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PACE Members: “Assistance funds for the judiciary in Kazakhstan: need for an audit”

During the 2019 Winter Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), PACE members touched upon various different issues of global interest, from problems of objectivity to media freedom and legal tools to enable the Council of Europe’s governments to adopt sanctions programmes aimed at protecting human rights worldwide – the so-called Global Magnitsky Act.

On January 24, a group of twenty-two members led by Italian Senator Roberto Rampi signed Written Declaration no. 670, in which they raise once again their concerns about the justice system and political persecutions in Kazakhstan.

The names of the many politically prosecuted persons that have been imprisoned for up to eight years include Ablovas Dzhumayev, Aset Abishev, Almat Zhumagulov, Kezhenbek Abishev, Iskander Yerimbetov, Dmitrii Pestov and Vasillina Sokolenko. Particular attention is put on the case of activist Aigul Akberdieva, a mother of four minor children who has been facing the imminent risk of being sentenced to up to 10 years for taking part in a civic protest, and who was finally acquitted on February 6. The next day, the chairman of the Aktau City Court, Malik Kenzhaliyev, was removed from his post and his powers as a judge were also terminated, probably because of the final decision on Akberdieva’s case.

Written Declaration no. 670 is directly linked to Written Declaration no. 663, “Financial assistance for Kazakhstan must be withheld unless significant human rights progress is made”, in which 31 PACE members urged the European Union and the Council of Europe to withhold financial support for Kazakhstan, unless the country made genuine progress in terms of human rights. Because of the absence of real improvements, the PACE members encourage the Council of Europe and the European Union as a whole to initiate an audit of all the funds granted to Kazakhstan for support and development programmes.

PACE Members also noted that 19 of the UN recommendations submitted in favour of political prisoners, in particular Mukhtar Dzhakishev, Maks Bokayev and Iskander Yerimbetov, who were subjected to torture, ill-treatment and arbitrary detention in prison, were blatantly ignored by the authorities. Still, Kazakhstan submitted its candidature for a place in the UN Human Rights Council.

At the end of this Written Declaration, PACE members call upon the Council of Europe and the European Union as a whole to conduct an audit of the funds granted to Kazakhstan within the framework of their support and development programmes, and to withhold any ratification of international conventions on mutual legal assistance, extradition and others related to Kazakhstan.

During the past year, ODF’s involvement to release and improve the conditions of political prisoners and activists in Kazakhstan has been constant and relentless. Following the authorities’ ban of the peaceful opposition movement “Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan”, the regime has intensified the fight against civil liberties in the country. Between March and December 2018, more than 500 people were detained because of their participation in peaceful rallies, dozens of people have fallen victim of threats, interrogations and close surveillance by law enforcement bodies, and more than 30 people have been subjected to criminal responsibility for publishing comments criticising Kazakhstani authorities on social networks.

The recent Written Declaration of PACE corresponds to ODF’s position concerning the need to establish the personal responsibility of those who suppress freedom of assembly and association, freedom of opinion, freedom of dissemination of information, and the right to a fair trial and to protection from torture in Kazakhstan.

Read the text of the Written Declaration:

Read ODF’s latest report and statements: