Urgent Action: Human Rights Defender Under House Arrest (Kazakhstan: UA 46.19)

Human rights defender Serikzhan Bilash has been under house arrest since 10 March. He is the leader of the human rights organization Atajurt, which exposes human rights violations against ethnic Kazakhs in China. Serikzhan Bilash is facing charges under Article 174 of the Criminal Code in an apparent move by the authorities to intimidate and harass him simply for defending human rights. He risks a maximum prison sentence of seven years. He is a prisoner of conscience and should be immediately and unconditionally released.



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Nurdauletov Gizat Daurenbekovich
Prosecutor General
Prospect Mengilik, 14
010000 Kazakhstan
Fax: +7 7172 506 402
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @GenProkRK
H.E. Erzhan Kazykhanov
Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan
1401 16th St NW, Washington DC 20036
Phone: 202 232 5488
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @KazakhEmbassy
Facebook: @KazakhEmbassyDC
Salutation: Dear Ambassador

Dear Prosecutor General,

Human rights defender Serikzhan Bilash has been arbitrarily detained since 10 March because of his human rights work on behalf of ethnic Kazakhs in the Xinjian Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China.

He was detained in Almaty on 10 March and transferred that night to Nur-Sultan where a court placed him under house arrest at the house of an acquaintance in Nur-Sultan. He was not given access to a lawyer immediately, and it is not clear on what grounds he was transferred to Nur-Sultan as the alleged offence took place in Almaty. He was given access to a lawyer of his choice the day following his arrest. Serikzhan Bilash has been accused under Article 174 of the Criminal Code (incitement of “discord” on social, national, racial, clan or religious grounds or on grounds of birth) a vaguely worded article which has been used to silence views that are perceived to be critical of the authorities.

The charges against him are reportedly based on remarks that he made at a meeting with members of the Uighur community in Kazakhstan in early February 2019 at which he stated that “Jihad today is not taking up a gun and fighting in Syria. Jihad is information and propaganda”. It would appear that the charges against him are an attempt to prevent him from drawing attention to human rights violations in China, an important trade partner for Kazakhstan.

I urge you to release Serikzhan Bilash immediately and unconditionally as he is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. I also urge you to ensure that he is not subjected to any form of torture and other ill-treatment including psychological pressure.

Yours sincerely,