Regarding human rights in Kazakhstan in the year of its presidency of the OSCE

In the next few days the OSCE summit will take place in Kazakhstan, with heads of state and government delegations participating. In 2007, in Madrid, when Kazakhstan assumed the presidency of the OSCE, representatives of Kazakhstan’s government promised to undertake democratic reforms: but the reality has been the opposite.
We, the undersigned, are concerned that the political regime in Kazakhstan is escalating its repression of independent journalists, human rights activists, political opponents and minority religious groups. Below is a list of the most common violations of human rights:

1. Torture in the prison system of Kazakhstan has become ‘a systemic punitive measure of criminal justice’: this is the conclusion of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak.  The work of human rights activists shows that there are no effective mechanisms for investigating allegations of torture and enacting criminal action against perpetrators.
Usually courts do not accept statements accusing the security services of forcing citizens to give evidence incriminating themselves (they were hit with plastic bottles filled with sand), even when such accusations are backed up with official medical reports.
·      During his investigation the academic and former head of ‘Kazatomprom’ Mukhtar Djakishev was subject to long interrogations, was put under psychological stress and did not receive timely medical assistance. As a result Mukhtar Djakishev was hospitalized. The court did not accept his statement regarding being abused. He is currently imprisoned.    
2. A growing trend for politically motivated criminal cases. The court system is utterly reliant on the executive branch of the state. The courts do not look at any proof of guilt, representatives of the country’s executive branch tell judges which sentence to pass.
·      Journalist Ramazan Esergenov was found guilty of revealing illegal activities at the Kazakhstan Committee for National Security, though formally he was charged with making secret materials public.
·      Human rights activist Evgeniy Zhovtis was found guilty of a crime committed by mistake. Despite the fact that the victims of the mistake have never made a move against E. Zhovtis, he has lost his freedom for four years, and was sent to a prison colony settlement.  During his sentence he is consistently being discriminated against for his beliefs, a breach of UN resolution 45/111, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 14 1990.
·      The academic and former head of ‘Kazatomimport’ Mukhtar Djakishev was sentenced to 14 years for ‘incorrect political contacts’ with the opposition figure M. Ablyazovim. The court’s decision concerning Djakishev is classified, which contradicts Republic of Kazakhstan law. 
·      Human rights activist Ermek Narimbaev was imprisoned for four years after publicly calling for the resignation of President Nursultan Nazarbaev.
The courts only support the prosecution’s version, and disregard the written applications of the defense.
Politically motivated sentences remain in place at every level of the appeals process. 

3.  Obstructing the work of the media, including independent internet portals.
Leading up to the OSCE Summit in Astana the following are suffering abuse:
·      The founding companies of the newspapers and publishers: ‘Shezhire Ltd’, ‘Kiyal & Co’, ADP Ltd, ‘Shabit-info’, DPA, ‘New Press Almaty’, ‘IAC Ayna’. The tax authorities have accused these companies of avoiding paying taxes, though the authorities have not made any of the relevant financial checks.
·      The editorial teams of ‘Vzglyad’,’Azat’, ‘Alga’, ‘Golos Republiki’, ‘Moya Respublika’ and the western Kazakh newspaper ‘Uralskaya Nedelya’
·      The printing press ‘Kometa S’ was closed, and its director Yulia Kozlova is facing a criminal investigation. She has been accused of artificially lowering the price of the newspaper and its taxable profits. The courts refused to entertain the printer’s retaliatory suit and ignore the defense’s case.  
·      There are many signs that criminal procedures are being prepared against the human rights activist Sergey Utkin and the leader of the unregistered ‘Alga’ party Vladimir Kozlov. Utkin supports the independent printing press that produces the ‘Republika’ newspaper.
4.  Concerning the abuse of political rights
Civil society activists are worried that in May 2011 parliamentary elections are to be held at the same time as an all-national referendum on prolonging the term of the current head of state. In connection with this we want to draw your attention to the artificial obstructions blocking the official registration of the ‘Alga’ Party, as well as its civic groups ‘Alga, D & K’, ‘D.V.K’, ‘Democratia- Vibor Kazhdovo’(‘Democracy- Everyone’s Choice’), ‘Demokratia Beremizge Kerek!’ (‘Everyone Needs Democracy’). The official reason for denying registration is the use of the word ‘democracy’ in the title of these organisations. The Kazakh Ministry of Justice motivates its refusal by claiming that the use of the word ‘democracy’ in the name of a civil society group is a tautology.    
The Kazakh authorities are suppressing political opposition and aim to completely control the elections and referendum. The tax and finance authorities are being used to execute this.     
·      The founder of the civil society group ‘Gastat’ Ajdos Sadikov is being persecuted for the organization of demonstrations defending civil and political rights.
·      On 11 October 2010 an attempt was made on the life of Tahir Muhamedyanov, deputy chairman of the civil society group ‘Shahterskaya Semya’ (Miner’s Family). Tahir actively defends the rights of miners whose health has been damaged as a result of their work. There was an explosion when Tahir went to his garage in the morning. A criminal case was launched, but the signs are that no investigation is taking place.   
5.  Concerning the mass discrimination of religious minorities.
Kazakhstan is breaking all its commitments guaranteeing freedom of religion, thought and assembly. Representatives of minority religious communities are systematically persecuted. Representatives of minority Islamic communities are persecuted as persons allegedly threatening national security, though there are no real proofs of criminal activities.
·      In 2006 over 200 members of an Islamic community left Kazakhstan. Of these 36 were victims of torture. 14 members were accused on false charges. Community members continue to be persecuted, and they continue to emigrate.
The existing law concerning the registration of religious organizations and their activities does not match the Constitution of the Republic and international legal norms. The law bars the activities of certain religious groups. Repression of religious groups and their members continues, including criminal trials of whole groups.

6.  On the violation of UN Conventions against the use of torture. Kazakhstan violates article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture by delivering foreign nationals to governments where torture is systemic and commonplace.
·      As of June 2010 29 Uzbek refugees are being threatened with extradition
·      4 refugees have already been extradited to Uzbekistan. They are not allowed to see lawyers or family.  
We call for the government of Kazakhstan and the heads of the OSCE member states to make their dialogue regarding the observance of the central rights and freedoms fixed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights more effective.
Of particular importance is
Creating conditions for the work of independent media, including internet publications, and the printing houses working with them. To review Kazakh laws limiting freedom of internet usage and privacy laws.
Free from prison journalist Ramazan Esergepov; human rights activist Evgeniy Zhovtis; academic and businessman, former head of ‘Kazatomprom’, Mukhtar Djakishev; human rights activist Ermek Narimabev - who have all suffered for their beliefs and professional activities. 
Lift tax charges against printing houses, independent media, political and civil society activists which have been motivated on political or civic grounds.
Bring the legislation of Kazakhstan in line with the norms of international law, including the decriminalization of libel, and a reduction in the sums editors and journalists are sued for emotional damages. 
Create the conditions necessary to implement the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak, and the OSCE representative on media freedom Dunja Miyatovich.

Respectfully Yours,

Ludmila Kozlovskaya, deputy director of the Open Dialog, Poland lyudmylakozlovska@odfoundation.eu

Leyla Yunus, director Institute of Peace and Democracy, Azerbaijan

Nadejda Atayeva, president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, France asiecentrale@neuf.fr

Wolgang Templin, Director Heinrich Boell Fund, Poland
Marek Pavlovskiy, member of the Civil Platform party, Poland
Andzhej Schlivisnkij, NGO ‘Molodiye Demokrati’ (Young Democrats), Poland
Hikmet Gadji-Zade, FAR Centre, Azerbaijan
Matanat Azizova, Women’s Crisis Centre, Azerbaijan
Mirvari Gahramanli, Committee for the defense of oil worker’s rights, Azerbaijan
Hafiz Safihanov, Azerbajian Campaign to Ban Land Mines
Ivan Sherstuk, ‘Pora’ party candidate, founder of the ‘Open Dialogue’ Fund, Ukraine-Poland
Levan Zhorbenadze, founder of the ‘Dialogue for Development 2008’ Fund, Georgia
Yaroslav Pristash, editor-in-chief of the publishing house ‘Nashe Slovo’ (Our Word), Poland 
Alexey Tolkachev, president of the European Association of Ukrainians, Ukraine
Arif Yunusov, Conflictologist, Azerbaijan 
Michael Danieliyan, Helsinki Group, Armenia
Igor Vinyavskiy, editor of the ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper, Kazakhstan
Jodgor Obid, PEN-Club international member, Austria.
Dmitriy Belomestnov, representative of the ‘Human Rights in Central Asia Association’ in Russia
Diloram Ishakova, representative of ‘Mazlum’ Human Rights Centre, Uzbekistan
Bahtizhan Ketebaev, K-Plus Business Group, chairman of the board of directors, Kazakhstan
Ismail Dadadjanov, chairman of the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan, Sweden
Hatam Hadjimatov, ‘Vatandosh Project’, http://jakob.clan.su/, author, Norway  
Alisher Taksanov, independent journalist, Switzerland
Bashorat Eshova, representative of the Uzbekistan Human Rights Society in Switzerland
Ulugbek Zajnobidinov, human rights activist, Sweden
Muzaffarmirzo Ishakov, human rights activist, Norway
Nasrullo Saidov, former Uzbek parliamentarian (Upper Council), Canada
Avaz Faizov, representative of the ‘Birlik’ Party, Sweden
David Petrosyan, journalist, informational holding company ‘Noyan Tapan’, Armenia
Tamara Kaleeva, President of the international fund for the freedom of speech ‘Aidil Soyuz’, Kazakhstan
Piotr Niziol, Director of Academic Incubators for Entrepreneurship, Lublin, Poland 
Olga Ushakova, NCO correspondent of the ‘Golos Respubliki’(Voice of the Republic) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Irina Petrushova, editor-in-chief ‘Respublika’ media group, Kazakhstan
Anastasia Novikova, multimedia editor ‘Respublika’, Kazakhstan
Ermurat Bapi, ‘Obschestvinnaya Positsiya’ (The Civic Position) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Ekaterina Nazarenko, editor-in-chief and co-founder ‘Gazeta nashevo goroda, Petropavlovsk kz’ (Our town newspaper, Petropavlovsk KZ), Kazakhstan
Nazira Darimbet, editor ‘Azat’ newspaper, Kazakhstan
Nikolaev Nikolai, civic movement ‘InterSoyuz supporting labor migrants’, head of the Volga Basin department, Russia
Andrej Sheketa, chairman of the executive secretariat of the VMOO (Ukrainian Youth Civic Organisation) ‘Batkivschina Moloda’ (The Homeland is Young), Ukraine
Raushan Esergepova, deputy editor ‘Alma-Ata Info’, Kazakhstan
Oksana Makushina, editor ‘S Perom I Shpagoj’ (With a Quill and Sword) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Mikhail Sizov, editor-in-chief, ‘Alga’ newspaper, Kazakhstan
Vitaliy Shabunin, head of the Foundation for Regional Initiatives, Ukraine
Sergey Utkin, Lawyer, Kazakhstan
Alexander Solontaj, parliamentarian of the 5th convocation of the Uzhgorod Oblast, expert at the Institute of Political Education, Ukraine
Pavel Sidorenko, head of the VMOO (Ukrainian Youth Civic Organisation) ‘Ukrainian Youth Information Agency’, Ukraine
Viktor Taran, head of the Centre for Political Studies and Analysis, Ukraine
Tatyana Trubacheva, editor ‘Golos Respubliki’ (Voice of the Republic) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Arthur Sakunts, Helsinki Citizens Assembly of Vanadzor, Armenia
Nikolai Suhomlin, media expert, member of the National Union of Journalists, Ukraine
Vladimir Radionov, deputy editor, ‘Vzglyad’ (The View) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Olesya Schelkova, correspondent ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper, Kazakhstan
Alexey Gostjev, correspondent, ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper, Kazakhstan
Igor Zenin, correspondent, ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper, Kazakhstan
Mikhail Korchevskij, correspondent, ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper, Kazakhstan
Anastasia Puchkova, correspondent, ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper, Kazakhstan
Sergey Zelepuhin, finance editor, ‘Golos Respubliki’ (Voice of the Republic) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Tatyana Panchenko, social policy editor, ‘Golos Respubliki’ (Voice of the Republic) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Ashat Ahmetbekov, journalist, ‘Golos Respubliki’ (Voice of the Republic) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Larisa Shtaba, journalist, ‘Golos Respubliki’ (Voice of the Republic) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Larisa Chen, Karaganda correspondent, ‘Golos Respubliki’ (Voice of the Republic) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Marianna Gurina, journalist, Kazakhstan
Polina Legina, independent journalist, Kazakhstan
Georgiy Shal, correspondent of internet-publication www.atyraunews.com, Kazakhstan
Ludmila Ekzarhova, journalist, Kazakhstan
Evegeniya Bodrova, journalist, media-portal ‘Stan.tv’, Kazakhstan
Ajsulu Kadirbaeva, social fund ‘Kuretamir’
Igor Kozlov, ‘Civic committee for human rights’, Kazakstan
Sergey Izmailov, ‘Civic Committee for human rights in SKO (North Kazakhstan)’, Kazakhstan
Perizat Kasimov, ‘Centre for the defense of human rights’, Kazakhstan
Yulia Ananyina, ‘Association for the defense of human rights and civic freedoms’, Kazakhstan
Danila Nosenko, ‘Union for the defense of civic rights and freedoms’, Kazakhstan
Hubert Bugajnij, member of the NGO ‘Young Democrats’, Serazh, Poland
Stefan Truschinskij, independent journalist and publicist, Poland
Alexander Zakletskiy, deputy chairman, ‘Ukrainian Youth Environmental League’, environmentalist, Ukraine 
Tulkin Karaev, member of the ‘Society for Human Rights in Uzbekistan’, Sweden 
Muborak Sharipova, Sociologist, PhD, Freelance Consultant on Central Asia and Russia, Co-Founder of Open Asia, Vice-Chairman of Danish Society for Central Asia

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia

Centre MBE 140, 16, rue de Docteur Leroy, 72000 Le Mans FRANCE
Tel.: +(33) 6 49 38 86 59; E-Mail:asiecentrale@neuf.fr


On the Uznews.net article: “Uzbek Religious Refugees: Pity Them or Fear Them?”

Twenty-nine Uzbek asylum seekers were arrested in Kazakhstan in June, 2010 on an extradition request from the country’s neighbour Uzbekistan. Seventeen of them were stripped of their status as UNHCR asylum seekers in August and face ill treatment, unfair trials and  possibly torture upon extradition to Uzbekistan. On November 1, Uznews.net published an article on these cases headlined “Uzbek Religious Refugees: Pity Them or Fear Them?”
No court has yet established the guilt of the Uzbeks in question, yet the article was written in an obviously accusatory tone. This is a classical example of violation of the presumption of innocence. The article provided no critical analysis of Kazakh immigration officials’ allegations that the detainees pose a threat to Kazakhstan’s national security yet the story's authors did criticize human rights defenders, who according to the story, failed to mentioned that the 29 detainees were "Islamic fundamentalists."
A campaign in defense of the refugees arrested in Astana was launched after the UNHCR refused to provide them with a lawyer for three months. Meanwhile, Kazakh prosecutors ordered detention facilities to prepare the inmates for extradition. Not all relatives have been allowed to visit the detainees and care packages and visitation rights are being restricted.

Meanwhile, evidence has emerged that some of the detainees may have been tortured in custody. This is not the first time Kazakhstan has complied with questionable Uzbek extradition orders. In November, 2005 Kazakhstan repatriated ten Uzbeks that were under its custody. All were subject to torture and given long-term prison sentences in Uzbekistan. They were coerced through torture to testify agains Imam Obdhon Qori Nazarov as well as people who had attended his sermons before the Imam himself fled Uzbekistan. The Imam and his sympathizers have been accused of "terrorism," a charge often used agains pious Muslims who don't adhere to government-backed mosques and preachers.

On the basis of testimony obtained through torture Uzbekistan sent extradition requests to Kazakhstan and Ukraine in June 2010 for a number of Muslim refugees residing in those countries. The request was followed up with a series of arrests of Uzbek refugees by Kazakh and Ukrainian law enforcement agencies.

In March 2010, the Human Rights in Central Asia Association received several reports from Uzbekistan that refugees extradited from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan in 2005 underwent torture after being sent home. In April 2010, state-owned Uzbek television station Uzbekistan released a documentary titled Khunrezlik (Bloodshed) accusing Imam Obidkhon Qori Nazarov and his followers of terrible crimes. It was clear that the documentary was filmed on orders from the Uzbek National Security Agency (SNB). We have drawn parallels between Khurezlik and the article that appeared in Uznews.net. Their similarity lies in an shared prejudice against Obidhon Qori and his associates.

The Uznews.net story endorsed the actions of the Kazkah authorities by claiming that the detainees were Islamic fundamentalists. However, Islamic fundamentalism is not a term used in international law or any national law that corresponds to international standards. Hate speech  and incitement of violence are recognized in law as crimes but none of the Uzbek refugees have been accused of either. Nor has any evidence been brought forward that would suggest they are complicit in incitement of violence or hatred.

One may like or dislike the views of the Uzbek Muslims detained by the Kazakh authorities. But human rights, including the right to a fair trial, should be protected regardless of political and religious affiliation. If the detainees are suspected of wrong-doing they are still entitled to a legal defense and a fair trail, neither of which is guaranteed in Uzbekistan.

The article's author points to the fact that the wives of the asylum seekers wore traditional Muslim head scarves as a criticism. But if there is no evidence that the women were forced to wear the head scarves such commentary is both inappropriate and irrelevant and serves only as a tasteless justification of the Kazakh authorities actions. We would happily condemn those who force women to wear traditional Islamic garb if there is evidence of this taking place. Uznews.net has presented no such evidence.  One of the detainees wives, who was given her husband's clothes for washing by prison officials, notices stains that resembled blood on a shirt.

Police in Oslo have a accused a trio of asylum seekers in Norway of attempting to blow up oil platforms as well as attacks on a Danish cartoonist who drew pictures of the prophet Mohammed. The accused are Muslims hailing from China, Iraq and Uzbekistan. The defendant from Uzbekistan denies the charges and a Norwegian court has not yet ruled in the case. However Uznews.net along with a  number of other internet publications have ambiguously linked the case to the arrest of the Uzbek refugees in Kazakhstan and further tarnished their reputations without questioning Kazakh assertions that the "group of Uzbeks belong to banned Islamic organizations and represent a threat to national security."

The Kazakh and Uzbek security services have used everything at their disposal to produce negative coverage of the Uzbek asylum seekers. Uznews.net appears to be part of this negative information campaign. Its editor, Galima Buharbaeva should expect to be rewarded handsomely for her efforts.

The refugees' efforts, however, to use international protections in their defense were also viewed negatively by the authors of the Uznews.net article. "How do we deal with Uzbek refugees who have radical Islamic ideas and only mention secular democratic principals when their own rights and freedom are under threat?  This question is more difficult than ever to answer," Uznews.net wrote.

Should this be interpreted as a call to forgo international law when dealing with the "bad guys" who, it stands to reason, deserve to be sent into the arms of dictators like Islam Karimov for re-education?

The answer is of course very simple: Every refugee deserves protection from forcible extradition, in accordance with international law. Even if the refugees violated the law and belong to banned groups, they still have the right to an independent and fair trail, protection from torture and ill-treatment, and access to a legal defense.

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia
Centre MBE 140, 16, rue de Docteur Leroy, 72000 Le Mans FRANCE
Tel.: +(33) 6 49 38 86 59; E-Mail: asiecentrale@neuf.fr