Law should help not hinder defence of human rights in Kazakhstan

26.08.2015

Overbearing State legislation and other limitations in Kazakhstan that severely restrict freedom of expression and assembly, human rights monitoring and activism must be lifted, ISHR has said in a new report to the UN Human Rights Committee.

Overbearing State legislation and other limitations in Kazakhstan that severely restrict freedom of expression and assembly, human rights monitoring and advancement must be lifted, ISHR has said in a new report to the UN Human Rights Committee.

Image of briefing paper on the situation of human rights defenders in KazakhstanThe situation of human rights defenders in Kazakhstan describes an environment in which activists, journalists and other civil society members face numerous official restrictions on their work, as well as threats, intimidation, judicial harassment and arbitrary detention.

It cites a multitude of violations to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the ICCPR) within Kazakh laws, including:

  • laws on defamation and insults
  • regulations on the media
  • the Online Communications Law
  • a law banning the ‘propoganda of non-traditional sexual orientations’
  • numerous articles of the Criminal Code
  • the Peaceful Assembly Law
  • proposed laws on NGO registration and funding
  • the Law an Countering Extremism

These oppressive regulations have caused the muzzling of media opposition, a growing environment of fear and near silence on Kazakhstani streets, whilst threatening the existence of many non-governmental organisations.

Kazakhstan before the Human Rights Committee

The Human Rights Committee (the Committee) will consider ISHR’s report in developing a list of questions to be posed to Kazakhstan at its next examination. The aim of the review will be to assess the State’s progress towards compliance with the ICCPR.

Kazakhstan has previously expressed interest in improving its human rights policies, consulting with civil society on reform and fulfilling Committee recommendations, says ISHR’s Tess McEvoy. However, none of this seems to have translated into action.

‘There has been no real improvement since Kazakhstan was reviewed by the Committee in 2011, with the rights of human rights defenders, journalists and other members of civil society in Kazakhstan continuing to be eroded, even while guaranteed under the ICCPR,’ she says.

‘Not only do human rights defenders consistently face physical and verbal threats, intimidation, and other forms of harassment, but legislation enshrined over the past year has entrenched and extended limits on freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and religion.

‘For there to be any real progress in civil and political rights in Kazakhstan, one of the first steps must be legal reform.’

Kazakhstan must be called to:

  • enshrine the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders into national law and policies
  • end criminalisation of the work of activists
  • end intimidation and harassment of those participating in peaceful protests to guarantee the right to freedom of assembly
  • repeal criminal defamation laws to ensure they cannot be arbitrarily applied to human rights defenders
  • modify proposed legislation on the registration and operation of NGOs to guarantee their freedoms of association and expression

For more information, contact Tess McEvoy at t.mcevoy@ishr.ch

 

Thumbnail photo: Flickr, Martha de Jong-Lantink