Freedom of peaceful meetings and rallies
Once again, civil society activists in Kazakhstan are being persecuted for participating in peaceful protests. For attempting to organise a rally, law enforcement authorities arrested the Chairman of the Union of Muslims of Kazakhstan, Murat Telibekov, and his supporters. Also arrested were protesters on the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repression and representatives of the social movement “Let’s leave the housing to the people”.
On 3 June, 2013, Murat Telibekov, on behalf of the Union of Muslims of Kazakhstan and the Muslim Committee for Human Rights in Central Asia, issued an appeal calling on the akim, Akhmetzhan Yesimov to meet with the citizens in order to discuss the current issues on 4 June, 2013 at 11:00 a.m. near the city akimat: “It is worth noting that the meeting of the citizens with A. Yesimov provides him with a great opportunity to demonstrate his leadership skills and the ability to solve complex social issues”. The appeal was considered illegal by the city administration.
On 4 June, 2013, at 7:00 a.m., during a morning walk Murat Telibekov was taken into custody and detained without being charged. Murat Telibekov himself said, “I was forced into a car like some kind of war criminal, terrorist or repeat offender. Police officers waited outside door all night, waiting for me to go out for a walk. They came in a group of six or seven… As a result I was forcibly taken to the Bostandyk police station [District Department ofапр Internal Affairs], where I was held, again without being presented with any charges. I was refused a phone call, my phone has been confiscated, and I was not allowed to take my medication when I felt bad…”.
According to a Kazakh blogger Dmitriy Schelokov, Murat Telibekov was detained by police for nearly 9 hours. In the evening of the same day, the case was sent for review to the Administrative Court, which in only ten minutes, (in the closed mode) decided to detain Murat Telibekov for seven days for a violation of the procedure with respect to organising and conducting a rally. However Murat Telibekov was not present at the meeting, as he has remained in police custody. As it turned out, Murat Telibekov was arrested at the request of “citizen Shevchenko”, who was not at the court session. After all that happened, during his stay in the detention centre for administrative detainees Murat Telibekov had a heart attack. As a result he was taken to hospital and stayed there for several hours, after which he was transported back to the detention centre.
On 4 June, 2013, at the time determined by Murat Telibekov, residents of Almaty began to gather near the city administration, demanding a meeting with the akim Akhmetzhan Yesimov. The prosecutor warned the protesters of possible criminal and administrative liability in connection with the unauthorised rallies. After unsuccessful attempts to meet with the akim, the protestors headed toward the Bostandyk district police station to demand the release of Murat Telibekov. However, at that time policeman appeared and arrested two of the most active protesters — Ermek Narymbaev and Madel Ismailov. Administrative Court found Ermek Narymbaev guilty of resisting the authorities and decided to incarcerate him for ten days. Ermek Narymbaev and Madel Ismailov were fined 34,620 tenge (about 170 euros) for participating in an illegal rally.
Earlier, a wave of arrests of civil society activists took place on 31 May, 2013. In particular, during the events in honour of the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repression, opposition activists Zhasaral Kuanyshalin, Sagat Zhusip and Zhenis Doszhanov were detained. Two members of the organisational committee of the “Freedom” award — Nurlan Zholdasov and Gulzhan Lepesov were taken for interrogation to the Department of Financial Police, who believe that the “Freedom” award is being funded personally by opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyazov. Recently, the authorities have been using the financial police as an additional instrument of pressure and harassment of civil society activists in Kazakhstan.
On 22 May, 2013 and 27 May, 2013, in Astana law enforcement authorities detained several dozen activists, who demanded the government renegotiate the terms of mortgage contracts and stop the eviction of troubled borrowers from their only properties. Having united in a social movement “Let’s leave the housing to the people”, about 300 bank borrowers from different regions arrived in Astana to appeal to the Chairman of the National Bank and the President of Kazakhstan. The borrowers are calling on them for support with the payment of mortgage loans by citing the example of how the state has subsidized troubled banks during the crisis.
On 22 May, 2013, more than 70 activists were arrested in front of the government and parliament building, and then detained at a police station until late at night. Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court of Astana decided to imprison a human rights defender Bolatbek Blyalov and activist Kyzdygoy Azharkulova for ten days, and imposed a penalty of 17,310 tenge (about 90 euros) on the chairman of the public movement “Let’s leave the housing to the people”. On 27 May, 2013, on the central square of Astana law enforcement authorities forced 25 activists who went on hunger strike into a police van and took them to the police station. Journalist Berik Zhagiparov was held for 15 days. At the trial he pointed out that he had not participated in the rally, but only highlighted it, therefore executing his professional duties. Currently, the bank borrowers evicted from their apartments are waiting for a reaction from President Nursultan Nazarbayev regarding their appeals.
The head of the largest Kazakh association of NGOs, close to the organs of the government, said that he opposes the funding of organisations of the “third sector” from abroad. At the same time, representatives of NGOs which are inconvenient to the government report politically motivated registration problems.
On 22 April, 2013, Nurlan Erimbetov, President of the Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan — a public organisation that unites about 1,000 NGOs — said that all Kazakh NGOs should be funded solely by the Government. It is worth noting that the first goal of the Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan is the dialogue with authorities. Also, the organization is engaged in implementation of orders of the President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Within the management of the organisation are people who used to work in various government departments.
Representatives of NGOs expressed their concern over the position of President of the Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan. On 26 April, 2013, the head of the Public Fund “Amansaulyk” Bakhyt Tumenova observed that the statements of Nurlan Erimbetov may be construed as a restriction of civil society and are contrary to the international obligations of Kazakhstan. The head of the Public Fund “Aimag”, Sholpan Aytenova, noted that public funding cannot cover the whole range of NGOs, as it is predominantly designed for the implementation of public policy. A political scientist Dulatbek Kydyrbekuly pointed out that, due to high dependence on government funding, the majority of NGOs is “accountable to the Government”, not to the public. The leader of the movement “Ult Tagdyry”, Dos Koshim, emphasises that development of the “third sector” in Kazakhstan is negatively affected by the bias of the government in terms of funding and supporting of individual NGOs.
At the same time, representatives of NGOs in their activities criticized the political and social initiatives of the government, and stated that the Department of Justice intends to prevent the registration of such organisations. In particular, the human rights activist Asel Nurgazieva said to the Open Dialogue Foundation that the Ministry of Justice had already refused to register the Public Association “Echo of Zhanaozen” four times. According to the Statute, the purpose of “Echo of Zhanaozen” is to support the victims of the events of 16-17 December, 2011, in the town of Zhanaozen by providing legal and medical assistance, organising and conducting meetings and other public events (including international) on the implementation and protection of human rights.
For more than six months an opposition politician, Mikhail Sizov has been trying to register a republican public organisation “Committee for the Protection of Political Prisoners of Kazakhstan”. On 5 December, 2012 ,the Ministry of Justice of Kazakhstan refused to register the Committee, as its name used the word “Kazakhstan”, the use of which is, according to the authorities, against the law. Mikhail Sizov said that currently the members of the organisation are awaiting a decision from the Ministry of Justice on the second variant for the name — “Committee for the Protection of Kazakh political prisoners”. However Mikhail Sizov is confident that new official reasons will be found in order to refuse the registration, since the existence of political competition from the civilian sector is disadvantageous for the government.
A German parliament deputy Andrei Junco notes that in recent years Kazakh NGOs assume the role of the opposition in dialogue with the European Union.