Kazakhstan human rights activist Vadim Kuramshin has been awarded the international Ludovic-Trarieux Prize of 2013. The prize is awarded annually to civil activists and advocates involved in human rights defence. Vadim Kuramshin, now serving an extended sentence in prison, continues to fear for his safety and is requesting a transfer to a different penal colony.
The decision to award the Ludovic-Trarieux Prize to Vadim Kuramshin was made on 20th June 2013 by a special jury, consisting of 29 European advocates, headed by Bertrand Favreau. The prize itself dates back to 1984 and was named after the French advocate and political activists Ludovic Trarieux – founder of the League for the defence of Human Rights and the Citizen. The Prize was first awarded to Nelson Mandela.
For the time being, Vadim Kuramshin remains in prison. On 7th December 2012, he was sentenced to 12 years in a top-security prison facility along with confiscation of his property on charges of extortion. It has to be mentioned that the previous trial jury acquitted Vadim Kuramshin of the charges levied against him, but by a ruling of the court of appeal, the case was deemed to subject of re-examination. Vadim Kuramshin was arrested again in September 2012, shortly after he had come back from the OSCE Human dimension conference in Warsaw. The court case against Kuramshin was accompanied by numerous irregularities.According to human rights activists, Vadim Kuramshin is a prisoner of conscience and was convicted as a result of his activity as a human rights defender. In the European Parliament resolution on Kazakhstan of 18th April 2013, criminal persecutions against Vadim Kuramshin were documented to be politically motivated.
In Kazakhstan, Vadim Kuramshin is known, first and foremost, for his activity in the area of defence of prisoners’ rights. It was thanks to him that the general public became aware of the numerous facts pertaining to the harsh treatment of prisoners serving their sentences in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan NGO and human rights activists included him in the list of contemporary Kazakhstan political prisoners (the list also featuring Aron Atabek, Vladimir Kozlov, Aleksandr Kharlamov, Roza Tuletayeva, Maksat Dosmagambetov). In May 2013, Vadim Kuramshin was also one of the laureates of the “Freedom” prize, awarded annually to to persons making a significant contribution to the development of democracy and human rights defence in Kazakhstan.
Vadim Kuramshin is serving his prison term in the top-security ЕS 164/4 penal colony in the village of Gorny (North Kazakhstan region). In the context of his human rights activity, Kuramshin has repeatedly raised the issue of prisoners’ rights being infringed in this very colony. Therefore, it is feared that his term in the ЕS 164/4 colony may pose a threat to Vadim Kuramshin’s health and sadly even to his life. On 12th March 2013, a group of international organisations Open Dialog Foundation, Front Line Defenders, Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Reporters Without Borders, Civil Rights Defenders, Campaign Kazakhstan) extended a letter to Nursultan Nazarbayev, pleading for him to revise the court verdict relocating Vadim Kuramshin to ES 164/4 corrective colony.
On 26th June 2013, it was revealed that Vadim Kuramshin was visited in the colony by a Kazakhstan lower chamber MP Aygul Solovyova accompanied by the head of the Public monitoring commission for North Kazakhstan region Evgeniy Golendukhin. During the meeting, the human rights activist expressed his desire to be transferred to another top-security colony, located in the village of Arshaly in the vicinity of Astana. He supposes he will be much safer while residing there than in his present colony. Moreover, Kuramshin’s relatives and friends would find it much easier to reach the place. Vadim Kuramshin also asked previously for a right to make a telephone call, so that he would be able to contact his lawyer (according to security regulations of the colony he was sentenced to, a telephone calls are only permitted in exceptional circumstances). The head of the colony, Baytasov V.O., explained that Vadim Kuramshin had already once made use of his right to make a telephone call.
Olga Koltunova, Vadim Kuramshin’s mother, stated that she last saw her son during a short-term visit which took place on 10th June 2013. He is said to have expressed no special complaints regarding the administration, having only said that his cell was very cold, and passing comments on his inability to understand the administration’s refusal to pass on warm clothing to him which his friends and relatives had sent him.
In contrast to the previous acquittal by the trial jury, the court of Kazakhstan passed down a disproportionately harsh sentence against Vadim Kuramshin. There are sufficient grounds to believe that the authorities chose to deal with the inconvenient human rights activist in this way according to a pre-orchastrated agenda. Similar methods of political elimination of opposition are in a stark contrast to the principles of the rule of law as well as international commitments in the area of human rights defence which Kazakhstan has pledged to uphold. We appeal to the international human rights organisations to monitor the situation of Vadim Kuramshin’s rights observance in the colony and to continue the struggle for his freedom.
The Open Dialog Foundation appreciates the fact of Vadim Kuramshin having been awarded the Ludovic-Trarieux prize, which is a testimony to the acknowledgment of his contribution to human rights defence in Kazakhstan. We appeal to the Committee on criminal executive system of Kazakhstan Ministry of Interior, pledging them to review the possibility of Vadim Kuramshin being transferred from the ES 164/4 colony into another colony of adequate security regime where he would not feel endangered.
Everyone interested in helping us support our appeals may send their letters to:
- The Republican State Institution “The Penal Colony EU-164/4”, The KUIS of the MIA of the RK – North Kazakhstan, Esil District, Gornyi village, tel. +7 71543-3-14-03, e-mail: [email protected]. The Head of the Penal Colony: V. O. Baytasov.
- The Commissioner for Human Rights in the Republic of Kazakhstan – Kazakhstan, 010000, Astana, Left Bank, House of Ministries, 15, entrance; e-mail: [email protected], +7 (7172) 740548. The Commissioner for Human Rights –A. O. Shakirov.