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Statement by the Open Dialog Foundation

With relation to the ‘Lobbyści oligarchy’ article by W. Bater and M. Jarkowiec, published in the ‘Wprost’ weekly no. 7/1615 2014, the Open Dialog Foundation feels obliged to its benefactors and donors as well as anyone and everyone involved in human rights, democracy and rule of law activity, and subsequently wishes to publish the following statement:

We express our gratitude to the media in Poland and Europe, who are working to convey information regarding the difficult situation that is faced by the opposition, civil society and the independent media in Kazakhstan. It is our belief that broadening the knowledge of the situation in the country is conducive to the issue of human rights observance and the situation of the repressed. It is therefore moreso regrettable that the ‘Lobbyści oligarchy’ article was in no way supportive of the circles striving to achieve the rule of law, human rights freedoms and democracy in the country, being rather a mere reproduction of the typical allegations spread by  official Kazakh authorities’ propaganda. Materials of the like of ‘Lobbyści oligarchy’ serve to us only as confirmation of how effective the activities of the Open Dialog Foundation appear to be, as uncompromising as they are, and therefore especially troublesome for authorities and diplomatic corps of states such as Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine.

The Open Dialog Foundation is an independent non-governmental organisation; statutory goals are human rights protection and support for democracy and rule of law in the post-Soviet area.

The Foundation meets its objectives by means of monitoring missions, including the monitoring of elections and human rights observance in the CIS countries, on the basis of which, reports are compiled and distributed amongst EU and OSCE agendas, international organisations, foreign affairs ministries and parliaments of the EU countries, centres for analyses and the mass-media. Their credibility has never been put into doubt.

Aside from its monitoring and analysis activity, the Foundation has been active in its cooperation with Members of Parliament involved in foreign affairs, human rights and relations with the CIS countries, with the aim of supporting the processes of democratisation and liberalisation of interior policy in the post-Soviet area. Important areas of the Foundation’s activities also include programmes of support for political prisoners and refugees.

Special attention is paid by the Foundation to the largest Commonwealth of Independent States, i.e. Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

The Foundations is financed via donations and grants from private persons, companies and institutions, both Polish and international. The Foundations has so far, been supported, both materially and financially, by, among others, the city of Lublin, the Visegrad Fund, Foundation for Democracy, Kasparov Chess Foundation Europe, Goethe Institut, Gazeta Wyborcza, Instytut Teatralny and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Poland. The Foundation also organises fundraisers on the basis of respective permits granted by the ministry of Administration and Digitalisation.

Financial and factual reports on the Foundation’s activity are submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland and are made publicly available on the websites of the Foundation, in observance with the binding legal provisions,

We are deeply grateful to everyone having given us verbal and material support, hence allowing us to pursue our goals.

The Foundation deems it very important to inform about its activities, both by traditional media as well as electronic communications channels (website, social media profiles on Facebook and Twitter, newsletters). The foundation is in regular contact with representatives of the foreign affairs ministries and diplomatic corps, organising conferences and seminars and taking part in the works of the parliamentary commissions for foreign affairs, human rights and groups for bilateral cooperation (e.g. via participation in public hearings) in the EU countries.

As part of its activities relating to political refugees, The Open Dialog deals with, amongst others, with the case of Mukhtar Ablyazov. The motives behind our involvement are the threats he faces in case of his extradition to either Russia, Ukraine or Kazakhstan, including inhuman treatment and torture, posing a danger to his health and life. The risk is confirmed by numerous reports (as well as ruling by the European Court of Human Rights) concerning the functioning of the widely understood judiciary and penitentiary systems of the countries. The evaluation of information in our possession only reaffirms our opinion that Mukhtar Ablyazov’s persecution is carried out solely on political grounds, due to him remaining in opposition to President Nazarbayev as well as the support the he gave to independent political parties and mass-media in Kazakhstan.

The Foundation does not and will not evaluate nor assess the validity of the accusations he faces; we are, however, certain that neither in Ukraine, nor Russia, nor Kazakhstan is he likely to face an honest and fair trial.

The first contact of the Open Dialog Foundation with Mukhtar Ablyazov was in May 2013, after the sudden detainment of his wife, Alma Shalabayeva and their daughter Aluah in Italy and their subsequent deportation to Kazakhstan. Being aware of the Foundation’s involvement in the movement for the politically-motivated persecution victims in Kazakhstan, Ablyazov turned to us with a plea for help. Previously, the Foundation’s activities contributed, among others, to the release of Igor Vinyavsky, Natalya Sokolova and Bolat Atabayev.  Our actions led to very wide publicity of the scandal surrounding the illegal deportation of the wife and daughter of Mukhtar Ablyazov, and our persistence in publicly denouncing numerous fundamental human rights violations led to the ruling being overturned and Ablyazov’s family being allowed to return to Europe.

It is our opinion that the controversies surrounding these cases and their respective participants may not and indeed must not, be the decisive factor which causes us stand idle and offer no help to people and organisations in need of, and actively seeking assistance. Where we see a cause as being just, we are, just as our motto and name suggest, open to dialogue with anyone and ready to assist them, should the need arise – even if that means facing a ruthless attack on our reputation. This is the extent to which we see the right for protection against persecution and support for democratisation and rule of law as vital and fundamental. In short, in our eyes, no-one is to be seen as the pariah.

We fully agree with the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, according to which:
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns all the cases of human rights violations. Human rights protection as well as support for the development of civil societies, are the major directions of the foreign policy of the Republic of Poland.
The MFA is critical of the activities by the Republic of Kazakhstan, aimed at extradition of regime’s political opponents. We strongly oppose the use of an international warrant of arrest for the purposes of political combat”

It is our desire to underline that the Open Dialog Foundation has never limited its activities to cooperation with representatives of but one political option in Kazakhstan, or any other country for that matter, where it conducts its activity. It was never our intention to suggest a dialog with only one party exclusively, or any particular community in Kazakhstan. According to our name, being also our leading philosophy, our observers in Kazakhstan met with representatives of both the government administration and a wide range of opposition parties, non-governmental organisations and mass-media. We have never refused to help people whose civil rights have been violated. The only constraints which usually limit our activities are time along with human and financial resources.

In view of the tarnishing of the Open Dialog Foundation and its representatives, name and reputation, as we have observed in the publication by ’Wprost’ weekly, we hereby address them requesting that the following disclaimers be placed:

  1. Open Dialog Foundation has not as of yet, (including the period of 2009-2010) received any financial support whatsoever from Mukhtar Ablyazov, nor the Ukrainian New Horizons Consulting company, being a private initiative owned by Ivan Sherstyuk.
  2. In the year 2009, the Foundation was not operating. In December 2009, the notary’s certified deed was signed, and in April 2010, the respective entry lodged in the National Court Register. Statutory activity was commenced in May 2010. The activities of the Open Dialog Foundation are conducted on the basis of company Statute, and their summary is found in the 2010 Report, available at Allegations of the Open Dialog Foundation being a ‘lobbying machine for Mukhtar Ablyazov’ is damaging to the Foundation’s independence, being – in view of the facts above – unjustified and completely groundless.
  3. Bartosz Kramek, the president of the Council and proxy to the Foundation, was, prior to entering into cooperation with the Open Dialog Foundation, professionally involved in, among other things, investor relations, having participated in launches of companies onto financial markets and economic advisory services. His clientele included investment funds and stock market companies investing in the East (mining industry and others), including Kazakhstan.

We would also like to make it known publicly that the article in question included quotes which allegedly came from the Kazakhstan oppositionist, Amirzhan Kosanov, who denounced said assertion by stating he had never given an interview to the ‘Wprost’ weekly on the subject of his cooperation with the ‘Alga!’ 

The legal plenipotentiary for the Open Dialog Foundation on the case is Jacek Świeca, legal counsel.

For more detailed information, please contact:
Tomasz Czuwara, Open Dialog Foundation, +48 534 6790 800, [email protected]