1. Executive summary
Mass protests in early January 2022 in Kazakhstan took place in 48 cities and over 40 localities. Growing repression, the deteriorating economic situation and bogus reforms caused this unprecedented social upheaval in the modern history of independent Kazakhstan.Download report
The gross human rights violations committed during the suppression of anti-government protests in Kazakhstan in January 2022 have all the hallmarks of crimes against humanity. The Kazakhstani authorities have publicly refused to ensure an independent international investigation into these events.
On 20 January 2022 the European Parliament in its urgent resolution called on the EU to impose personal sanctions for shootings, torture and mass arbitrary detentions of citizens during the January protests. The European Parliament has called for an international investigation. “We can handle it ourselves,” was the Kazakhstani president’s response. And the European Parliament resolution itself was called by the Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry as “biased” and “unacceptable”.
The Kazakhstani authorities imitate “openness” and “active dialogue” with international partners. Using the opportunities of direct contacts, the Kazakhstani authorities manage to impose their propaganda rhetoric on EU officials and government representatives, thereby concealing crimes. And Kazakhstan’s propaganda has already partially succeeded.
Kazakhstan’s top officials have thus succeeded in diverting the attention of European diplomats to the rhetoric of a “terrorist attack” and “unrest”. The reasons for the unprecedented mass protests, Tokayev’s order to “shoot to kill without warning”, the shooting of peaceful citizens, mass torture and the military intervention of Russian-led CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation) troops in Kazakhstan to suppress the protests (see Section 3.1. of this report) have been overshadowed by unsubstantiated claims of the Kazakhstani authorities about attacks of “20 thousand foreign-trained terrorists.” Kazakhstan’s propaganda of false claims has already partially succeeded.
The Kazakhstani authorities imitate “openness and active dialogue with civil society in Kazakhstan” for the international partners.
The soft response of democratic governments, EU diplomats and OSCE officials to systematic human rights violations and widespread corruption in Kazakhstan, the policy of quiet diplomacy, the silencing of the names of political prisoners, the selective approach to meetings with representatives of Kazakhstani civil society all contributed to the Kazakhstani regime becoming even more violent and repressive.
Neglecting to implement the recommendations of European Parliament resolutions on human rights in Kazakhstan by EU diplomats, as well as ignoring violations of the basic human rights provisions of the EU-Kazakhstan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, leads to even greater repression and a greater sense of impunity for top officials, as well as those who execute their criminal instructions.
This report provides numerous facts and examples of how the words of the Kazakhstani authorities do not correspond to reality, how the authorities continue to violate human rights, cover up crimes and fabricate evidence. This report aims to debunk official claims of the Kazakhstani authorities about unfolding events in Kazakhstan following peaceful protests that started on 2 January 2022. The report covers the time period from 2 January 2022 (from the beginning of mass anti-government protests) until 21 February 2022.
We provide the facts which indicate that official information and results of the investigation of the Kazakhstani authorities cannot be trusted:
1. Propaganda false claims about “terrorists” has become an excuse for repression and the shooting of civilians
President Tokayev claimed that Kazakhstan was “attacked by 20,000 terrorists” without providing any evidence of that. On the contrary, many testimonies indicate that the disorders and looting were organised by criminal groups under the control of the authorities. This was an attempt by the authorities to discredit the anti-government protests. Armed men in masks and civilian clothes have been recorded marching in formation with police officers. Organised provocateurs demonstratively set fire to police cars, smashed shop windows and became violent when peaceful protesters tried to calm them down and stop them.
Victims of torture in Almaty testified about the coordinated torture and abduction of civilians in the streets of the city during peaceful protests. In an interview with Radio Azattyq, a witness described how members of the criminal organisation of Arman Dzhumageldiev (known as “Wild Arman”), who has been involved in the crackdown on the opposition and civil society on orders from the National Security Committee since 2005, abducted and tortured civilians, locking them in containers. Then police officers took the detainees from the containers and continued torturing them in pre-trial detention facilities, demanding from them false confessions of participation in mass riots or terrorism. The process of torture by criminals from the Wild Arman group was videotaped by an MP from the Nur Otan government party (Section 4.1).
Evidently, using the “terrorists” argument, the authorities are trying to justify:The invitation of Russian-led CSTO military troops to Kazakhstan. Since the protests are an internal affair of the country, the deployment of CSTO troops should be seen as a violation of sovereignty and a military intervention. A dangerous precedent has been set, which Russia could use in the future. Moreover, Putin has effectively become the guarantor of the preservation of the dictatorship in Kazakhstan. Not only Lukashenko, but also Tokayev, are now dictators dependent on Putin.
a) The invitation of Russian-led CSTO military troops to Kazakhstan. Since the protests are an internal affair of the country, the deployment of CSTO troops should be seen as a violation of sovereignty and a military intervention. A dangerous precedent has been set, which Russia could use in the future. Moreover, Putin has effectively become the guarantor of the preservation of the dictatorship in Kazakhstan. Not only Lukashenko, but also Tokayev, are now dictators dependent on Putin.
b) Shooting of peaceful citizens without warning with firearms. Officially, the authorities stated that “227 people were killed as a result of disorders’”. This report cites dozens of cases in which police and military killed and wounded with live ammunition those who were peacefully participating in the protests, who were at the protest sites and even those who were passing by. Among those killed are women, young children and even entire families with children. Despite this, the authorities continue to deny that they shot at peaceful citizens, and refuse to publish the names of the deceased people.
c) The ongoing mass repressions against civil society. According to official figures alone, 10,000 people have been detained as the result of the protests. Activists, peaceful protesters, those who helped the injured, those who had videos from the protests on their phones and those who brought food and water to the protesters have been subjected to arrest and prosecution en masse. They are accused of “participation in mass disorders”, “attacks on buildings” and “acts of terrorism” (Section 5.2) Under torture, they “confess” even to “terrorism”.
2. Peaceful protesters are tortured en masse, forced to take the blame for “terrorism”
a) In January 2022, arbitrarily detained peaceful protesters were deprived of access to lawyers and relatives. They have been and, as of 21 February 2022, continue to be subjected to mass brutal torture in police departments and pre-trial detention facilities. The purpose of torture is to force people to incriminate themselves and “confess” their guilt of “terrorism”, “assistance to terrorists” or “participation in disorders for money”. Thus, the authorities use torture to make “terrorists” out of civilians, fabricating evidence and supporting Tokayev’s narrative on ” terrorist attacks”.
b) Every day we receive new testimonies from victims of torture and their relatives. This report describes numerous examples of how detainees were brutally tortured and are still tortured in various cities in Kazakhstan (Section 6.1). Peaceful protesters were beaten with truncheons and fists, had their ribs, arms, legs broken, were tied to the wall, had a hot iron put to their bodies, had a gun held to their heads, were strangled, electrocuted and had needles inserted under their nails. The detainees were also kept naked on the cold floor, not allowed to eat or drink for several days, threatened to be raped with a truncheon and to have their relatives killed.
Several cases are known in which arbitrary detainees have died after enduring brutal torture. Their relatives found them in morgues handcuffed and with horrific injuries from torture (Section 6.3).
In addition, in the period from 8 January 2022 to 9 January 2022 in Almaty, several dozen injured people (including seriously wounded) were taken from hospitals by armed special forces using brute force. Police officers took away the crutches of the wounded and took them to the pre-trial detention facility where they were tortured. They were beaten, including on their wounds, and did not receive adequate medical care.
c) The authorities sabotage the investigation of torture and cover up perpetrators of this crime. President Tokayev believes that “allegations of torture are exaggerated”. So far, no one has been punished for the mass torture of participants in the January protests. Moreover, we have recorded cases of pressure and threats against those who complain of torture. The Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs force them to withdraw their complaints and threaten them with criminal liability for “spreading deliberately false information” (Section 6.4). In Taldykorgan, police officers even went on a protest against the investigation of torture. The authorities mimic an investigation into torture, asking to wait for their official findings, but in fact they are using the time to cover up evidence of torture and intimidate torture victims.
3. Data concealment, information blockade and monopolisation of information on the protests
a) There is reason to believe that the authorities are trying to conceal the real number of peaceful citizens killed. So far, the authorities have not provided official lists of those who were killed, detained and went missing. These lists are compiled by human rights defenders, journalists and activists. Morgues were heavily guarded. Often the authorities refuse to hand over the bodies of those killed and bury them as “terrorists”, thereby supporting their narrative and creating false evidence. In various regions of the country, police exhume killed people. Relatives fear that the authorities do this in order to bury them as terrorists in trenches and to conceal the extent of the shooting of civilians (Section 4.2).
b) The information blockade has also contributed to the concealment of crimes. During the protests in Kazakhstan, the internet and communications were shut down for five days. The journalists covering the protests were detained, beaten and arrested (Section 4.3).
c) Law enforcement authorities have prosecuted human rights defenders in order to prevent them from collecting unbiased information about shootings and torture that they can deliver the international community. They are arrested, prosecuted and tortured (Section 4.4).
d) It should be noted that no independent, thorough and transparent investigation into the political killings or repressions has been carried out by the Kazakhstani authorities to date. No one has ever been held accountable for the six political killings that took place in Kazakhstan in 2020-2021. The shooting of peaceful oil workers in Zhanaozen in 2011 and the mass torture of those arrested in the Zhanaozen case remained without any independent and credible investigation.
This report presents only a fraction of the known cases, but they already demonstrate the enormous scale of repression. In order to process all the incoming information and record such a large number of crimes, human rights defenders need financial and political support from the EU, the US, Canada and the UK.
The authorities of Kazakhstan are trying to conceal the most large-scale crimes against humanity in the country’s history. Torture and political repression continue. To stop this, personal sanctions should be imposed on Kazakhstan’s high-level officials – Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Minister Yerlan Turgumbayev, General Prosecutor Gizat Nurdauletov, Defence Minister Murat Bektanov. We also support the call by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance against Kleptocracy on the need to impose personal sanctions on the entourage of Nursultan Nazarbayev and other regime collaborators who have taken part in the embezzlement of Kazakhstan’s wealth – Dinara and Dariga Nazarbayevs, Bolat Nazarbayev, Timur Kulibayev, Samat Abish, Kairat Satybaldy, Kairat Sharipbayev, Nurali Aliyev, Karim Massimov, Aigul Nurieva, Vladimir Kim, Kenes Rakishev, Sauat Mynbayev, Bulat Utemuratov, Akhmetzhan Yesimov and others.
Sources of information used in preparation the report
The report is based on information received from victims, eyewitnesses or public sources. We also have documents, in particular copies of complaints of torture which participants of peaceful protests sent to the Prosecutor’s Office. We continue to receive appeals, testimonies, video and photo evidence from Kazakhstani citizens who have been arbitrarily arrested and tortured, as well as from relatives of killed peaceful protesters from various regions of Kazakhstan.
The report includes information received from participants of the human rights monitoring Facebook group #IHaveAChoice #ActivistsNotExtremists, administered by the Open Dialogue Foundation with support from the Human Rights Protection Foundation “Qaharman”, the Human rights movement “405.”, the human rights movement Veritas, the “Femina Virtute” human rights movement, human rights movement “Article 14”, the Human Rights movement Elimay, the Bostandyq Kz human rights movement. The group, consisting of more than 8,200 participants from different cities in Kazakhstan, was established to collect information and provide legal and humanitarian support to victims of political persecution and arbitrary detention.
The authors of this report express their gratitude for all informants and volunteers, who contributed to this report despite risking their lives and freedom.
2. Political changes as a result of the January protests
On 2 January 2022 an increase in the price of autogas triggered a peaceful protest by tens of thousands of Zhanaozen residents demanding to cut the price of autogas in half. On 3-6 January, peaceful protests spread to more than 80 cities and towns, with the political demand “Shal, ket!” (“old man, leave!”). These protests were the largest in the years of Kazakhstan’s independence and were characterised by a single clear demand for a complete change of power. Falling monument to Nazarbayev, the widespread dismantling of street and avenue nameplates bearing Nazarbayev’s name across Kazakhstan became a demonstration of citizens’ weariness of dictatorship, poverty, powerlessness and corruption. The desire of citizens to build and live in a democratic country outweighed the fear of repression of Nazarbayev’s 30-year dictatorship.
On 4 January 2022, President Tokayev called peaceful protesters (by this time there were no publicly recorded facts of vandalism) who demanded the change of regime – “destructive persons, interested in undermining the stability and unity of our country”. In other words, from the beginning, the authorities regarded the peaceful protesters as a threat to their own dictatorship.
On 5 January 2022, in an attempt to pacify peaceful protesters across the country, Tokayev dismissed the government and blamed the rise in prices on the Ministry of Energy, but it did not succeed. On the same day, 5 January 2022, a state of emergency was declared to stop the protests, justify the repression and shut down the internet to conceal the extent of the repression.
On 5 January 2022, Tokayev described protesters and regime-organised looters as “mobs of bandits”, and on that day declared that “international terrorist gangs” were operating in the country.
Tokyaev and Kazakhstan’s authorities have offered no evidence to support the claims that there where terrorists involved in the January 2022 events. Yet, such unsupported claims have being used to justify:
- illegal use of lethal weapon against peaceful protesters and civilians;
- the invitation of Russian-led the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) military troops to Kazakhstan by the authorities of Kazakhstan;
- the ongoing mass repressions against civil society.
On 7 January 2022, Tokayev tweeted that “the city of Almaty was under attack by 20,000 terrorists”, but he later deleted his tweet.
On 7 January 2022, Tokayev publicly stated an order to law enforcement agencies and the army to “shoot to kill without warning”, which is a violation not only of Kazakhstani law, but also of Kazakhstan’s international obligations. On 9 January 2022, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Yerlan Turgumbayev, stated that: “The criminals disguised themselves as police and military officers and committed illegal acts” in order to justify the killing of civilians. In this way, the regime wants to shift the responsibility for civilian shootings onto the mythical 20,000 terrorists.
On 5 January 2022, Karim Massimov, the head of the NSC (National Security Committee), was dismissed. He had held this position since 2016.
Nazarbayev and Tokayev had to sacrifice Massimov in order to deflect the attention from the shooting without warning. On 8 January 2022, the authorities announced that Massimov had been detained and a criminal case opened against him on suspicion of treason. He has allegedly been placed in a pre-trial detention facility. The Kazakhstani authorities are likely to blame him for the so-called invasion of Kazakhstani territory by alleged foreign terrorists. The authorities claimed: “There has been a hybrid terrorist attack on Kazakhstan to destabilise and overthrow the government. There was a conspiracy by internal and certain external forces, since both Kazakhstani and foreign nationals were involved.” The authorities still have not clarified the allegations against Massimov.
The relatively quick reaction of Russia and the CSTO to Tokayev’s request for support may indicate that Putin’s regime saw a direct threat in the loss of power of Nazarbayev as a result of mass peaceful protests. Putin has become the guarantor for survival and existence of the authoritarian regime in Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan is now under the de facto control of Russia. Tokayev has already declared that Russia would be the vector of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy. It is to be expected that the Russian army will be followed by Russian corporations in Kazakhstan, and in the near future they may start taking over the control of Kazakhstan’s oil and gas sector as well as other sectors of the economy. Thus Russia will further strengthen its position on the energy market in the region.
On 18 January 2022 Nursultan Nazarbayev commented for the first time on developments in the country. He stated that he is a “pensioner” and “retired from business back in 2019”. According to Nazarbayev, Tokayev has taken over all the power in the state and “there is no conflict or confrontation in the elite”.
It is also to Russia’s advantage that Nazarbayev “saves face” and stays in Kazakhstan. This is important in the context of a future transit of power in Russia itself. Putin obviously wants to avoid a precedent in which a former president loses everything and is persecuted.
3. The failure of the international assessment of the January events in Kazakhstan
3.1 The impact of Kazakhstani propaganda about the January events on EU officials and diplomats
On 6 January 2022 Kasym-Jomart Tokayev in fact equated peaceful protests with “riots”, stating that “about half the territory of our country is covered by riots”. In reality, violent clashes took place predominantly only in Almaty, Semey, Aktobe and Taldykorgan. At the same time, shootings of peaceful citizens were recorded in at least 10 cities: Almaty, Atyrau, Aktobe, Kyzylorda, Pavlodar, Semey, Taraz, Taldykorgan, Ust-Kamenogorsk and Shymkent.
On 7 January 2022 Tokayev wrote several messages on Twitter in which he claimed that Almaty was attacked by about “20,000 terrorists”. This message was deleted the next day. Former Nazarbayev adviser Yermukhamet Yertysbayev said Tokayev was informed of the “20,000 terrorists” by the former NSC leadership. He was allegedly “deliberately misinformed” to intimidate and possibly provoke him into fleeing the country. Nevertheless, the authorities have picked up the version of thousands of terrorists and still continue to claim so. Minister of Foregn Affairs of Kazkahstan Mukhtar Tleuberdi stated that there were “20,000 terrorists” only in Almaty, and that there were many more across the country.
On 7 January 2022, in his address to the nation, Tokayev equated all the protesters with “terrorists”. “We had to deal with bandits and terrorists… They must be destroyed. And this will be done.” President Tokayev claimed and as it was repeated by other officials, that Kazakhstan had been attacked by 20 thousand terrorists , . The Kazakhstani authorities have provided no evidence to support their claims that there were terrorists involved in the January 2022 events. The “terrorist attack” theory borders on the absurd and has been discredited, but the authorities continue to insist on it.
Moreover, the Kazakhstani authorities explain the “presence of terrorists” in a strange and implausible way. In particular, President Tokayev said, “Bandits attacked morgues at night, taking and carrying away bodies of their dead accomplices. They also took away the bodies of fighters directly from the battlefield.” The head of Almaty Police Department claimed that 41 bodies were stolen by unknown people from morgues. Furthermore, Tokayev also claimed that the terrorists “employ tactics of disguise”, “shave off their beards” and go into hiding.
Apparently, using the “terrorist attack” theory, the authorities are trying to justify: the invitation of Russian-led CSTO military troops to Kazakhstan, the illegal use of lethal weapon against peaceful protesters and civilians, and the ongoing mass repressions against civil society.
The Kazakhstani authorities try to imitate openness with the demands of Kazakhstani society, holding meetings and online conferences with Western partners and declaring their “readiness to conduct an objective investigation”. However, all of this is being done with the single aim of monopolising the channels for disseminating information about the January events and imposing their point of view regarding the events and their causes.
- On 24 January 2022 Deputy Speaker of the Senate of the Parliament of Kazakhstan Askar Shakirov took part in the online session of the Bureau of the OSCE PA, where he “detailed the circumstances of the tragic January events in the country”. At the meeting, the Kazakhstani representative outlined the authorities’ version of a “terrorist attack” and “unrest” during the protests. The Kazakhstani authorities went on to talk about the “strategic reforms of the Head of State towards further democratisation and … reformatting the work of law enforcement agencies in order to effectively protect citizens“.
- On 10 February 2022 the EU Special Representative for Central Asia, Terhi Hakala, visited Kazakhstan. During her visit Hakala met with the President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, State Secretary Erlan Karin, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mukhtar Tileuberdi, Ombudsperson Elvira Azimova and Deputy General Prosecutor Bulat Dembayev. During the talks, the parties discussed the January events as well as the government’s reform plans. Hakala also met with representatives of Kazakhstani NGOs who participate in the EU programmes. Among the representatives of the “Kazakhstani public” with whom Hakala met was lawyer Aiman Umarova, who has the support of the Kazakhstani authorities. Umarova is a member of the National Council of Public Trust under the President of Kazakhstan. Following the Kazakhstani authorities, Umarova has claimed that the January protests “were not peaceful” and has opposed an international investigation into the tragic events in Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, Hakala has not met with representatives of independent civil society organisations that are gathering information on mass shootings and political persecution. Róża Thun, a member of the European Parliament, criticised this selective approach in the dialogue with civil society.
Against the backdrop of an information blockade the Kazakhstani authorities’ false claims about “20,000 terrorists” proved to be very effective. The Kazakhstani authorities succeeded in diverting international attention to the authorities’ promises to “conduct an objective investigation” of the January events. Tokayev’s order to “shoot to kill without warning”, mass torture and the military intervention of foreign troops in Kazakhstan to suppress the protests were overshadowed.
- On 5 January 2022, when security forces started using firearms en masse against peaceful protesters in Almaty, the EEAS issued a rather mild statement calling on the Kazakhstani authorities to respect the fundamental right to peaceful protest and to uphold its commitments.
- On 6 January 2022, during the most violent phase of the mass shooting of peaceful protesters in Kazakhstan, the OSCE PA President Margareta Cederfelt issued a statement in which she also reiterated the EEAS call for all parties to the conflict to «refrain from the use of violence, and use dialogue to resolve grievances». This statement by the President of the OSCE PA can be explained by the information isolation and propaganda false claims by the Kazakhstani authorities about an attack by “20,000 terrorists” and looters. According to eyewitness accounts, the police and military used lethal weapons on civilians who were unarmed.
- On 18 January 2022, a joint statement was issued by the ten Human Rights Ambassadors of EU Member States on Kazakhstan, who «welcome the stabilisation of the situation in Kazakhstan» and called on the Kazakhstani authorities to conduct a full and transparent investigation into the January events. No mention was made of the mass shootings of peaceful protesters, mass torture, and the names of activists and human rights defenders arrested and wounded by gunfire. According to our sources in the Ministry of Foreign Affair of Kazakhstan, the text of the statement was lobbied for by the Slovak Foreign Ministry’s Human Rights Ambassador, Peter Burian. He previously served as the EU Special Representative for Central Asia and was frequently criticised by human rights defenders for ignoring human rights issues in the countries of the region.
- 19 January 2022 Stella Kyriakides, a representative of the European Commission, speaking in the European Parliament, said that it was necessary to wait for the results of the official investigation by the Kazakhstani authorities and not to draw hasty conclusions.
- On 20 January 2022 the US Mission to the OSCE called on the government of Kazakhstan “to conduct a full and transparent investigation into the tragic events, ensure fair trials for those accused of crimes in accordance with human rights obligations and commitments”. However, earlier, on 7 January 2022, the position of the United States was more decisive regarding the use of lethal weapons against civilians and the deployment of CSTO occupation troops on the territory of Kazakhstan under the cover of “peacekeeping”. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that Kazakhstan had an opportunity to respond appropriately to protests, to do so in a way that respects the rights of the protesters while maintaining law and order and do this without deploying the CSTO troops.
- On 24 January 2022 an exchange of views took place in the EU External Action Committee, attended by Members of the European Parliament as well as Luc Devigne, the Director for Russia, Eastern partnership, Central Asia and OSCE of the European External Action Service, and Terhi Hakala, the EU Special Representative for Central Asia. Luc Devigne said he was shocked by developments in Kazakhstan after “30 years of stability and peace” and echoed the false claims of the Kazakhstani authorities about “country-wide unrest”. He said that the European Commission expects a full and objective investigation by the Kazakhstani authorities. Devigne also noted positively the repeated visits of Kazakhstani representatives, in particular Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi and Ombudsperson Elvira Azimova, to Brussels, as well as to Vienna and Geneva for meetings with OSCE and UN representatives. In doing so, he effectively confirmed that communication with representatives of the Kazakhstani authorities is a key source of information on developments in Kazakhstan. Devigne did not mention any dialogues with independent representatives of Kazakhstani civil society. This situation results in Kazakhstan’s state propaganda of false claims being very effective and thus the authorities manage to impose their point of view on events in the country.
- Members of the European Parliament expressed their indignation at the European Commission’s assessment of the situation in Kazakhstan. In the MPs’ opinion, the mass protests were caused by large-scale corruption in the state, political repression and general impoverishment of the citizens of this resource-rich country. The MEP Petras Auštrevičius criticised the meetings with representatives of Kazakhstan, saying that EU officials “should spend more time in courtrooms rather than in cosy offices over a cup of coffee… people should be supported, not corrupt elites”. The MEPs recalled the events in Zhanaozen in 2011, which have not yet been fully investigated. In addition, the MEPs called to consider the deployment of the CSTO troops in Kazakhstan as an external intervention on the part of Russia.
3.2 The need to change the EU’s approach to relations with Kazakhstan
On 24 January 2022, during an exchange of views in the EU External Action Committee, many parliamentarians emphasised that the time has come to change the approach to relations with Kazakhstan. Over the years, diplomats and EU officials have tried to develop relations through bilateral dialogues. The emphasis has been set on deepening economic cooperation. As a result, each year the human rights and rule of law situation in Kazakhstan has only worsened. Members of the European Parliament call for the EU values to be finally placed at the head of bilateral relations, as stated in the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Kazakhstan. Economic cooperation should only take place if Kazakhstan fulfils its international obligations in the area of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The MPs also called for support and closer dialogue with independent representatives of Kazakhstani civil society to obtain objective information on Kazakhstan’s compliance with its international commitments.
A few days earlier, on 20 January 2022, the European Parliament adopted an urgent resolution on the January events in Kazakhstan. According to the resolution, the Kazakhstani authorities resorted to the use of excessive and unjustified force against peaceful protesters under the pretext of combating “terrorists”. The resolution condemns the rhetoric of the Kazakhstani authorities about peaceful protesters as “terrorists”.
This resolution called on Kazakhstan to immediately release the arbitrarily detained protesters, and called on the EU to launch an international investigation into the crimes committed against the people of Kazakhstan during these protests (including investigation into the cases of missing people, killings, torture, arbitrary detention of activists). The European Parliament noted the need to impose personal sanctions against the high-level Kazakhstani officials responsible for these crimes.
The European Parliament resolution correlates with a statement made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on the events in Kazakhstan. On 6 January 2022, Bachelet stated that «lethal force should only be used as a last resort against specific individuals to address an imminent threat of death” and the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment and the prohibition of arbitrary detention should be respected in all circumstances.
The January events in Kazakhstan raised the important issue of cooperation between governments of democratic states and corrupt elites of authoritarian regimes. On 3 February 2022 member of the British Parliament Dame Margaret Hodge announced that their group on Anti-Corruption and Responsible Tax together with US parliamentarians and members of the European Parliament created the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance against Kleptocracy. The Alliance called on the UK, the US and the EU governments to impose sanctions against Kazakhstani oligarchs, who have systematically robbed their own people. According to Dame Margaret Hodge, the British government has turned a blind eye to corruption in Kazakhstan for years and is therefore also responsible for what is happening in Kazakhstan. Among those listed for sanctions are Nursultan Nazarbayev, his daughters Dinara and Dariga Nazarbayevs, Nazarbayev’s sons-in-law Timur Kulibayev and Kairat Sharipbayev, and Nazarbayev’s brother Bolat Nazarbayev, Nurali Aliyev, son of Dariga Nazarbayeva, now former NSC head Karim Massimov and his associate Aigul Nurieva, oligarchs Vladimir Kim and Kenes Rakishev, former state officials Sauat Mynbayev, Bulat Utemuratov, Akhmetzhan Yesimov and others.
On 8 February 2022, the position of the members of the European Parliament in assessing the situation in Kazakhstan was supported by 21 PACE deputies. They signed a written declaration in which they condemned the statements of the Kazakhstani authorities about “20,000 terrorists”. According to the lawmakers, the authorities thus sought justification for mass persecution and an information blockade. The deputies called for an international investigation into the deployment of troops from the Collective Security Treaty Organization to assist the Kazakhstani government against protesters.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan called the European Parliament resolution “biased and based on prejudiced conclusions and data”. “We consider it unacceptable to adopt such documents before the results of the official investigation initiated by the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan are made public,” – stressed the Kazakhstani authorities. Mazhilis deputy Aidos Sarym said in relation to the adopted resolution that it is the position of the European Commission that should be taken into account as its representatives are voicing “the right and necessary things“. In doing so, Sarym demonstrated the position of the Kazakhstani authorities, who take advantage of the different assessments of the events in Kazakhstan by members of the European Parliament and European officials in order not to comply with international obligations and to depreciate the conclusions of the European Parliament.
On 14 February 2022, Mukhtar Tleuberdi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, met with ambassadors of the EU member states in Nur-Sultan. At the meeting the Head of the EU Delegation to Kazakhstan Kestutis Jankauskas claimed that “we remain committed to our dialogue in the framework of the EPCA and will continue to support Kazakhstan in the ongoing reform process”. He also noted that the EU expects an objective investigation of the January events on the part of Kazakhstan. Other ambassadors also allegedly expressed their support for Kazakhstan. The Kazakhstani authorities use such statements for their propaganda purposes to demonstrate that EU diplomats allegedly approve of the reforms that are being introduced in Kazakhstan. Thus, after Mukhtar Tleuberdi’s meeting with EU diplomats, MEPs received a letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan claiming that «the EU member states are consistently supporting the course of political and socio-economic modernization of the country pursued by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev». This case shows that the overly lenient stance of European diplomats allows the Kazakhstani authorities to impose their point of view and disseminate state propaganda.
3.3. President Tokayev has refused to conduct an international investigation
On 29 January 2022, in an interview with the state television channel Khabar, Tokayev stated that he rejected calls for an international investigation into the suppression of protests in Kazakhstan: “As for the international investigation into the events in Kazakhstan, I do not consider it necessary to conduct such an investigation. We will handle it ourselves,” said the President of Kazakhstan.
On 24 January 2022, in order to imitate the participation of the Kazakh public in the investigation of the January events, the authorities initiated the establishment of the “Public Commission for the Investigation into the Unrest“. The commission was headed by lawyer Aiman Umarova, who is a member of the National Council of Public Trust under the President of Kazakhstan. Umarova’s commission allegedly included well-known human rights defenders and lawyers. Umarova already said she witnessed the events in Almaty: “There were no peaceful demonstrations”. She also backed Tokayev and opposed an international investigation into the January events: “We believe that such a fair investigation should take place in our country and not be conducted by the international community.” Thus, even before the results of the commission’s work were published, Umarova once again demonstrated her bias.
President Tokayev also said the commission includes human rights defenders Zhemis Turmagambetova and Commissioner for Human Rights Elvira Azimova. They allegedly travel to regions of the country, monitor detention conditions of detained protesters and study their complaints. Zhemis Turmagambetova, like Umarova, is a member of the National Council of Public Trust under the president. Turmagambetova is known for “thanking Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for his reforms to defend human rights and eliminates torture” and denying the testimonies of torture in the pre-trial detention facilities. Turmagambetova claims that information about the detention of peaceful protesters and torture chambers is untrue. In particular, in a speech of gratitude to Tokayev on 18 January 2021, Turmagambetova said “In all the time the law ‘on peaceful assemblies’ has been in force, not a single person has been detained during the rallies. That is, they received warnings, but they were taken to police stations and put on trial in administrative proceedings – this has never happened”. Meanwhile, over 8,500 civilians have been subjected to preventive detentions, criminal and administrative prosecutions, including arrests and fines, and real prison sentences for their participation in peaceful protests. With the support of Kazakhstani authorities, she regularly participates in various international events, including with Ombudsperson Elvira Azimova.
4. Kazakhstani authorities try to conceal information about their crimes
4.1 Criminal groups acted side by side with the authorities
Many witnesses point out that the violence, arson and looting were organised by government-controlled criminal groups linked to Arman Dzhumageldiyev (also known as “Wild Arman”), Nursultan Nazarbayev’s nephews Samat Abish and Kairat Satybaldy and Nursultan Nazarbayev’s brother Bolat Nazarbayev.
It was used to discredit peaceful protest. It was also used as “justification” for the use of armed force, including a request to send the CSTO occupation troops to suppress peaceful anti-government protests.
Criminal groups wore masks, acted in an organised manner and purposefully filmed their actions. It was recorded that on some occasions in Almaty, armed men in masks and civilian clothing marched information with police officers.
On 15 February 2022, a witness testified to journalists that on 6 January 2022 in Almaty, he and more than a dozen civilians were grabbed by the “Wild Arman” men, after which they were beaten for several hours and called “looters”. “Among this group I saw deputy Kairat Kudaibergen,” the witness reported. Kudaibergen is an MP from the Nur Otan government party. According to the witness, the deputy was filming those who were detained and beaten up by “Wild Arman” people. After that, according to the witness, the people detained by Wild Arman men were taken away and continued to be tortured by police special forces (one person was beaten to death).
Now representatives of the Prosecutor’s Office claim that it was “Wild Arman’s” men who beat the detainee to death, while he himself is in pre-trial detention. MP Kudaibergen said that having been close to “Wild Arman”, “at the time he did not consider him a criminal boss”. As for Nazarbayev’s relatives (Samat Abish, Kairat Satybaldy, Bolat Nazarbayev) who, according to various accounts, may have organised the riots, the authorities have not stated that they are being prosecuted.
4.2. Covering up the crimes and falsifying the “terrorist” narrative: authorities guard morgues, refuse to release bodies of those killed and exhume peaceful protesters
In January 2022 morgues and hospitals were guarded by armed soldiers after mass shootings. There have been documented cases of soldiers firing at journalists’ feet to prevent them from filming arrests and human rights violations.
It has been reported that the authorities have buried a number of people in various parts of the country as terrorists to support their narrative and create false evidence.
- 30–year-old handyman Ruslanbek Zhubanazarov was shot on 7 January 2022 during a crackdown of a peaceful protest in Aktobe. His family searched for his body for 3 days. After his family had located the body, the police refused to release the body to the family claiming without any evidence that Ruslanbek Zhubanazarov was a ‘’terrorists”. According to Ruslanbek’s sister, a police officer who introduced himself as Berik Bisekenov, said: “Zhubanazarov is a terrorist. The body will not be released. Go home! Otherwise we will shoot you too. We have orders to shoot anyone who disobeys.”
In addition, the authorities have started making decisions to exhume the killed protesters. Their relatives suggest that in this way the authorities are trying to portray the killed protesters as terrorists and bury them accordingly in trenches. In this way, the Kazakhstani authorities can conceal the scale of the killings as a result of shootings and torture of peaceful protesters.
- It is already known that authorities in Almaty and the Almaty region have decided to exhume the killed Bakhytkeldy Kolbayev, Margulan Bektursyn and Olzhas Alimzhanuly , , and to exhume the killed Ansar (last name is being clarified, possibly Zhandarbekov) in Shymkent.
- In addition, in January, the bodies of protesters Yerbol Shormanov and Murat Musabekov, who had been shot dead were exhumed by police order in Almaty, and in Kyzylorda the authorities exhumed the body of Zhasulan Dukenbayev who had been shot dead.
- In one of the rulings, the investigators explain the formal reason for exhuming the executed protesters as follows: “Given that the corpse of J.K. Alzhenov was brought from the places of mass disorder with a gunshot wound to the head…there is a need to exhume the corpse…to establish the cause of death”.
4.3. Silencing of data and information blockade
As of 17 February 2022, the authorities of Kazakhstan still inexplicably have not disclosed: the names of those 227 people that were officially recognised as dead as a result of the January 2022 events; the names of 10 thousand detained people; the number and names of missing people. The Kazakhstani authorities have not yet disclosed to the public the exact number of those arrested, and refuse to respond to enquiries made by human rights defenders on the issue. On 14 February 2022 in a letter to the EU deputies and diplomats, representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan reported that as a result of the January protests 3,314 people have been subjected to administrative arrest, 887 are being held in pre-trial detention facilities on criminal charges, of which 467 on charges of “mass disorders” and “terrorist attacks”. The Kazakhstani authorities did not provide a list of those arrested and also failed to mention that those administratively prosecuted were punished for their constitutional right to participate in the rally. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan also failed to point out that in January 2022, the trials on preventive measures took place directly in the pre-trial detention facility, lasting 3-4 minutes, with judges not allowing the battered arrestees to say anything and automatically imposing arrests. The absence of basic information that should have been provided by the authorities prevents people from locating their relatives and loved ones and providing assistance if necessary.
By their actions, the authorities manipulate with the statistics and hide actual number of people killed by the law enforcement and the military officers, as well as those who died as a result of injuries/wounds and torture in detention.
The information blockade has also contributed to the concealment of crimes. Since the beginning of protests, the authorities have been resisting objective, independent and multiple coverage of the events, and monopolised the information flow by shutting down the internet for 5 days and prohibiting international accredited journalists to enter the country , . On 6 January 2022 and 7 January 2022, the days of the most brutal shootings, the only sources of information on the events in Kazakhstan were the official reports of the authorities. The Kazakhstani authorities spread blatant lies to conceal the use of force against peaceful protesters.
Tokayev explicitly said that the Internet was shut down in Kazakhstan because of activists and human rights defenders as they “put themselves above the law and think they have the right to gather wherever they want and say whatever they want”. Tokayev has also accused activists, human rights defenders and the free media of inciting unrest. In reality activists and human rights defenders have consistently advocated only peaceful protests, and the independent media have been engaged in coverage of socially important processes. As a result, human rights defenders, activists and independent media have been deprived of the opportunity to gather information on human rights violations.
A number of journalists have been targeted by the law enforcement officials. Journalists Lukpan Akhmedyarov and Daryn Nursapar were subjected to administrative arrests and Ardak Yerubayeva was searched for the fact that they were covering the protests. Several journalists came under fire or were beaten while carrying out their duties: Vasili Polonsky, Vasili Krestianinov, Saniya Toyken, Almaz Toleke, Yesenzhol Yelekenov, Almaz Kaysar, Farhat Abilov, Ruslan Pryanikov. In addition, the police detained journalists and forced them to remove photos and videos documenting the dispersal of rallies and the use of force against protesters. Journalists Bagdat Asylbek and Serik Yesenov, in particular, faced this problem. On 6 January 2022, the driver for “Almaty TV” Muratkhan Bazarbayev was shot dead while Diasken Baytibayev, an employee of the same TV channel, was injured as the result of the shooting.
The authorities completely monopolised information about the situation, promoting propaganda about “riots” and “terrorists” among both domestic audiences and the international community.
4.4. Prevention of unbiased reports: persecution of human rights defenders
In order to prevent independent gathering and reporting of any human rights violations that have taken place in connection with the January 2022 events, the authorities in Kazakhstan have been prosecuting human rights defenders.
Thus, Kazakhstan’s human rights defenders have paid with their freedom and risked their lives by gathering facts and reporting events for the international community. In this situation, given the lack of resources, human rights defenders desperately need support programmes from the EU, the US, Canada and the UK to gather impartial information on mass shootings and torture.
- On 12 January 2022, Raigul Sadyrbayeva, a human rights defender was detained as suspect in “participation in mass riots” for monitoring and recording human rights violations during peaceful protests in Semey. Riot police seized all her belongings, electronic devices during a house search. On 14 January 2022, she was placed in a pre-trial detention facility. Raigul Sadyrbayeva has a serious incurable disease (for which she needs to take medicine on a regular basis) and a disability. Despite this and her innocence, she has been arrested. Moreover, her relatives are denied access to her, they cannot bring the much needed medicines and warm clothes because the police do not allow it. Her life is at risk, her disease may progress and severe health consequences may occur. She may be jailed for up to 8 years.
- On 4 February 2022 Sadyrbayeva filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s office about torture against her. After her arrest, she was placed in a cold cell without light, water, a mattress, or a working toilet. Sadyrbayeva reported that police officers strangled her with a hood, threatened to rape her with a truncheon and to kill her son, and put a gun to her head. She was required to sign a false statement.
- On 6 January 2022, human rights defender Aliya Isenova was monitoring peaceful protests in Semey when law enforcement started shooting peaceful protesters and civilians. She was shot in her arm. She underwent two surgeries and is now in hospital handcuffed to bed, with no access to the lawyer and relatives. Police officers stand beside the room in the hospital. She is being prosecuted in a politically motivated criminal case (it is unknown which article of the Criminal Code she is being charged with). Police officers come to interrogate her in the hospital. It is likely she will be arrested after she is discharged from the hospital. She may be jailed for up to 8 years.
- On 13 January 2022, Aiya Sadvakasova, human rights defender from Stepnogorsk, was detained by police officers On 15 January 2022 she was placed under house arrest on charges of “dissemination of deliberately false information”. She has been gathering information on human rights violations and informing foreign diplomats and politicians about mass repressions in Kazakhstan via her Twitter. She may be jailed for up to 3 years.
5. The shooting and arbitrary detention of protesters and random citizens
5.1. The shooting of peaceful citizens
Officially, the authorities claim that “227 people were killed as a result of disorders”. On 7 January 2022, Tokayev publicly stated an order to law enforcement agencies and the army to “shoot to kill without warning”. So far Tokayev has not publicly stated that he is abolishing this order. On 10 January 2022, Tokayev stated that “we have never used and will never use armed force against peaceful protesters”. At that time hundreds of peaceful protesters had already been shot. On 7 February 2022 the Secretary of State of Kazakhstan, Yerlan Karin, stated that “on 6 January in Almaty the security forces did not open fire against peaceful citizens”.
The facts confirm that the police and military fired live ammunition at civilians without warning. Gunshot wounds, including fatal ones, were sustained by those who were peacefully participating in the protests, who were at the protest sites, who were going out to the pharmacy or shop, and who were returning home. There have been cases where unarmed people have been shot in the head or chest. Among those killed are women, young children and even entire families with children.
In addition, the police and military shot those who were on the street after curfew. But many peaceful residents could not have known about the curfew, as communications and the internet were shut down.
Killings of civilians with firearms were recorded both between 4 January 2022 – 6 January 2022, i.e. before Tokayev’s order to shoot to kill, and after the order was issued.
In total, mass shootings of peaceful citizens were recorded in at least 10 cities across the country: Almaty, Atyrau, Aktobe, Kyzylorda, Pavlodar, Semey, Taraz, Taldykorgan, Ust-Kamenogorsk and Shymkent.
Below are several cases of shooting of civilians.
- On 5 January 2022, a 35-year-old mother of four, Zhanar Burkitbayeva, was shot dead in Almaty. Zhanar, her husband and their 7-months child went to the pharmacy because the child had a fever. She was shot at the time when she was breastfeeding inside the car. The child was covered in her blood. The bullet went through the skull and entered the brain.
- On 7 January 2022, 4-year-old Aikorkem Meldehan was shot in the head in Almaty. She was in a car with her sister and brothers who were on their way to a shop. As the car approached the Akimat, the military fired about 20 bullets into the car.
- On 6 January 2022, civil activist Nuraliya Aitkulova was shot dead with two bullets in central square in Almaty. Her 20-year-old daughter Tomiris has lost both of her parents (her father died when she was 3 years old).
- On 6 January 2022, Almas Garifullin was shot in his shoulder in Almaty. He was driving to a gas station with his friend. He wanted to get some food to share it with people, because the internet was shut down, people could not use their bank cards and they did not have cash.
- On 8 January 2022, Nurbolat Seitkulov, Altynai Yetayeva and their 15-year-old daughter Nurai were shot dead reportedly by the military when they were driving back home to the city of Taldykorgan.
- On 5 January 2022, Yernazar Kyrykbayev was murdered in Taldykorgan. He was not involved in the protests. He was grazing cattle on a farm near a military unit. The military killed him along with his horse and reported that he allegedly “did not stop” on their orders. Kyrykbayev himself was riding a horse far away from the military men and was heading in a different direction, so he might not have even heard them.
- On 5 January 2022, peaceful protesters Nurbolat Alpamys and Bakytzhan Zhandar were shot dead in Shymkent.
- On 6 January 2022, Askhat Begeshov was shot dead in the head by the military when he was driving to see his friend in Taraz. One of the passengers in his car was also shot, but was taken to hospital and reportedly is alive. The other passenger was placed in a pre-trial detention facility.
- On 7 January 2022 in Taraz, 18-year-old student Nursultan Kuatbayev was killed while returning home. His father said that Kuatbayev was hit in the thigh by two bullets, he fell down, after which he was approached, shot in the heart and hit in the thighs with a shoulder stock. The relatives point out that the perforating wounds, as on Kuatbayev’s body, are left by the Makarov pistol, which is used by police officers.
In all these cases, police officers obstruct the relatives in the investigation: they refuse to give access to video from street cameras, refuse to examine the bullets from the bodies independently, exert pressure or openly state that it is useless to seek an investigation because there was an order from Tokayev “to shoot to kill without warning”.
5.2. “Activist means terrorist”: mass arbitrary detentions
Authorities officially report 10,000 detainees. In different regions of Kazakhstan, peaceful citizens and civil activists have been subjected to brutal arbitrary detentions.
Those subjected to mass arrests in pre-trial detention facility and criminal prosecution include: peaceful protesters who did not take part in the disorders and looting; those who helped the injured; those who had videos from the protests on their phones; those who brought food and water to protesters; passers-by; and those people whose cars were seen at the site of the protest. They are charged with “participation in mass disorders”, “acts of terrorism” and “attacks on buildings”. For example:
- Aidos Ospanov, a 21-year-old healthcare worker from Semey. On 5 January 2022, he and his friend were detained by law enforcement near a shop. His friend was released after 2 days because he did not have videos of protests in his phone. Aidos Ospanov was arrested in the pre-trial detention facility on charges of “participation in mass riots” because he had videos of protests in his phone. His relatives could not find him for 9 days and found him only on 15 January 2022 in a detention facility.
- Civil activist and a father of two Berik Abishov – participated in peaceful protests in Almaty. He became well-known as “flag bearer” for carrying the flag of Kazakhstan during the protests despite flashbangs, teargas and lethal weapons used by the security forces against peaceful demonstrators. As a result of violent crackdown by security forces, he got a head injury (either from a bullet or from grenade fragments).
- The authorities sent to the pre-trial detention facility Zhanar Nurkenova, a mother of 5 (some of whom have disabilities), who was shot in the leg, and Karima Khaidarbekova, mother of 6 children, who participated in peaceful protests in Kyzylorda and in Shymkent, respectively. The authorities are putting pressure on them, threatening to take away their children and send them to orphanages , .
- A 56-year-old Yerbol Borlybai from Ust-Kamenogorsk took part in peaceful protests to demand housing because the government has to provide it to him. Borlybai has a disability (group 1) – he is legally blind. He has been placed in the pre-trial detention facility on charges of “participation in mass riots”.
6. How civilians are turned into “terrorists” under torture
6.1. Peaceful protesters are tortured en masse, forced to give false testimony and take the blame for “terrorism”
Evidence suggests that the authorities have initiated criminal proceedings for “terrorism” against those who suffered gunshot wounds during the protests. The armed special forces also used brute force to take injured and seriously wounded people from hospitals, after this abduction they were tortured to extract from them “confessions” of “terrorism”.
It is worth noting that after human rights activists began debunking statements by Tokayev and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan about a “terrorist attack” and pointing out that there was no evidence of “terrorists”, the rhetoric on the issue began to change slightly. Ermukhamet Yertysbayev, a former adviser to Nazarbayev, said Tokayev was informed of the “20,000 terrorists” by the former management of the NSC. Yertysbayev pointed out that Tokayev was allegedly “deliberately misinformed” to intimidate and possibly provoke him into fleeing the country.
However, at the moment the authorities are not dropping the criminal cases of “terrorism”, but on the contrary are further intensifying the persecution of peaceful citizens. So far, no one has been punished for the mass torture using which the authorities turn peaceful protesters into “terrorists”.
Torture victims speak out about what they have endured. We also receive information from relatives of torture victims. Many detainees report hearing screams of beaten detainees at police departments and seeing the floor covered in blood. Several witnesses reported detainees dying from torture.
In January detainees were not allowed to see their relatives for a month. It is likely that the authorities hoped in this way that traces of torture would disappear.
In Almaty, the trials on preventive measures took place right in the pre-trial detention facility, with judges ignoring the facts of torture, not allowing the arrested to say anything and automatically prolonging the arrest in 3-4 minutes. After the publicity, several arrested persons were released from the pre-trial detention facility under house arrest.
Every day we receive information about new cases of torture from different regions of Kazakhstan. Below are a few cases of brutal torture of those arrested during the January protests in several cities of the country.
- As “proof” of the presence of terrorists in Kazakhstan, the authorities showed on national television Vikram Ruzakhunov, a well-known musician from Kyrgyzstan. In a video from the temporary detention facility, Ruzakhunov stated that he came to participate in the protests for allegedly “200 dollars.” His face, however, showed signs of beatings resulting from torture. International criticism forced the Kazakhstani authorities to release Ruzakhunov, but no one has been held responsible for the torture.
After his release, while already in Kyrgyzstan, Ruzakhunov said that during his torture in Kazakhstan he shouted that he was a famous musician. “According to the doctors’ estimates, I did not have long to live, as the broken ribs had already damaged my left lung, just a couple of strokes and my heart would have been damaged...”, he noted. Because of this, he agreed to say a memorised text on camera.
- On 5 January 2022 Sayat Adilbekuly sustained a gunshot wound while going to the pharmacy to buy medicine for a child. He suffered a ruptured kidney and underwent surgery that day. On 8 January 2022, armed special forces with the use of brute force took him and other seriously wounded persons away from the hospital to pre-trial detention facility LA-155/18. There, police officers in unsanitary conditions ripped a catheter out of Sayat’s arm, causing him to bleed.
Sayat describes how they were brought from the hospital to the pre-trial detention facility: “They took us into the building and in the corridor they made us strip completely, although many of us had no clothes on, including me… They made us walk quickly and headlong into the building, and those who could not walk were kicked and beaten, some crawled, some jumped on one leg, some were dragged, the floor of the corridor was covered in blood and various yellow coloured fluids“. Next, according to Sayat, he was taken to a cell and ordered to lie naked on the floor with his face on the floor. After that, the detainees were forced to stand for a whole night (even those who had been shot in the leg). The detainees were forced to sign documents without reading them. The beatings continued every day until 12 January 2022. After Adilbekuly’s case was made public, on 25 January 2022 he was released from the pre-trial detention facility under house arrest. He was charged with “participation in mass disorder”. Adilbekuly filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s office demanding that a criminal case be opened for torture [Adilbekuly demanded that criminal proceedings for torture be initiated against members of the investigative team in his case, including Prosecutor Bekitayev M.G., Deputy Prosecutor of Almaty Auganbayev N.Z., Head of pre-trial detention facility SI-18 Zhumadiyev A.S., as well as officers of the pre-trial detention facility, the Interior Ministry and the NSC. – edit. note].
- On 5 January 2022 Akylzhan Kiysimbayev was shot after leaving a shopping centre (where he worked) to watch people smashing a shop window. He underwent surgery that day. However, on 8 January 2022 he was forcibly removed from the hospital by special forces, as were all the other wounded. Kiysimbayev was grabbed by his hair and thrown from his bed, after which he was taken outside without clothes and beaten with shoulder stocks. In pre-trial detention facility LA-155/18, police officers pulled drainage tubes from his body and tore his sutures. He said that the beatings continued throughout the night, he was beaten, including on his injuries, and fainted from pain. In the morning of 9 January 2020 he was thrown naked into a cell lying on the cold floor.
Kiysimbayev said that on 10 January 2020 he was taken out of his cell and taken downstairs to another cell. “On the wall in this cell there was a saw, scissors and knives. There were bindings on the walls to tie people up. The investigator and two others in khaki clothes (also wearing masks) started torturing me. They tied me naked to the wall, with my legs spread and my arms raised and spread, in an X shape. All three of them took turns beating me with a truncheon and fists all over my body.” He was asked to “confess” that he was “helping the terrorists” and “was at the protest on 6 January 2020” (although he could not have been there, as he was hospitalised with an injury on 5 January 2020). Kiysimbayev reported that from 10 January 2020 to 20 January 2020 masked men came into his cell every day and beat up all those arrested.
On 14 January 2020 there was a court hearing right in the pre-trial detention facility that left all the arrested in custody. According to Kiysimbayev, the trial lasted 3-4 minutes, the judge did not let them say anything and ignored the fact that those arrested were beaten up, in blood, and some on stretchers. The Kazakhstani public became aware of the case, after which on 25 January 2022 Kiysimbayev was released from the pre-trial detention facility under written pledge not to leave the place of residence. He was charged with participation in “mass disorder”. “When I was leaving the pre-trial detention facility a prosecutor named Azamat told me with a threat that I should not say anything about torture and beatings, unless I want to be arrested again,” said Kiysimbayev. On 8 February 2022 Kiysimbayev filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s office demanding to initiate a case of torture.
- Zhasulan Amangeldinov is a 29-year-old father of three. Amangeldinov did not take part in the protests. On 5 January 2022 on his way home from work a rubber bullet hit into his eye. Amangeldinov was brought to the hospital where he had his first emergency surgery. His eye burst and he lost it. He was in a very bad condition and could not see at all.
On 8 January, shortly after the surgery, armed military people burst into Zhasulan’s ward and took him to the pre-trial detention facility. Investigators wanted Zhasulan to give false testimony against those who were in the same cell with him. They tried to make Zhasulan confess that he was a criminal.
Investigators tortured Zhasulan with particular cruelty in a special torture cell in the basement. They wrapped scotch tape around his arms, legs, and mouth. They were beating him. Then they deliberately poured boiling water on Zhasulan, on his right arm and back. Almost no skin was left on Zhasulan because of the burns. He was kicked in the kidneys and in the head, which resulted in his cheekbone being broken, making him unable to eat. This torture continued for 5-6 hours, according to Zhasulan.
Zhasulan is still accused of taking part in mass protests and may be imprisoned under Article 272 of the Criminal Code. Zhasulan may go blind in the second eye and he needs a long-term treatment.
- In addition to Akylzhan Kiysimbayev and Sayat Adilbekuly, there were about 30 seriously injured people who were taken from the hospital to Almaty by armed special forces on 8 January 2022 – 9 January 2022. Among them were Darkhan Dusibayev, Anatoly Akhmetov, Gaushau Onal, Kosay Makhanbayev, Rashit Igisinov, Abdurashid Suleymanov. All of them were thrown out into the street without clothes or shoes. Police officers took away the crutches of the wounded and threw them away.
Akylzhan Kiysimbaev said that special forces took people out of the hospital wards and into the corridor: “They made us stand in the corridor along the wall, crouching low. Those who could not stand like that and fell down were beaten on the head, wounds, and chest and forced to stand in that position again. While part of the armed men were escorting the patients out of the wards, another part was beating those standing in the corridor for every question and movement.” Afterwards, according to Sayat Adilbekuly, the wounded (about 20 people) were pushed into a 1.5m x 1.5m van. There they were beaten if anyone asked questions or screamed in pain.
All wounded were taken from hospitals to pre-trial detention facility LA-155/18 in Almaty. On 29 January 2022 human rights defenders received a note from this pre-trial detention facility: “There are about 70 of us here with various severe injuries and traumas (on 8 January 2022 we were all taken from hospitals by force and beaten like dogs and brought here). …. They are holding us wounded without treatment and holding us illegally, torturing us. …Under torture they are trying to pin false accusations on us”.
- On 4 January 2022, Aset Abishev, a former political prisoner and civil activist, was detained. Abishev did not participate in the protests, he was detained pre-emptively in order to isolate him from other protesters. He was taken to the police facilities where he was beaten and tortured for several days until he was released on 10 January 2022. Aset Abishev reported that he could hear other people screaming in the Almaty police department, while the floor was covered in blood.
- On 8 January 2022, Kuanyshbek Yesmakhanbetov was detained. He was in detention for 5 days during which he was beaten by police officers. He reported that there were lots of innocent people like him in the police department who suffered from tortures.
- A father of three, Timur Kim, went to the central square on 6 January 2022 to help injured people. On 9 January 2022, riot police broke into his house to detain him. Timur Kim was beaten in front of his wife and children by riot police. He was taken to Almaty Police Department, where he was tortured. He was charged with an “act of terrorism“. On 3 February 2022, he was released from the pre-trial detention facility under house arrest.
- On 6 January 2022, businessman Rashit Igisinov went to the city centre to check on his shop and was shot in the arm. On 8 January 2022, a special forces unit took him and the other wounded from the hospital. His lawyer reported that for six days Igisinov was beaten with a truncheon and required to incriminate himself. He underwent surgery after the torture. Igisinov was charged with “participation in mass disorder” and placed under house arrest.
- On 10 January 2022 armed riot police took 18-year-old student Baghdar Dauletbek from his home. He was thrown into pre-trial detention facility LA-155/16. Baghdar’s father, Aitkaz Dauletbekuly, could see his son in the pre-detention facility only on 28 January 2022. At the meeting Baghdar cried and told that he, like other detainees, was tortured, called “terrorists”, “enemy of the people”.
- Yerbol Ydyrysov, 20 years old, was detained during the protests, after which he spent a month in a pre-trial detention facility. A month later, his mother, Madina Smagulova, saw him frightened, beaten and with pus oozing from his stomach. His mother reported that he had been tortured with a red-hot iron.
- Yerik Kalibayev participated in a peaceful rally on 4 January 2020 and 5 January 2020. On 13 January 2022 at the police station he was asked: “Did you say goodbye to your relatives?“, after which the police officers started beating him. Kalibayev’s sister found out that her brother and other detainees were forced to do push-ups and squat 500 times each. Kalibayev saw several people die from the torture. He is in pre-trial detention facility on charges of “participation in mass disorder“. His lawyer reported that another political prisoner, Azamat Batyrbayev, testified against Yerik Kalibayev under torture.
- Azamat Batyrbayev was accused of participating in the demolition of a monument to Nazarbayev. On 5 January 2022 in Taldykorgan protesters demolished a monument to Nazarbayev in front of the Akimat. Batyrbayev was sent to a pre-trial detention facility. He was reportedly tortured with a red-hot iron and had needles stuck under his fingernails.
Information about the brutal torture of Batyrbayev gained publicity in the media. The General Prosecutor’s office initiated a case for torture. On the example of Batyrbaev the Kazakhstani authorities try to convince the international public that they are investigating torture. However, in reality the authorities are exerting pressure on Batyrbayev. In particular, on 5 February 2022 parliamentary deputies Yerlan Smailov and Berik Bekzhanov visited him in his cell with a policeman and a journalist from a state channel. During the meeting Batyrbayev was asked whether he “regrets what he has done“. Batyrbayev’s wife emphasises: “We are persuading him to file a complaint against those who tortured him. He refuses because he is being pressured from different sides”. This case is a telling example of how state commissions, including Kazakhstan’s parliamentary commission, fail to ensure objective investigation of cases.
- On 5 January 2022 Bakhyt Kaster drove into town in search of a working petrol station to fill up his car. On 10 January 2022, special forces officers broke into the house, beat up Kaster and took him away. Only on 29 January 2022, Bakhyt Kaster’s father, Bakhyt Ramazan, was allowed to see his son in the pre-trial detention facility. Bakhyt Kaster told his father that he was beaten with a stun gun, suffocated with a cellophane bag, and had needles stuck under his fingernails. During the torture, Bakhyt Kaster heard one policeman say to another policeman regarding the beating of the detainee: “Careful, he might die too!“. To which the latter replied: “If he dies, we’ll throw him out the same way“.
- On 14 January 2022, Zhaksylyk Sovetbekov was detained due to his car being spotted by a camera at a protest site on 5 January 2022. He was tortured at the police department, as a result of which he sustained nine broken ribs and sternum, a damaged lung, burns from a stun gun, bruises from blows with a truncheon. Sovetbekov reported that when a bag was put over his head and he began to suffocate, one of the police officers said: “Let him die, we will throw him out like we threw out others before“. At the police department, Sovetbekov saw more than 30 beaten detainees. “Some people who were lying next to me in the corridor had their fingernails torn out. They also had bags put over their heads so that they could not recognise those who were beating them,” he reported.
- Activist Sergey Shutov reports about mass beating and torture of detainees that have been held at the sport facilities of the inner courtyard of the Atyrau police department. On 4 January 2022, Sergey Shutov participated in the peaceful protest. He was detained on 11 January 2022. He was taken to the police department where he was beaten for 6 hours and then arrested for 2 days. In an interview he gave to Kazakh Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, he said that the detainees (he saw around 15 people) were beaten and tortured in the police department for hours drawing parallels with what happened in Belarus after protests.
- On 7 January 2022, Arthur Kozhaniyazov (has a disability) went to mall to buy food. He was detained near the mall by police officers and taken to the police department. Police officers seized his phone, his wallet, took off his clothes and started beating him. Arthur Kozhaniyazov said that police officers even stole his disability social benefits he received from the government.
- Yerbolsyn Abdumonap, a 17-year old boy, was detained on 11 January 2022 on charges of participating in protests. His mother said that teenagers aged 16-17 were detained together with him in the pre-trial detention facility and were forced to give false confessions under torture.
- Lawyer and biotechnologist Abilhair Kumekov took part in a peaceful protest on 5 January 2022. On 8 January 2022 police officers came to his house, detained and beat him and told his mother: “we will shoot him, we have an order“. In the pre-trial detention facility, the beatings continued, resulting in a hematoma of the posterior chest wall, a haematoma of the shoulder joint, and a bruised eye.
- Kuanysh Ayniyazov was under arrest from 13 January 2022 to 15 January 2022. Police officers broke his arm. Ayniyazov claimed that police tortured him to give false testimony that he was “an associate of Karim Massimov” (former head of the NSC). Ayniyazov filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s office about the torture, after which he was summoned back to the police and demanded to withdraw the complaint.
- On 5-6 January 2022, civil activist Kuat Shamuratov participated in peaceful protests. He was detained by riot police. They were beating him while taking him from the police department to a detention facility. He had a concussion, multiple injuries. He is being charged with “organisation of mass riots.” The authorities do not allow his relatives to meet with him, his relatives cannot bring medicines to him.
- Aydar Baisagatov was grabbed by the police on 3 January 2022 as he was walking to a rally. They beat him in the police car, threatened to rape him with a truncheon and kill him. At the police station, he was told that they could take him to a wooded belt and bury him there. He is in a pre-trial detention facility.
- On 6 January 2022, ten law enforcement officers in civilian clothes detained 18-year-old Aziz Zholatov. He was beaten by them and reportedly lost consciousness. His 18-year-old girlfriend Nargiz Mombayeva was with him at the moment and a law enforcement officer put a gun to her head. Aziz has been charged with a criminal offence, but we do not know yet under what article of the Criminal Code of Kazakhstan.
- 5 January 2022 Anar Kaliyeva brought water and food for the protesters in the square. Her son Aziz Jolatov was also at the protest. On 6 January 2022 Anar Kaliyeva and Aziz Zholatov were detained, with Zholatov being severely beaten. Kaliyeva’s daughter said that on 6 January 2022 – 8 January 2022 at the police station, Zholatov continued to be beaten and threatened to be raped with a truncheon. At the time, his mother was tied to a chair and could hear her son screaming. As pre-trial detention facilities in Semey were overcrowded with those arrested for their participation in the protests, Anar Kaliyeva and Aziz Jolatov were taken to the pre-trial detention facility in Ust-Kamenogorsk, which is located more than 250km away from their home town. This made it almost impossible for the relatives to visit them in the pre-trial detention facility.
- On 6 January 2022, when the law enforcement started shooting peaceful protesters without warning in Semey, Daulet Mukhazhanov was trying to help a woman who fell down, but was shot in his spine and thigh. He fell down himself. Four people tried to help him, but riot police quickly approached them and started beating all of them. Instead of immediately taking Daulet Mukhazhanov to hospital, police officers handcuffed him inside their car and took him to hospital only two hours after. He underwent surgery and now his legs are paralyzed. On 17 January 2022 he was taken away from the hospital by police officers being paralysed. A criminal investigation is being conducted against him. He needs treatment and rehabilitation.
6.2 Fabrication of material evidence on ” involvement in terrorism”
The authorities not only torture people into signing “confessions” blindly, but also fabricate evidence that the detainees are “involved in terrorism”. In particular:
- The activist Darhan Ualiyev told his wife during her visit to the Almaty pre-trial detention facility that all detainees were beaten and he was once beaten for 12 hours, some were “tortured with tasers, some had burn wounds on their arms,”“one young man jumped from the fifth floor unable to withstand the torture.” After hours of beating, Darhan Ualiyev was forced to sign some documents. He informed his wife: “I was barely conscious, I signed their papers, why I signed them, I don’t know.”
- In Shymkent, police officers tortured civil activist Kanysh Beskulakov from Kyzylorda when he was under arrest. The police forced him to hold a machine gun and after that they took fingerprints of the activist from the machine gun.
- In Taldykorgan, at the local Police Department, policemen beat Samat Duisebekov for hours, forcing him to sign some documents.
- Rolan Maratov, 19-year old boy, detained during protests in Taldykorgan, was put in a pre-trial detention facility. There, at a meeting with his mother, he said that they undressed him, put a bag over his head, poured water on him and beat him with a stun gun, stuck needles under his fingernails and did not give him water or food for three days. Under these tortures he was forced to sign some documents, and he does not know what he signed.
- Asylmurat Karzhaubai in Taraz was put in pre-trial detention facility after police found a video of a peaceful protest in his phone on 5 January 2022. He was beaten in the pre-trial detention facility and his nose was broken. Karzhaubai’s relatives reported that in the pre-trial detention facility he was forced under torture to sign a “confession” that he had tried to “seize the akimat (local executive body)” with a “stone in his hands”. He was charged with “an act of terrorism” and “attacking the building”.
- Civil activists from Shymkent Lyazzat Dosmambetova, Zhanmurat Ashtayev and Kairat Sultanbek were arrested in the pre-trial detention facility on the charges of “attack or seizure of buildings, constructions, means of communication”. On 5 January 2022, Dosmambetova and Sultanbek were peacefully participating in a protest. At that moment, a peaceful protester was shot dead near them. Dosmambetova and Sultanbek tried to provide him first aid, but he was dead.
Zhanmurat Ashtayev did not participate in the rally: he was in the village on 4 January 2022 and at work on 5 January 2022. Witnesses confirm this, but the investigators and the court refuse to accept their testimony. On 8 January 2022 police officers in black uniform without identifying marks burst into Ashtayev’s house and detained him. The police also beat a neighbour boy who had stood up for Ashtayev. At the police station, Ashtayev was subjected to torture, he was beaten including on his ribs. Kairat Sultanbek was also subjected to torture.
According to the authorities, the activists “allegedly with weapons in hand, resisted the police and set fire to the museum and akimat” during protests in Shymkent. Judge Myrzakhmetov said there was video evidence, but refused to show it.
- In Kyzylorda, lawyer and torture victim Adilkhan Bedenbayev, father of 4, was arrested in the pre-trial detention facility on the charges of “participation in mass disorders”. He did not participate in rallies and was at home with this family during the protests in his city. A police investigator fabricates a criminal case against Bedenbayev for allegedly attempting to seize the prison building. Police claim that a map and blueprints of the local prison were found in the glove compartment of his car. The lawyer claims that police officers planted prison blueprints in his car. The lawyer had been critical of the local law enforcement in the past and his family believes that law enforcement agencies set him up in revenge. Bedenbayev told to the family through his lawyer that he is being beaten by the investigators, whom he criticised for human rights violations and abuse of power. Now the same investigator is fabricating a criminal case against him.
Bedenbayev told human rights defenders that police officers beat him severely on his kidneys and that he had large bruises on his body. Bendebayev was also threatened with imprisonment his 15-year-old son Didar unless he signed a false confession to the investigator. The authorities have denied the family and a lawyer the expertise on torture and provide a proper medical care. In order to obtain false evidence against Bedenbayev, police officers beat two detainees, Gabit Pirzhanov and Yerkebulan Doszhanov. This was reported by the detainees themselves and their relatives.
- On 9 January 2022 in Kyzylorda, Nurislam Molbagar was detained and put in a pre-trial detention facility for participating in peaceful protests. He reported that he was beaten in front of a state lawyer who did not even stand up for him. Molbagar was forced to sign some documents without being allowed to read them.
6.3 Tortured to death
Several cases have been reported in which peaceful protesters were found in morgues with signs of torture after being detained. This indicates that they died unable to withstand the brutal torture.
- On 6 January 2022, archaeologist Yerlan Zhagiparov was detained by national guard in Almaty. His brother found him in the morgue on 11 January 2022. Yerlan Zhagiparov was shot dead in his heart and abdomen. According to his brother Nurlan, when he found him in the morgue, Yerlan Zhagiparov was covered in scars, his arms were broken, he had handcuffs on his wrists, it appeared that he was tortured before his death.
- Almas Mukashev went to a rally in Taldykorgan on 4 January 2022. On 8 January 2022 he was surrounded by special forces in the street, beaten and taken to an unknown destination. Two days later his relatives found out about his death. In the morgue they saw that Mukashev’s body had handcuff marks, a fractured skull, broken arms and legs, and broken ribs.
- On 10 January 2020, 26-year-old geologist Yeldos Kaliyev was detained and taken to a police station. On 12 January 2020, his family found him in the morgue. The police told his family that they allegedly “found” a grenade and a baton in his possession during the search and that he “died while resisting“. According to his brother, in the morgue, Kaliyev had a broken nose, broken ribs, wounds on his spine and haematomas all over his body.
Moreover, Kazakhstani activists report that the authorities refuse to conduct an independent examination of the bullets removed from the bodies of the wounded and killed protesters. It helps to conceal exactly who (army, police, or the CSTO troops) was shooting at peaceful protesters.
6.4. “Allegations of torture are exaggerated” – authorities sabotage investigations and cover up perpetrators of torture
Tokayev stated in his interview of 29 January 2022: “There is a great deal of exaggeration in these kinds of statements [about torture]. There is naturally a lot of hysteria around the events in Almaty. People are concerned, one can understand”.
So far, the General Prosecutor’s Office of Kazakhstan has opened 170 cases on charges of torture and abuse of power.
However, this is negligible given the number of detainees (officially about 10,000), the mass nature of torture, and the constant flow of complaints of torture from the regions of Kazakhstan. There is every reason to believe that even these cases are unlikely to be brought to trial. The Prosecutor General has already stated that perpetrators of torture will be prosecuted “only if there is indisputable evidence”. So far, no one has been punished for mass torture against participants in the January protests.
Moreover, law enforcement agencies are intensifying prosecutions of those who have written complaints of torture. For example, Akylzhan Kiysimbayev reported: “When I was leaving the pre-trial detention facility a prosecutor named Azamat told me with a threat that I should not say anything about torture and beatings, unless I want to be arrested again“. In addition, in response to Kiysibayev’s statement that he was suspended in the basement cell of the pre-trial detention facility and tortured, the Interior Ministry threatened criminal liability under Article 274 of the Criminal Code – for “spreading knowingly false information“.
Another example that speaks of mutual responsibility and the impossibility of objective investigation of torture in Kazakhstan is the response of the Prosecutor’s office of Almaty region to the high-profile case of musician Vikram Ruzakhunov. “He was taken to a special detention facility in the Karasai district with bodily injuries. It was impossible to establish the origin of the injuries,” said the prosecutor’s office. At the same time Ruzakhunov himself described in detail how he was tortured by the police, and the Prosecutor’s Office did not explain in any way that Ruzakhunov, who was beaten, denounced himself on camera.
Another example of lies on the part of the law enforcement agencies is the statements made by the Ministry of Internal Affairs regarding the “emergency medical assistance” provided to all detainees.
From the testimonies of Adilbekuly, Kiysymbayev and other victims of torture, it is known that at police departments and pre-trial detention facilities they not only did not give medication or treat wounds but even punched the wounded areas. Detainees suffered from bleeding and the police ignored their complaints of acute pain from torture. In the pre-trial detention facility, medical examinations were conducted only formally and beaten detainees were given only antipyretic pills.
Moreover, those arrested, who are released from the pre-trial detention facility after publicity, are forced to sign non-disclosure agreements regarding the data of the investigation. In this way, the authorities are urging those prosecuted to keep quiet about the torture and fabrication of criminal cases.
On 10 February 2022, several dozen police officers marched outside the Anti-Corruption Agency in Taldykorgan to protest against the investigation into torture cases.
7. Conclusion and recommendation
Mass peaceful protests in Kazakhstan in January 2022 became the largest in Kazakhstan’s modern history. Economic demands quickly turned into political, with tens of thousands of peaceful protesters demanding a complete change of Nursultan Nazarbayev’s regime, i.e. systematic political reforms and building of democratic parliamentary republic.
Government-controlled criminal groups organised riots, arson and looting with the aim to discredit the peaceful protests. It was used as “justification” for the use of armed force, including a request to send the CSTO occupation troops to suppress peaceful anti-government protests.
The subsequent use of the army, Tokayev’s public order to shoot to kill without warning and the fact of firing real bullets at civilians, including protesters, gradually led to the decline of the protest movement. 227 people were officially recognised as dead as a result of the January 2022 events. Thousands of people were detained. Political persecutions continue despite the authorities’ claims that they conduct anti-terrorist operations. A number of human rights and civil activists were arrested for participation in peaceful protests.
Findings of official investigation of the authorities are by default incredible and unreliable due to the fact that there is no independent law enforcement and judiciary. Key points of this report and previous failures of the Kazakhstani authorities to carry out independent, transparent and thorough investigation into the Zhanaozen massacre (as noted in the latest EP resolution) indicate that there is a need for independent international investigation.
The reaction of the Kazakhstani authorities to the January events shows that they feel permissiveness and impunity. Tokayev’s order to “shoot to kill without warning” was disproportionate to the threats posed by peaceful protesters. Hundreds of people were killed. Some 10,000 people have been arbitrarily detained. Hundreds have been and continue to be tortured. The authorities of Kazakhstan committed crimes against humanity.
Meanwhile, the international community represented by diplomats and officials of the EU, the PACE, the OSCE and the European Commission called not to “jump to conclusions” and to wait for the official results of the investigation by the Kazakhstani authorities. There is no doubt that the Kazakhstani authorities are using the time to cover up their crimes. They are already fabricating evidence about the “20,000 terrorists” who allegedly attacked Kazakhstan.
Impunity is provoking new crimes. The international community is now faced with the issue of protecting universal human values and international conventions on human rights. Crimes against humanity which have been committed in Kazakhstan cannot be investigated by the Kazakhstani authorities.
The lenient stance of democratic governments, the OSCE, and the UN allows the regime to unleash even greater political repression and terror against the people of Kazakhstan , , , . To stop the bloodshed, mass persecutions and the torture of civilians the international community should intervene in the situation:
- Under the UN and the OSCE jurisdiction to send an international fact-finding mission to Kazakhstan to independently, comprehensively and transparently investigate events in Kazakhstan.
- To impose personal sanctions against Kazakhstan’s top government officials and representatives of law enforcement agencies responsible for gross human rights violations in the country.
- Consider at the level of the UN Security Council the possibility of filing a complaint with the International Criminal Court against the actions of the Kazakhstani authorities that have committed crimes against humanity – ordering the shooting of peaceful citizens and subjecting thousands of detainees to mass torture and ill-treatment. This includes citizens of Kyrgyzstan, which is subject to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
- To demand that the Kazakhstani authorities release all arbitrarily detained activists, political prisoners and stop politically motivated persecution of peaceful protesters, activists, journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders.
- Kazakhstan’s Human Rights Ombudsperson has failed many times to respond to serious violations of human rights, in particular in cases of political prosecution, as well as during current ongoing repressions. This implies that international investigations led by the OSCE and the UN should be conducted in cooperation with independent Kazakhstani civil society, who specialise in defending political prisoners, peaceful protesters and victims of torture.
- Given unprecedented for the country large-scale repressions, there is a need for urgent financial support programmes for Kazakhstani and international non-governmental organisations that provide assistance to victims of repression and mass shootings, torture and defend peaceful protesters in politically motivated cases.