Release of Activists in Kazakhstan Underscores Need for Due Process
Freedom House remains concerned about the politicization of charges relating to events in Zhanaozen last year following the release of Kazakhstani human rights defenders Bolat Atabayev and Zhanbolat Mamay. Mamay was released from detention late last night, ten days after the release of Atabayev.
“Both Mamay and Atabaev were released through the intervention of well-placed negotiators, rather than a transparent legal process,” said Susan Corke, director for Eurasia programs for Freedom House. “The releases demonstrate the extent to which justice in Kazakhstan still depends on informal ties."
Mamay and Atabaev were under investigation for “inciting social discord” among striking oil workers in Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan. When the strike erupted into rioting in December 2011, local security services opened fire, killing 15 people. The activists were released after signing documents acknowledging remorse for the events. In both cases, informal negotiators for the defendants intervened with security services to secure their release.
As emphasized by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on her trip to Kazakhstan this week, there still has been no independent investigation of the Zhanaozen events, including who gave police the order to open fire, despite Prosecutor General’s public pledge to ensure transparency of the process. Credible allegations of torture in the crackdown that followed the violence have also not been investigated. Two prominent opposition leaders, Vladimir Kozlov and Serik Sapargali, still face charges that could result in years of imprisonment. Previous trials of labor activists over the Zhanaozen events were marred by due process violations and allegations of torture.
“Justice for those who suffered in Zhanaozen demands open and impartial trials,” Corke said. “Only genuine due process can change Kazakhstan’s image as a bastion of impunity.”
Kazakhstan is rated Not Free in Freedom of the World 2012, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2012, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2011.
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