Hot topics:

The monitoring of the socio-political situation in Kazakhstan

The domestic policy

The resignation of the head of the Administration of the President of Kazakhstan, Aslan Musin, and dissolution of the government, confirmed the expectations of experts with respect to personnel changes due to inter-clan fights around Nursultan Nazarbayev.

On the 21st of September, 2012,former head of the Presidential Administration of Kazakhstan, Aslan Musin, was transferred to a secondary position. He was appointed Chairman of the Audit Committee, as reported by the press service of the President’s Administration. Aslan Musin held the position of the head of the Presidential Administration of Kazakhstan for four years. 

On the 24th of September, 2012,  former Prime Minister Karim Masimov was appointed the head of the Presidential Administration. Along with his government, he announced his resignation. The same day, President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree on the appointment of the first Deputy Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov to the office of the new Prime Minister of Kazakhstan.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev commented on the aforementioned personnel changes in the government as follows: “Usually the government is changed when the time comes, when the economic and the social situation of the country is weakened, and the society demands changes. In our country it’s done in a different way. In our country it happened because the prime minister had submitted his resignation. He did it in the past year as well. Well, when a man is tired and wants to change his office, and he also explains it by the fact that a new person is needed, I yielded to his reasoning and dismissed him, accepting his resignation”. According to the President, the new Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov will ensure the “continuity and soft handover of power by the Government”.

Experts previously predicted the deposition of Aslan Musin amid allegations about the next stage of the inter-clan conflict around President Nazarbayev and the growth of the political influence of Aslan Musin. Rumours about the impending resignation of Aslan Musin increased after the retirement and the associated scandal surrounding former akim of Atyrau Province, Bergey Ryskaly– a man from Aslan Muslim’s circle.

On the 15th of August, 2012, Bergey Ryskaliyev was dismissed from the office of the akim of Atyrau Province on corruption charges. On the 20th of August, 2012, rumours were spread about his arrest, but they were later officially denied. Amanzhan Ryskaly, Bergey Ryskaly’s brother, was stripped of parliamentary powers in the 19th of September, 2012. Since that time, the exact location of the Ryskaly brothers has been uncertain. The KazTag agency reported that on the 13th of September, 2012, Bergey Ryskaly left Kazakhstan. 

By decree of the President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan for the first time law enforcement officers have undergone extraordinaryrecertification, and as a result, many have been dismissed from their posts. Prior to the extraordinary certification, 170 Almaty police officers left the ranks of the police on their own. 90% of Almaty police officers successfully passed certification, and 112 police officers will be laid off. Almaty Traffic Police Department showed the worst results of certification. Almost 12% of road police officers do not have the necessary qualifications. Head of the Department, Armand Sarbasov was recommended for dismissal. From the Almaty Department for Combating Economic Crimes 23 employees were dismissed. Also in Almaty, the head of the criminal police, the head of the Anti-Narcotics Department, was recommended for dismissal.

Officially, the purpose of the extraordinary certification is to create human capacity in order to establish a modern judicial system that meets the expectations of the society and business. According to Nursultan Nazarbayev, only after re-certification the issue of increasing salaries, expansion of the social package and improvement of technical equipment of the internal organs can be raised.

Secretary General of the International Police Association, Aleksandr Chaus believes that such measures do not improve the efficiency of the bodies, “Now they will remove the most odious, against whom they gathered damaging information. But everything will develop in the same direction. The certification is needed, but it will not solve the problems. There is a need to change the system itself, as we still have the post-Soviet system”

Many police officers are unhappy about the mass layoffs and they intend to seek reinstatement in the civil service. All the workers of the Anti-Narcotics Department of the Department of Interior in Almaty were dismissed, which paralysed the work of the department. One of the majors of the Department stated that they were warned about the recertification just three days before it was conducted, although, according to the law, they are obliged to notify of this fact no later than twenty days before the recertification.

A former employee of the escort company of the Department of Interior in Shymkent said that technical problems prevented successful testing, and the physical fitness testing took place at the 40-degree heat, and, as a result, some police officers were admitted to intensive care.

Human rights

Eyewitnesses and international observers again report shocking beating of prisoners and their relatives in Kazakhstan. Human rights defenders are not permitted to enter the prison; authority does not respond to acts of torture. This proves that fundamental violations of human rights have been systematically violated, and there are no mechanisms to investigate complaints of torture in Kazakhstan.   

On the 20th of September, 2012, family members of inmates in prison located in the village of Karabas in Karaganda Province saw the prison officers brutally beat prisoners, outside their screams were clearly heard. People gathered outside the prison, demanding the meeting with the prisoners to make sure that they were all right. On that day, ambulances and cars with soldiers came to prison; the soldiers rudely pushed family members. The employee of the committee of the correctional system, who refused to give his name, explained that the invasion of troops was a planned measure in orders to seize the prohibited items from prisoners. According to the prosecutor, two prisoners was transferred under guard to hospital, but he refused to give the names of the victims.

In the night from 20th of September, 2012 to 21th of September, 2012, after threats of the prosecutor and the requirements to disperse, soldiers began to beat and arrest relatives of prisoners soldiers. Human rights activist Vadim Kuramshin reported that as a result of the use of force against civilians, a pensioner, Sovya Shmachkova, born in 1939, suffered injury. The wife of one of the convicted, Zhanna Filimonova, as a result of strong emotions connected with  these events, suffered a miscarriage. Local press reported that outside the prison, 26 persons were arrested and taken to the detention center. They were charged with disobedience to the authorities.

Earlier, on the 11th of September, 2012, a group of inmates of the prison in Karazhal, Karaganda Province (among them, a political prisoner Aron Atabek) appealed to the international court with a complaint of torture and inhuman conditions. The statement said that the prisoners have been severely beaten and placed in solitary confinement, their packages are confiscated; there are cases of injuries and deaths of prisoners as a result of the beatings. Igor Terekhov, an inmate, after beating by the prison staff had broken legs and spine, and for many years he could not get a document confirming his disability. Aron Atabek, despite cardiac ischemia, sciatica, pneumonia, has been constantly remanded in the solitary confinement. In 2012, convicted Rustem Daken hanged himself, accusing the prison authority of his death. The same year, as a result of beating by prison staff, Shamil Yaroslavtsev died.

In prison, prisoners have been fed with spoiled food and dirty water, and a cleansing and drainage system does not work, which creates the risk of epidemics. The representative of the General Prosecutor’s Office has not yet commented on these facts, and the head of the press service of the Committee of the Correctional System Galymzhan Khasenov stated that he did not know anything about it.

In another village of Karaganda Province – Karagan – on the 3rd of September, 2012, after a riot in the prison, one prisoner died. But authorities do not associate his death with a suppression of the riot. Human rights activists have sent a request for the explanation as to the cause of death of a prisoner, and they claim that they have not been permitted to enter the prison of Karaganda Province.

For five months of 2012, the Coalition of NGOs Against Torture, according to the organisation, have received more than a hundred appeals. The MIA representative, Kuat Ospanov, said that during these six months, two criminal investigations into torture were initiated. 

International organisations and people of Kazakhstan are concerned over violations of labour rights in the country. Dozens of employees of the ‘Munai Field Service’ went on strike. Workers of Shymkent branch of the ‘Petro Kazakhstan Oil Products’ oil company warn of a potential industrial action.

On the 28th of September, 2012,  employees of the ‘Munai Field Service’ company boycotted the work in the company, demanding the payment of salary arrears and improvement of social conditions. After a conversation with the Akim of Zhanaozen, Serikbai Trumov, the company agreed to meet some of the requirements of strikers.

On the 11th of September, 2012, Chairman of the labour union of workers of the ‘Petro Kazakhstan Oil Products’ company, Erlan Baltabay, reported that employees of the company are denied to receive vacation and they are not reimbursed the vouchers to sanatoriums, that they are entitled to get, also, since 2007 their salaries have not raised. Having received no response from the management of the company, approximately three hundred oil workers submitted a complaint to the prosecutor’s office, stating the willingness to organise a rally.

On the 10th of September, 2012, international human rights organisation Human Rights Watch accused the government of Kazakhstan in violation of the rights of thousands of oil workers and called to bring labour laws into line with international standards and to stop using criminal prosecution against union members.

The report of the Commission on Human Rights under the President of Kazakhstan mentions the problem of timely payment of salaries, but says nothing about the labour dispute in the Mangistau Province, which ended with the Zhanaozen tragedy of 2011. Chairman of the Commission, Kuanysh Sultanov, said that “over the past two years, not one member of the assembly have been affected by the actions of law enforcement bodies”.Lest we forget that in December, 2011 in Zhanaozen, striking oil workers were dispersed by the police with the use of tear gas, firearms and weapons with rubber bullets. They opened fire on the civilians – the unarmed participants of the strike and their families. 16 people were killed, dozens were injured. 

The freedom of mass media

Authorities prohibited public media to disseminate informal information in case of any emergency events. This decision points to serious problems with freedom of speech in Kazakhstan and it contradicts Astana’s official rhetoric on compliance with freedom of speech in the country.On the 11th of September, 2012, Minister of Culture and Information of Kazakhstan, Darkhan Mynbay, stated that the authorities also also made efforts to prevent the spread of negative interpretation of official information through all channels. 

On the 27th of September, 2012, the information was spread that more than 40 employees were dismissed from the TV company ‘Almaty’. According to the producer of the TV channel, Dosan Kyzaybekuly, the reason for mass layoffs was strict censorship by akimat which bans many materials related to national issues, as well as social and community problems.

On the 10th of September, 2012, the ‘Adil Soz’ organisation defending journalists, the Union of Journalists of Kazakhstan and UNESCO in Kazakhstan stated that from January to September, 2012 in Kazakhstan eight threats against journalists, 15 assaults on editorial and media workers, as well as 102 cases of blocking and restricting access to the Web sites have been reported.

According to the data of the Press Freedom Index for the years 2011-2012, Kazakhstan ranks 154th among 179 countries.

The terrorism

Investigation into the killing of 14 soldiers and a gamekeeper, committed on the 28th of May, 2012, at the ‘Arkankergen’ border post in Almaty Province, is another evidence of the lack of justice in the judicial system of Kazakhstan, as well as human rights violations in the country.

On the 20th of September, 2012, Vladimir Chelakh, grandfather of the accused Vladislav Chelakh, informed at a press conference in Almaty that his grandson has been remanded in custody for more than three months, and therefore. According to the law, he should be released. He declared his intention to apply to the investigating authorities with the demand that the prosecution of his grandson be annulled.

The mother of the accused, Svetlana Vashchenko, says that his son has received injections. Chelakh himself says these are vitamins for heart treatment. Also, according to Chelakh, they are going to isolate him for at least six months. His mother says that her son is depressed. Journalists fear that in injections, Chelakh may receive psychotropic substances in order to bring his state to the needed diagnosis of a mentally deranged person. This would be an opportunity to close the case, as the results of genomic expertise, according to Chelakh’s counsel, refute the official version of his guilt.

According to the results of genomic examination conducted by the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences Charité in Berlin, among three unidentified border guards they were able to identify only one: Rustem Akylbaev’s body. Soldiers’ Mothers Committee advocates that the two unidentified border guards: Denis Rey and Meyirkhan Imenov would be recognised as missing because their death has not been proven. Instead, D. Rey and M. Imenov’s parents were handed a document recognising their sons as killed – “on the basis of the entire evidence”. Chelakh’s lawyer, Serik Sarsenov, presented the theory that the unidentified bodies may be corpses of criminals, which proves that his client is innocent.

Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office announced that the investigation in the case against Chelakh was extended till the 4th of October, 2012.

Earlier, on the 13th of August, 2012, the information about the psychological pressure and torture of the sole survivor of the frontier post, the 20-year-old soldier Vladislav Chelakh, was announced. V. Chelakh’s defenders also faced the pressure and obstacles in their work: in particular, there were attempts to deprive the lawyer Basil Rezvan of the power of attorney to represent the interests of the border guard’s mother.

As many as 11 criminal cases were simultaneously instituted against Vladislav Chelakh. First, he admitted to have committed the crime, but later renounced his initial testimony and stated that he had given it under the threat of rape. Serviceman Chelakh announced that he also underwent physical torture – they squeezed his fingers the door, they slapped him in the face, also, for a long time he was deprived of the possibility to meet with his mother. After V. Chelakh refused to recognise his guilt, the details of the case have been made unavailable to the public. 

More intensive activity of extremist groups, as well as the escalation of violence gradually dispel the image of a ‘politically stable Kazakhstan’ in Central Asia. In September 2012, only in Atyrau Province, several incidents with the use of weapons took place.

In Atyrau, on the 5th of September, 2012, in the private room, a bomb exploded, as a result, one person died on the spot. In the city of Kulsary, Atyrau Province, on the 12th of September, 2012, a cross fire in an apartment building took place. At the place of the special operation, organised in order to detain suspected terrorists, four persons were killed, one man detonated himself and he remains in serious condition in the Atyrau hospital. The incidents which occurred on the 5th of September, 2012 and 12th of September, 2012, were recognised as religious extremism.

In the night from the 15th of September, 2012 to the 16th of September, 2012, in Atyrau, unidentified persons commited an attack on the city police office and shot on police officers. Two policemen were injured. On the 21st of September, 2012, Atyrau in the suburbs of Atyrau, a special operation to detain suspects in the attack on the police ended; they were all killed.