(26/07/2017). Report Nº 245 / Europe & Central Asia. Russia’s and China’s separate visions for Central Asia could transform the region’s political and economic landscape as well as relations between the two Eurasian giants. To the smaller, embryonic Central Asian nation states, the new geopolitical realities could offer both economic prosperity as well as worsening instability and conflict.
Index number: EUR 57/5644/2017. The rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly came under renewed attack in Kazakhstan in 2015 and 2016, as authorities worked to “close down” social media as a space where people can exercise their right to express critical opinions, seek and receive information, and organize peaceful protest. Authorities used administrative and criminal sanctions against people who used social media and messaging apps to organize peaceful demonstrations against unpopular legal changes, or to voice their opposition. This included the criminal prosecution of human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience Maks Bokaev and Talgat Ayan.
The report “‘We Are Not The Enemy’: Violations of Workers’ Rights in Kazakhstan,” details the significant legal and practical obstacles workers in Kazakhstan must overcome to organize and defend their interests in the workplace. Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 50 trade union leaders, labor activists, and workers in key industries across Kazakhstan, and documented harassment, surveillance, and, in some cases, spurious legal prosecution or dismissals in apparent retaliation for labor activism. The Kazakh government should take immediate steps to lift restrictions on workers’ rights and the ability to organize
In Kazakhstan and in Russia, the rights of migrant workers from Central Asia are regularly violated, declared today FIDH and its partners in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, in Bishkek during the presentation of two reports: “Women and children from Kyrgyzstan affected by migration” and “Migrant workers in Kazakhstan: no status, no rights”. The two reports denounce not only the sad state of affairs for migrant workers, but also that of their families in Kyrgyzstan – particularly the women and children – who are left behind.
Index number: EUR 57/3345/2016. Impunity for torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement officials remains commonplace in Kazakhstan’s criminal justice system. Of the hundreds of reports of torture that human rights organizations receive each year in Kazakhstan, just a handful ever lead to a conviction. Despite positive revisions to legislation and policy, remedies available to victims remain ineffective. The official complaints process is complex, riddled with loopholes that allow perpetrators to evade justice, and leaves victims open to intimidation and retaliation. Many victims do not even attempt to register a complaint, and those who do often end up feeling helpless, intimidated, and overwhelmed.
Harassment, discrimination, and the threat of violence color the everyday lives of LGBT people in Kazakhstan. They are faced with hostility behind the closed doors of private homes and in public places, such as in parks and outside nightclubs. State institutions fail to provide consistent care and protection. In many cases, the abuses suffered by LGBT people are immediately—even instinctively—shrouded in shame due to homophobic attitudes.
Kazakhstan’s wish for stability and continuity under long-serving President Nazarbayev trumps the will for political change, especially given turbulence elsewhere on Russia’s borders. But without economic reform, full ethnic equality and a political succession plan, the Central Asian country risks becoming another brittle post-Soviet state vulnerable to external destabilisation.