Nursultan Nazarbayev’s initiative to introduce labour, administrative and criminal liability for “intentional provocation of labour conflict” by the end of this year limits the possibility of citizens to protect their political and labour rights. Should this law be implemented,anyone can be arrested, e.g. for the demand to raise salary in the company. The President gave this instruction in his policy statement on the establishment of the Universal Labour Society, published on the 10th of July, 2012 in the “Kazakhstan Truth” newspaper.
Earlier, on the 5th of July, 2012, during the Mining and Metallurgical Congress, the President refused to meet with employees of ArcelorMittal Steel Works JSC who on the 29th of June issued their pre-strike ultimatum, demanding higher salary. Instead, the First Vice-Minister of Industry and Trade of Kazakhstan, Albert Rau criticised calls of the trade unions to raise salaries in the face of falling prices and decreasing demand for goods.
The strike of employees of the “Munayfieldservice” in Zhanaozen on the 24th of July, 2012 was more successful. The objective of the strike, which was the first industrial action in Zhanaozen since the tragic events of December, 2011, was to stop mass job cuts under the guise of sending employees on a mandatory vacation. The city authorities forced the CEO to cancel the order to force workers to use vacation time.
Internal forces were deployed to Zhanaozen after the end of the judicial process in the case of the akims (governors) of Zhanaozen who were accused of corruption: Zhalgas Babakhanov and his successor Orak Sarbopeyev. Locals attribute increased military presence in the town with their application for permission to hold a protest rally in connection with the court sentencing of the former officials; they consider the ruling overly lenient.
On the 20th of July, 2012, Z. Babakhanov was sentenced to two years’ probation, and earlier, on the 22th of June, 2012, O. Sarbopeyev was acquitted.One of the demands of the Zhanaozen residents who came to the meeting with Prime Minister Karim Maksimov on the 17th of July, was the abolition of acquittal with respect to O. Sarbopeyev.On the 24th of July, 2012, The General Prosecutor’s Office of the Mangistau District appealed against O. Sarbopeyev’s acquittal.
On the 26th of July, 2012, information was disseminated that inhabitants of the town of Zhanaozen intend to submit a formal application to the city administration for permission to hold a rally to express their disagreement with an overly lenient sentence against the former akim of the town, Z. Babakhanov. Also, on the central square, relatives of the convicted participants of the Zhanaozen events are going to organise a hunger strike. The town received a military backup – the internal forces came in.
The opposition civil activists Bolat Atabayev and Zhanbolat Mamay, who had been arrested on charges of inciting social hatred and calling for the overthrow of constitutional order during the industrial action of oil workers in Zhanaozen in December 2011, were released from custody. Three other opposition leaders: Vladimir Kozlov, Serik Sapargali and Akzhanat Aminov, who are defendants in the same case, still remain under arrest. The wave of outrage of the Kazakh, and international community in connection with the politically motivated persecution in Kazakhstan played an important role in the liberation of B. Atabayev and Z. Mamay.
The famous director B. Atabayev was released from the detention facility in Aktau on the 3trd of July, 2012, and the leader of the “Rukh Pen Til” youth organisation Z. Mamay was released on the 13th of July, 2012. Both oppositionists were transferred from the category of “defendants” to “witnesses” pursuant to Article 65 of the Criminal Code, which refers to exemption from criminal prosecution in connection with active repentance. Those arrested refused to give false testimony against Vladimir Kozlov, the leader of the unregistered party “Alga!”. Instead, in the statements submitted to the National Security Committee, B. Atabayev and Z. Mamay confirmed that they did give speeches to oil workers in Zhanaozen, and that they are sorry that blood was shed.
International organisations, namely: Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, the Italian Federation of Journalists, labour unions organisations, and leaders of the Russian opposition called the investigation politically motivated and issued statements in defence of the arrested opposition leaders. The latter, in particular, believe that in the 21st century employing this kind of methodology of dealing with dissent is unacceptable and discredits Kazakhstan in the eyes of the world community.
The president of the “Freedom House” organisation, David Kramer called on the Kazakh government to carry out an independent investigation into the Zhanaozen events with the participation of international organisations and now intends to ask what has been done in this regard. But, as D. Kramer says, the government manifested no interest in conducting an objective investigation.
Freedom of the media
In the “Freedom of the Press” report, prepared by the international human rights organisation “Freedom House”, Kazakhstan fell into the category of non-free countries. As stated by the president of the organisation David Kramer, Kazakhstan is one of the few OSCE countries, in which there is no law on the freedom of information. The “Freedom House” monitors the cases of the criminal prosecution of journalists, attacks carried out against them, as well as the use of the judicial system to prevent or hamper the activity of the independent media. In response to the initiative of the head of the country N. Nazarbayev to develop a Journalist’s Code of Ethics, D. Kramer stated that such a code should be developed by journalists themselves, and not by public bodies.
In Almaty, the police detained and released civic activists only after taking explanatory statements from them. It concerns both those who were just trying to congratulate President Nursultan Nazarbayev on his birthday, and those who demanded the release of opposition politicians.
On the 6th of July, 2012 the journalists of the Janaozen website: Salamat Omash, Dias Beysenbek, Sherniyaz Shagatay, Muratbek Oraz and Syrym Baymukhan were detained and taken to the police station while making their way to the post office with a card which contained wishes for N. Nazarbayev on the occasion of his birthday. Also that day, one more journalist and civic activist Esbergen Azamat who demanded the release of Zhanbolat Mamay, as well as the journalist Erzhan Shayzhanov, who was covering this event, were detained and released after writing an explanatory statement. Earlier, on the 3rd of July, 2012, it became known that the journalist of the Zhanaozen website Dias Beysenbek received a warning from the Almaatynskiy Administrative Court for taking part in a rally in support of Bolat Atabayev and Zhanbolat Mamay, which was held on the 15th of July.
After being unblocked for a short period of time, therespublika-kaz.info website was soon blocked again in Kazakhstan. On the 4th of July, 2012, the online portal which was blocked back in May, 2010 could be opened directly – without the use of proxy server. Soon, on the 12th of July, 2012 information was disseminated that the respublika-kaz.info website was blocked by the decision of the court of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The journalists of the online portal appealed to the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The press service of the Ministry stated that they were going to verify whether such a ruling exists or not.
The General Secretary of the ANSDP “Azat” party, Amirzhan Kosanov believes that the “Respublika” newspaper may be soon tied to the judicial process against Kozlov, Sapargali, Amirova, Atabayev and Mamay be closed by a court decision.
The problem of terrorism in Kazakhstan surfaced again, and the work of law enforcement agencies has been severely criticised by the President after a fire broke out at a private house in the village of Tausamal, Almaty Province on the 11th of July, 2012. During the examination of the scene, investigators found firearms, ammunition, police clothing and religious literature. Eight people were killed, including four children. Presumably, the fire could have resulted from an improvised explosive device. The Prosecutor’s Office of the Almaty Province instituted criminal proceedings under Article 24, part 1 and Article 233 part 3, letter ‘b (“Preparation for Terrorism”) of the Criminal Code.
On the 12th of July, 2012 in the Parliament, President Nursultan Nazarbayev held a meeting in order to discuss the issues related to the fight against terrorism and extremism. The President gave an instruction to conduct an audit of the entire system for monitoring and proactive prevention of threats from terrorism and extremism.