Annual Report: Kazakhstan 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Kazakhstan 2013

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  • On 23 January, NSS officers arrested Vladimir Kozlov, the leader of the unregistered opposition Alga party, at his Almaty home on charges of “inciting social discord”. They also searched his home, the Alga party office in Almaty, and the homes of several other party members. Vladimir Kozlov had gone to Zhanaozen in January as part of an independent public monitoring group to investigate the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in police custody and then had briefed the European Parliament on his findings. He was detained in the NSS facilities in Aktau, with restricted access to his lawyers and family. On 8 October, he was convicted of “inciting social discord” and of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order by Aktau City Court, sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison and the court ordered the confiscation of his property. He was a prisoner of conscience. Independent monitors allowed into the trial reported that there was no presumption of innocence and that the evidence used against Vladimir Kozlov did not conclusively prove his guilt. In its verdict, the court also labelled several opposition media outlets that had covered the 2011 strikes and the investigations into the Zhanaozen violence, as “political extremists” that incited “social hatred”. On 19 November, the Appeals Court in Aktau upheld the verdict.
  • In March, prisoner of conscience Natalia Sokolova, the former legal representative for the striking Kazmunaigas workers in Zhanaozen, was unexpectedly released from prison after the General Prosecutor's Office lodged a complaint against her sentence with the Supreme Court. She had been sentenced to six years in prison by Aktau City Court in August 2011 for “inciting social discord”.

Freedom of expression

New provisions in the security law which came into force in January penalized individuals and/or organizations for “influenc[ing] public and individual consciousness” through the distribution of “distorted” and “unreliable” information “to the detriment of national security”. There were fears that the authorities were intent on using national security legislation to curtail freedom of speech and of the media.

  • On 21 November, the Almaty city Prosecutor filed a complaint seeking to close down almost all remaining independent and opposition media – some of which had been named in Vladimir Kozlov's verdict. He accused them of being “extremist”, inciting social discord and threatening national security. The complaint covered approximately 40 print, online and broadcast media outlets. It also called for the Alga party and the social movement Khalyk Maydany, both unregistered, to be classified as “extremist”. On the same day a court in Almaty ordered the immediate suspension of all Alga activities and other courts ordered the majority of the targeted media outlets to stop publication, distribution and broadcasting.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

In defiance of a decision of the UN Committee against Torture and in contravention of its obligations under international human rights and refugee law, Kazakhstan continued to detain individuals with a view to extraditing them to countries, such as Uzbekistan, where they would risk facing torture or other ill-treatment.

In June, the Committee decided that by extraditing 28 Uzbek men, including asylum-seekers to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan was in violation of the UN Convention against Torture.