual orientation or gender identity was publicly known tend to face a bunch of problems, including physical and verbal abuse, possible loss of employment, and unwanted attention from police and other authorities. Moreover, the events hosted by LGBT groups tend to get targeted by nationalist groups who constantly harass and mistreat sexual minorities.

Similarly, persons with disabilities get routinely subjected to discrimination in the three countries. UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has repeatedly expressed concerns about the plight of this vulnerable group in Kazakhstan and recommended to “to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy unhindered access to all social services, including education and employment, by providing reasonable accommodation in school and in the workplace and improving the accessibility of facilities and services provided and open to the public”. While in May2019 the Government adopted the State Plan to ensure rights and better quality of life for people with disabilities until 2025, it does not seem to offer any immediate measures of support for disadvantaged citizens. The situation is not much different in Uzbekistan, where persons of face formidable challenges in their everyday lives. A well-informed observer notes that “the fact that people with disabilities rarely come out of their houses and do not stand for their rights. The laws are available only on paper, and they will become effective only when people with 10 disabilities will start standing for the accessibility for themselves, including accessible recreation”.

Even though the lives of persons with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan are not a lot easier, in May 2019, Kyrgyzstani Prime Minister Muhammedkaly Abylgaziev took a considerable step towards alleviating their plight. He signed a decree to create an inter-agency working group to implement articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. According to Amnesty International, the main work aims at providing persons with disabilities with rehabilitation services, increasing their life expectancy, taking measures to prevent disability, providing medical and social assistance, ensuring equal access to education, justice, and employment, and ensuring freedom of movement.

To sum up, despite their obligations assumed under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfil human rights, their actual implementation remains a significant problem in all three countries. The reasons range from centralization of power and weakness of democratic institutions to the prevalence of Soviet authoritarian culture and illiberal norms.


In 2008, in line with its ‘Strategy for a New Partnership’ with Central Asia, the European Union agreed with the Republic of Kazakhstan to establish an annual human rights dialogue, and its first round was held on 15 October 2008 in Astana. [9]

These dialogues constitute an essential part of the EU’s overall strategy to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, sustainable development, peace and stability. [10] On 12 November 2014 the European Union and Kazakhstan held the sixth round of the annual Human Rights Dialogue in Brussels. [11] The Kazakh delegation was led by Mr Yogan Merkel, First Deputy Prosecutor General, who was accompanied by Mr Vyacheslav Kalyuzhnyy, Director of the National Centre for Human Rights, and other senior officials. [11] The EU delegation was led by Mr Silvio Gonzato, Director for Human Rights and Democracy at the European External Action Service. [11] The dialogue was held in a positive and constructive atmosphere. [11] The EU welcomed Kazakhstan's development of a functioning National Preventive Mechanism for the monitoring of places of detention, and encouraged further steps to strengthen the Office of the Ombudsman and the National Centre for Human Rights. [11] The EU acknowledged Kazakhstan's recent engagement in the second cycle of the Universal Period Review (UPR) process at the UN Human Rights Council, and encouraged the Kazakh authorities to consider accepting a number of UPR recommendations that it initially did not support. [11] The next round of the EU-Kazakhstan Human Rights Dialogue is expected to take place in Astana in 2015. [11]

OSCE and the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law conduct joint training programs on human rights. [12]


Kazakhstan: human rights defender lost court in a lawsuit filed by the correctional institution

Well-known Kazakhstani human rights activist Elena Semenova, who is involved in the protection of prisoners&rsquo rights, lost the trial on the claim of administration of the colony AK-159/25, located in Zhezkazgan.

In March of this year, Semenova published a post on social networks in which she reported on the abuse of prisoners in AK-159/25 facility. According to Semenova, convicts Kureish Daurbekov, Khozha Aliyev and Rafik Atlukhanov called her. Daurbekov said that the administration of the colony deliberately provokes him to violate the regime. Rafik Atlukhanov said that he tried to commit suicide and hanged himself in front of the colonel, but the doctors of the institution saved him.

&ldquoI will hang myself every two hours. What else is left for me? I wrote a posthumous letter that I was tired of enduring arbitrariness, lawlessness on the part of the staff of the institution. I have posthumous letters in my pockets, so that you know. They come in, provoke me, and when they enrage me, they turn on the recorder, and I remain guilty&hellip Let them send me to the madhouse,&rdquo Atlukhanov complained during a telephone conversation.

It was this post that became the reason for filing a lawsuit against the human rights defender by the administration of the colony.

According to the Kazakhstan Bureau for Human Rights, the suit was considered in the court of the city of Pavlodar, in the very same court where on May 12 the decision was made not in favor of Semenova on the claim of another correctional institution &ndash AK 159/6.

Accordingly, it would be silly to hope that the claim from the colony AK-159/25 will be considered in favor of the human rights activist.

The plaintiff demanded that Semenova refute the information published in her post.

Semenova provided the court with an audio recording of her conversation with the convicts as evidence and explained that her post was an appeal to the authorized bodies so that they would conduct an inspection in the institution and take the necessary measures. In addition, the human rights activist petitioned to involve convicted Kureish Daurbekov as a third party in this claim. However, the court rejected this petition, but summoned Daurbekov, Atlukhanov and Aliyev as witnesses.

The convicted Daurbekov told the court that after Semenova&rsquos post, the prosecutor Kenzhetayev arrived at the colony and instructed the employees of the institution not to allow the prisoners to contact Semenova. His words were confirmed by the convicted Aliyev. Rafik Atlukhanov, in turn, also said that all the information contained in Semenova&rsquos post is true and that he was also forbidden to call the human rights activist.

Despite the testimony of the witness, the judge Isenova made the decision &ndash to satisfy the claims of the colony AK-159/25 in full.

&ldquoFor more than a year now, the well-known human rights activist Elena Semenova has been subjected to a stream of lawsuits from the administration and employees of closed institutions, guilty of torture and violating the rights of prisoners. The courts, as a rule, unconditionally believe the plaintiffs&rsquo word,&rdquo the Kazakhstan Human Rights Bureau commented on this decision.


Kazakhstan's Human Rights Drop Through the Floor

Just a few years back, a savagely offensive and popular comedy starring Sascha Baron Cohen caused extraordinary embarrassment in Kazakhstan, as outraged citizens rightfully protested the portrayal of their country as a backward and ignorant third world hole. Kazakhstan actually does have a lot going for it, with enormous energy deposits, a powerfully growing economy, and an intelligent innovative class, but thanks to the ongoing conduct by the government of the Nursultan Nazarbayev, they seem intent on making Borat a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Today a court outside of Almaty sentenced the country's most well known human rights advocate, Yevgeny Zhovtis of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, to four years in prison on charges of manslaughter and traffic violations related to a July 26 accident. The court had not even been in session for three full days, only two of which defense lawyers were present for, while numerous procedural violations were racked up right before observers from several embassies and international human rights organizations. As Zhovtis himself said before being hauled off to a prison colony, the proceedings were a "political setup" by the state.

Many longtime Central Asia watchers will tell you that Kazakhstan has been a fairly terrible place for human rights for many years now, but with the conduct of the government in the past six months, especially in relations with the Austrian prosecutors in the case of the former ambassador and Nazarbayev son-in-law, Rakhat Aliyev, things have really gone off the rails.

With the hasty conviction of Zhovtis, which comes on top of scores of other false cases, Kazakhstan is entering deeper and deeper into a human rights black hole, just months before Nazarbayev is meant to take over the Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE). This judicial farce, aimed against one of the country's most important civil society activists, reeks of impunity, and the open and arrogant belief by the leadership that selling oil to the West means not having to observe the law.

Zhovtis has a long history of prestigious advocacy work, which unfortunately was the cause of some embarrassment to the "Kazakhbashi." On May 12, 2009, Zhovtis spoke before the U.S. Congress Helsinki Commission on Kazakhstan's upcoming chairmanship of the OSCE, where he presented a long and detailed list of journalists and opposition politicians who had been jailed and persecuted on political grounds. Zhovtis, with typical restraint and measurement, remarked, "all the countries that have made this decision [Kazakhstan's Chairmanship of OSCE] to a certain degree are responsible for the democratization processes, the rule of law and human rights implementation. And I do hope that awareness of this responsibility will make it possible to positively influence the improvement of the current situation."

Working in close collaboration with George Soros's Open Society Institute, Zhovtis has been publishing similar defenses for human rights in Kazakhstan for many years. Ever since the recent authoritarian crackdowns by Nazarbayev's regime, especially following the constitutional changes in 2007 which now allow him to rule the country for life, civil society organizations have been squeezed from every side, leaving this NGO as one of the last practicing human rights advocacy. In fact, just days before the automobile accident, he had traveled to Vienna to give testimony on the situation.

Regarding the accident itself, opinions are split over whether the government is just opportunistically prosecuting Zhovtis over a tragic accident, and others who suspect that the entire incident was a conspiracy - including the shocking sacrifice of a human life in order to jail a human rights leader (it should be noted here that neither Zhovtis nor his defense counsel have endorsed that theory).

On the evening of July 26th, Zhovtis was returning home from a fishing trip driving along an isolated strip of highway, when two oncoming cars approached at a close distance, blinding him with the headlights. When Zhovtis could see again, immediately he saw a man in road, and unable to stop the car, the collision tragically claimed the life of the individual on the spot.

I have spent the past two days speaking on the phone with one of Zhovtis's lawyers, Vera Tkachenko, to gather information for this article. Vera tells me that from the very first police reports, there were extraordinary irregularities and factual distortions. The indictment from the prosecutors attempted to suggest the presence of alcohol and/or impairment - the defense could prove that Zhovtis was sober as day. The auto-technical report, which included the speeds, distances, and other investigatory inventions which was the basis for the indictment, was almost pure fabrication - using "estimated data" provided by state prosecutors, rather than local witnesses.

I asked Vera to explain to me the clearest signs that this was a biased, politically ordered trial, instead of an independent and fair judicial proceeding for a regular crime. First, there was the fact that the judge refused nearly every motion submitted by the defense (the only two motions admitted were to delay the trial until Sept. 2, and the addition of another lawyer). The defense counsel arranged to have two separate independent experts, one Kazakh and one Russian, examine the auto-technical expert testimony and provide corrections to all the distortions. The judge refused to admit these independent expert testimonies. Zhovtis prepared a 12-page motion denying the charges, and again, the judge refused to admit it. No exculpatory evidence was allowed into the court, and after a brief cross-examination, the judge announced that the trial would move into the final phase - which must have been a world record for speed in Kazakhstan justice.

The shell shocked defense lawyers submitted a motion to recuse the judge, whose behavior they said obviously displayed that he did not have an impartial standing. The judge left the room for just a few minutes, only to return to say that the defense does not have this right. The defense then asked for just one more day to prepare for the closing arguments - the judge denied the request, and gave them only 40 minutes. Finally, after hearing the prosecutor's presentation, the judge spent no more than 25-30 minutes in deliberation, returning with a seven-page printed and stamped verdict - which is a procedural impossibility given the short amount of time.

"It was incredible," Vera told me. "There were representatives present from the embassies of the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands, as well as representatives from Human Rights Watch and the OSCE. I hope they are able to report to the world what happened in that court today."

This boldfaced attack on human rights will pose an interesting diplomatic test for Kazakhstan's partners and investors, but I fear that we might just see exactly how many barrels of oil a given dictator needs to export in order to flaunt the law. Given the extraordinarily high amount of grand corruption surrounding this administration, the only message they will understand will be the one to hit their pocketbooks.

There are many competing theories as to why we are seeing so many opposition politicians, journalists, and activists facing an onslaught of cases from Nazarbayev. One rumor is that there is a serious behind-the-scenes power struggle to either remove the 17-year leader, or at least advance higher within his camp. These struggles often exacerbate the current corruption problems of the state, which most kindly could be described as hideous. But even veteran Kazakh analysts I have been talking to seem shocked by the severity of the sentence against Zhovtis, who unlike some, usually knew what was acceptable and unacceptable in order to keep working. The draconian sentencing clearly illustrates a high level of insecurity and panic in the leadership, which appears to be heightening as the OSCE chairmanship approaches.

The result, so far, has been outrage. The supporters who crowded the courtroom are reported to have shouted "shame, shame" after the judge, and they're right. The people of Kazakhstan should be embarrassed by the conduct of their president, but for members of the OSCE, even more so.


Human rights violations in Kazakhstan have been criticized by the European Parliament

The European politicians emphasized the situation of vulnerable groups in Kazakhstan – the violation of the rights of ethnic minorities, women and LGBTI. The inter-ethnic clashes in the southern regions of the country have been mentioned, namely the anti-Dungan pogrom in February 2020 that resulted in at least 11 dead.

The Members of the European Parliament expressed their concerns regarding the deterioration in the general situation of human rights and a crackdown on civil society organizations and called the government of Kazakhstan to stop politically motivated persecution, reprisals, and harassment against human rights activists and to release all political prisoners. Following the European External Action Service (EEAS) the European Parliament noted that Kazakhstan’s parliamentary elections of 10 January 2021 have become a missed opportunity for political reforms and modernization of the political system.


Democracy, Human Rights and Governance

While Kazakhstan has comparatively strong state institutions, the country’s efforts to advance good governance have been hindered by a lack of transparency and accountability. A robust civil society and independent media landscape can help mitigate this weakness. However, civil society organizations (CSOs) and independent media outlets face an increasingly difficult operating environment and often struggle with financial sustainability. Another key constraint to effective governance is the lack of perceived independence of the judiciary, which hinders the country’s ability to attract foreign investment and uphold the rule of law.

USAID’s programs in Kazakhstan help build a democratic culture by supporting civil society, increasing access to information, strengthening citizen initiative groups, and encouraging the protection of human rights. USAID also brings civil society organizations together with the Government of Kazakhstan to form partnerships that are working to implement reforms that will bring about real change in a variety of areas—including rule of law and civic engagement. In addition, USAID supports Kazakhstan's efforts to combat trafficking-in-persons and prevent violent extremism. Finally, USAID works in partnership with the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan to enhance the professionalism and independence of the court system.


Kazakhstan Human Rights - History

Brief report on the use of kettling against peaceful protesters in Kazakhstan

Wave of political repression: witch hunts for activists, marred elections and scores.

Torture in Kazakhstan: Beyond Some Cases

Far from free and fair – An overview of violations of fundamental freedoms during.

Emergency Triggered Witch-Hunting

Human rights impact assessment of the COVID-19 response in Kazakhstan

Journalist Gaziza Baituova needs help!

One answer to all questions

SUMMARY Since June 2020, Kazakhstan’s police have practiced kettling which is the encirclement of peaceful protesters without allowing them to leave the circle, go to the toilet or have food and water passed to them. People were held for a maximum of.

From 28 April to May 1, an armed conflict took place in the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan borderland, leading to 52 deaths, over 300 others injured, mass displacement, and destruction of civilians’ homes. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), together.

This report covers developments on the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly in Kazakhstan from July 2020 to January 2021. It was prepared for the CIVICUS Monitor by the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and the Kazakhstan.

The Report in PDF-format is available HERE. SOURCE: https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2021-04/2021%20Annual%20Report.pdf

The Report is available in PDF-format HERE.

Executive Summary The Republic of Kazakhstan’s government and constitution concentrate power in the presidency. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev became president after June 2019 elections that were marked, according to an observation mission by the Organization.

In 2020, 63 criminal cases under article 146 “Torture” of the Criminal Code were registered in Kazakhstan, according to the Legal Statistics and Special Records Committee of the General Prosecutor’s Office. Only 11 of them were brought to court. Meanwhile.

Following a renewed wave of persecution of the Belarusian human rights defenders, civil society activists and independent journalists, members of the Civic Solidarity Platform (CSP) strongly condemn actions of the Belarusian authorities and urge them to stop.

On Thursday, the European Parliament adopted three resolutions taking stock of the human rights situation in Uganda, Rwanda and Kazakhstan. The political situation in Uganda Parliament deplores that the 14 January general elections in Uganda were neither.

Text of the resolution is available HERE.

On Thursday, the European Parliament adopted three resolutions taking stock of the human rights situation in Uganda, Rwanda and Kazakhstan. The political situation in Uganda Parliament deplores that the 14 January general elections in Uganda were neither.

Elections in Kazakhstan, a purely performative exercise in democracy, have given way to the acutely real enforcement of authoritarianism. Two more nongovernmental organizations were placed in the crosshairs this week under the pretext of a tax inspection. The.

Paris - Geneva - Minsk, May 13, 2020 – The campaign season for Belarus’ presidential elections, scheduled for August 9, saw sweeping repression against civil society by authorities. Over the past week, authorities arbitrarily detained over 100 peaceful.

SUMMARY Since June 2020, Kazakhstan’s police have practiced kettling which is the encirclement of peaceful protesters without allowing them to leave the circle, go to the toilet or have food and water passed to them. People were held for a maximum of.

The international human rights instruments contain a number of provisions on reasonable restriction of individual rights and freedoms by the state with the aim of achieving a balance between the rights of a person and the interests of the society. The criteria.

STATEMENT by Mr ZHOVTIS, Chair of the Council of the Kazakhstan International Bureau on Human Rights and the Rule of Law, Co-Chair of the Working Group under the Human Dimension Dialogue Platform Consulting & Advisory Body under the Ministry of Foreign.

1. Introduction The Open Dialog Foundation welcomes the initiative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on consultations regarding the creation of a favourable space for civil society activities and the development of a report with practical recommendations.


Watch the video: The Kazakh Famine. Genocide Series (July 2022).


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