Kazakhstan Human Rights

In May, President Nazarbaev approved a National Human Rights Action Plan for 2009 to 2012. This was to allay concerns of domestic and international human rights organizations that Kazakhstan was failing to comply with its human rights obligations on the eve of assuming the chairmanship of the OSCE in January 2010.

In July, the President signed amendments to a law on the internet which classified all online resources as mass media and made them subject to the same stringent rules that governed other mass media, such as criminal sanctions for criticizing the President and government officials. Torture and other ill-treatment

In November the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the case of Kaboulov v. Ukraine that the extradition to Kazakhstan of any criminal suspect, including Amir Damirovich Kaboulov, would be in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as they would run a serious risk of being subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.

Despite amendments to the criminal and criminal procedural codes to clamp down on abusive practices, torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread. Confessions reportedly extracted under torture continued to be admitted as evidence in criminal trials, and individuals continued to be held in unregistered detention for longer than the three hours allowed for in national law. The lack of a clear definition of detention remained unaddressed despite recommendations of the UN Committee against Torture in November 2008.

Following his visit to Kazakhstan in May 2009, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture concluded that he “received many credible allegations of beatings with hands and fists, plastic bottles filled with sand and police truncheons and of kicking, asphyxiation through plastic bags and gas masks used to obtain confessions from suspects. In several cases, these allegations were supported by forensic medical evidence.”

In June, Dmitri Tian and Oleg Evloev were sentenced to 25 years’ and life imprisonment respectively by a court in the capital Astana for the premeditated murders of a woman and her three children. Both men claimed that they had not committed the murders, but that they had been tortured in detention in order to force them to confess. According to observers of the trial, the judge instructed the jury not to consider the allegations of torture. Reportedly, a video tape recorded by the police following Oleg Evloev’s arrest, showed him covered in bruises, but it was lost by the prosecution. In November, the Supreme Court turned down the appeals by both defendants. No investigations into the allegations of torture were conducted.

Counter-terror and security

The National Security Service (NSS), which carries out special operations relating to national security and corruption, continued to use counter-terrorism operations to target minority groups perceived as a threat to national and regional security. Groups particularly affected were asylum-seekers and refugees from Uzbekistan, and members or suspected members of Islamic groups or Islamist parties, either unregistered or banned in Kazakhstan. Some high-profile political actors targeted in anti-corruption operations continued to be held in arbitrary and incommunicado detention.

In May, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture stated that “some groups run larger risks of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment than others”, noting that the likeliness for foreigners to be subjected to such treatment seemed to be “higher than average”.

NSS officers were accused of routinely using torture and other ill-treatment in pre-charge and pre-trial detention centres under their jurisdiction. Public Monitoring Commissions, tasked with inspecting detention facilities, were denied access to NSS detention centres.

In September, armed and masked NSS officers conducted a night-time raid on the homes of three refugees and two asylum-seekers from Uzbekistan in Almaty. The officers, who did not identify themselves, detained the men and took them to an unidentified location for interrogation, later identified as the NSS building in Almaty. Allegedly, the men were handcuffed and beaten which resulted in one of them having a broken nose, and plastic bags were put over their heads. They reported that the officers threatened them with extradition to Uzbekistan, allegedly for the murder of a policeman. Several hours later they were released without charge. During arrest, they were refused permission to contact their families, a legal representative or UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. A spokesperson of the NSS later denied any use of excessive force and described the raids and detentions as a mere document check.

Freedom of religion

The right to freedom of religion remained restricted and religious minorities continued to report harassment by police and local authorities. Muslims worshipping outside state-registered mosques, such as the Ahmadi community and followers of the Salafi movement, reported being increasingly targeted by police and the NSS.

In March, NSS and local police conducted several raids on an Ahmadi Muslim community in Semipalatinsk as members of the community were gathering for Friday prayers. Reportedly, those present were forced to give personal details. During one of the raids, members of the community were detained and questioned at the local police station for several hours.

In February, following a request from the President, the Constitutional Council assessed a controversial draft law on freedom of conscience which would severely restrict the rights of religious minorities. The Council held that the draft law was incompatible with the Constitution and international human rights obligations. A revision of the draft law remained pending at the end of December.

Kazakhstan Newsroom

January 11, 2022 • Press Release

Kazakhstani Authorities Must Release Arbitrarily Detained Protestors and Respect Human Rights Amid Ongoing Unrest

The Kazakhstani authorities must release journalists and activists who have been arbitrarily detained for their coverage of mass protests across the country over the past week, provide information on all protest-related arrests and ensure human rights of all detainees, said Amnesty International, as the number of individuals arrested since protests began on January 2 reached close to 10,000 according to official government figures.

January 7, 2022 • Press Release

Ordering security forces to ‘fire without warning’ a recipe for disaster in Kazakhstan

Reacting to a televised address this morning (January 7) by Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev calling for security forces to “fire without warning” at any further disturbances following the recent mass protests and violence, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said: “The Kazakhstani authorities have a duty to maintain order, but giving blanket approval for police officers and troops to fire without warning is unlawful and a recipe for disaster. It could pave the way for knee-jerk reactions that result in unlawful killings. Unless this order is immediately and clearly revoked, Kazakhstan’s already abysmal human rights record and the ongoing crisis which it has produced are set to get worse.

January 5, 2022 • Press Release

Widespread violation of basic rights spurred unprecedented protests in Kazakhstan

Responding to the ongoing protests in Kazakhstan over soaring energy prices, deteriorating living standards and the repression of peaceful protest, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said: “The protests unfolding in Kazakhstan, which have turned violent, are a direct consequence of the authorities’ widespread repression of basic human rights. For years, the government has relentlessly persecuted peaceful dissent, leaving the Kazakhstani people in a state of agitation and despair.

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

July 10, 2013 • Report

Old Habits: The Routine Use of Torture and Other Ill-Treatment in Kazakhstan

Torture remains commonplace in Kazakhstan and the torturers are allowed to go free.

May 20, 2013 • Report

Annual Report: Kazakhstan 2013

Republic of Kazakhstan Head of state Nursultan Nazarbaev Head of government Serik Akhmetov (replaced Karim Massimov) A criminal investigation into the use of lethal force by security officials during the …

March 19, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Kazakstan 2010

Head of state Nursultan Nazarbaev Head of government Karim Massimov Death penalty abolitionist for ordinary crimes Population 15.6 million Life expectancy 64.9 years Under-5 mortality (m/f) 34/26 per 1,000 Adult …

May 20, 2016 • Press Release

Kazakhstan must release activists arrested in disturbing crackdown over Land Code protest

The Kazakhstani authorities must immediately and unconditionally release almost three dozen activists after dramatic wave of arrests, apparently aimed at blocking peaceful demonstrations from going ahead this weekend, Amnesty International said.

March 1, 2016 • Press Release

No justice for torture victims in Kazakhstan

Authorities in Kazakhstan are failing in their duty to promptly, impartially and effectively investigate reports of torture and other ill-treatment perpetrated by members of law enforcement agencies and prison staff, Amnesty International said in report published today.