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Kazakhstan: MEPs are shocked by the deaths of human rights activists

On October 16, 2020, two letters signed by twenty-four MEPs representing 14 EU Member States addressed Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in the context of the extremely worrying human rights trend in the country. 

One letter was promoted by MEP Isabel Santos (Portugal; S&D) and was signed by other seven MEPs including Petras Auštrevičius (Lithuania; Renew) and Nacho Sánchez Amor (Spain; S&D). The second letter was initiated by MEP Helmut Scholz (Germany; GUE/NGL) with the participation of other fifteen MEPs among them being Brando Benifei (Italy; S&D) and Niklas Nienass (Germany; Greens/EFA). 

In the letters, MEPs demanded transparent investigations into the deaths of three activists: Dulat Agadil, Amanbike Meirkhanova and Serik Orazov. It is important to note that the family of Dulat Agadil, a prominent human rights activist and blogger who was murdered while in police custody in February 2020, is now subjected to constant pressure for seeking the truth about his death as well as for demanding access to the criminal file. The authorities are also persecuting the activists who participated in As and Asar (traditional ceremonies) for honoring his memory and providing  humanitarian support for Dulat’s family.

From 30 July to 27 September 2020, the monitoring registered more than 200 cases of political persecution including 39 criminal cases initiated against activists who paid tribute to Dulat Agadil. This points out to a rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the country and MEPs expressed their deep concern with these latest developments. Likewise, the arbitrary use of “extremism” accusations was highlighted as well as the fact that the numerous previous appeals of the European Parliament and the UN Special Rapporteur Fionnuala Ní Aoláin which called for the review of the anti-extremism legislation were ignored by the Kazakhstan’s government. The two letters make reference to at least 5 criminal cases linked to the authorities’ fight against “extremism”, even though the situation now is even worst with 70 new politically motivated criminal cases being initiated against civil society representatives. 59 of them are related to the “Koshe Partiyasy” (in English “Street Party”) and “Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan” peaceful opposition movements, illegally proclaimed as extremists.

The letters also condemn the widespread use of torture in Kazakhstani prisons and outline the concerns regarding the fate of political prisoners who continue serving their terms in jails, despite the European Parliament’s request for the release of all political prisoners. Since May 2020, the number of political prisoners has increased significantly: 21 persons are unjustly imprisoned, most of them being civil activists. Among them are Maks Bokayev, Almat Zhumagulov, Kenzhebek Abishev, Aset Abishev, Aron Atabek, Igor Chuprina, Kairat Klyshev, Abai Begimbetov, Askhat Zheksebayev, Serik Idyryshev, Askar Ibrayev, Medet Yeseneev, Murat Baimagambetov, Marat Duysembiev and many others.

They equally stressed the worrying cases of civil society activists Nurbol Onerkhan and Dametkan Aspandiyarova who are under house arrest and now risk long-prison terms on lawless accusations.   

Worryingly, every year, the Coalition Against Torture registers approximately 200 incidents of torture, hence the lives of all political prisoners are now in danger. The authorities are trying hard to hide these figures and are persecuting human rights activists who report on this topic, for instance this is the case of Elena Semenova

Furthermore, the authorities of Kazakhstan are constantly harassing the human rights defenders who are fighting the regime. Their names are Dana Zhanay, Altynai Tuksikova, Anna Shukeyeva, Nazym Serikpekova, Zukhra Nariman, Alma Nurusheva and Daryn Khasenov. The MEPs stressed the fact that they are well aware about the abuse of anti-crisis measures in the context of COVID-19 outbreak for pressuring human rights defenders who exercised their right to peaceful protests or made public the mismanagement of the pandemic.

The undersigned urged President Tokayev to respect the human rights conditionalities enshrined in the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Kazakhstan and the EU as well as to implement the European Parliament’s 2019 Human Rights Resolution. The MEPs reiterated that the government of Kazakhstan should demonstrate its full commitment to human rights and highlighted their constant demand regarding the immediate release of all political prisoners and the cessation of all forms of political repression against civil society activists, social media users and human rights defenders.

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