Quick search
Advanced search
Reset all
All news

In a broadly supported civil society appeal, Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev is urged to veto the new Criminal Code and related laws recently adopted by the parliament of the country as these would introduce new serious restrictions on freedom of association, freedom of expression and other fundamental rights in violation of the country’s constitution and international human rights treaties to which it is a party. The appeal has been signed by Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR), an IPHR partner organization, and other Kazakhstani NGOs, as well as individual members of Kazakhstani civil society. The appeal is also supported by NGOs from other countries, including IPHR and other members of the Civic Solidarity Platform.

The appeal can be read below. The original Russian version is available at KIBHR’s website.

Civil Society Appeal to President Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan

19 June 2014

Dear President Nazarabev,

At the opening of the new session of Kazakhstan’s parliament on 2 September 2013, you set out the task of modernizing the country’s criminal justice system and ensuring that national legislation in this area is of a “high standard” and provides for “impeccable” protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens. However, the new Criminal, Criminal Procedure and Criminal Executive Codes, as well as the new Code on Administrative Offenses adopted by the parliament seriously restrict human rights in violation of Kazakhstan’s Constitution and international agreements ratified by the country.

Provisions that run contrary to article 23 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of association:

  • The new Criminal Code introduces the concept of a “leader of a public association” as a particular category of offender. This is a discriminatory approach that may result in the persecution of any members and activists of public associations who are arbitrarily deemed to be “leaders” of their organizations.
  • Given the lack of clear and unambiguous definitions of the terms used in the new Criminal Code provision prohibiting “unlawful interference in the activities of state agencies by members of public associations,” this provision will leave room for unscrupulous officials to interpret fair requests presented by members of public associations as unlawful interference in their activities, which will undermine public oversight of authorities in the country.
  • The new Criminal Code provisions targeted against public associations are not in conformity with the Constitution or universally accepted human rights principles, including in particular the principle of legal clarity and predictability and the principle of non-discrimination. They depict public associations as a “particularly dangerous” type of legal entity and will contribute to stifling criticism of the authorities.
  • The new provision of the Code on Administrative Offences on “violating the legislation on public associations” allows for suspending and even terminating the activities of a public association for minor violations of a technical nature, as well as for penalizing a public association for carrying out lawful activities that have not been spelled out in its statutes. This provision gives rise to particular concern with respect to religious communities.

Provisions that run contrary to article 22 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of conscience, as well as article 39 of the Constitution, which prohibits limitations of this right under all circumstances:

  • Existing Kazakhstani legislation makes the right of an individual to profess a religion in community with others dependent on having dozen, hundreds of even thousands of fellow believers (as required for registration of religious communities). The sanctions foreseen in this regard under the new Code on Administrative Offenses violate the principle that penalties should be fair and proportionate to the offenses committed, which is likely to generate an increase in the protest mood in society.

Provisions that run contrary to article 20 of the Constitution, which guarantees the rights to freedom of expression and creativity:

  • The new Criminal Code extends the grounds for prosecution for defamation and retains sanctions of up to three years in prison. As previously, it also provides for special protection against defamation for high-ranking officials. Moreover, a new provision on perjury has been introduced and provides for punishment of up to ten years in prison. The wording of this provision does not exclude the possibility that an individual may be held accountable for expressing opinions, views and beliefs. These provisions contradict Kazakhstan’s treaty obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as recommendations made in the context of the Universal Periodic Review.
  • The Code on Administrative Offenses retains excessive sanctions in the form of the suspension and closure of media outlets for violations of a technical nature.

Provisions that run contrary to article 16 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to liberty of person:

  • The provisions of the new Criminal Procedure Code fail to grant detainees the right to have prompt and unhindered access to a court to contest the lawfulness of their detention as required by international standards.
  • In a number of respects, the position of individuals sentenced to imprisonment will deteriorate significantly in comparison with existing criminal procedure legislation.
  • The new Criminal Procedure Code retains the previous inconsistency between a provision that grants individuals who have been detained on suspicion of involvement in crimes the right to immediately and personally notify their relatives and a provision that grants investigators powers to notify relatives within a period of up to 12 hours. As previously, the prosecutor’s office, in its capacity as supervisory body, does not have to be notified immediately about the detention of an individual but only within 12 hours from the moment the arrest has been registered. The new Code does not guarantee the right of detainees to notify their lawyers at the moment of their detention, and the right to have access to legal defense is only ensured after detainees have been formally informed that they are considered suspects, i.e. not earlier than three hours after the actual apprehension.

Provisions that run contrary to article 17 of the Constitution, which states that no one should be subjected to torture, violence or other treatment and punishment that is cruel or degrading to human dignity:

  • According to the new Criminal Procedure Code, allegations of torture made by participants in criminal justice processes are not considered as allegations of crimes but rather as “complaints against the actions and decisions of individuals in charge of pre-trial investigation.” The new legislation does not provide for any independent mechanism for investigating torture allegations.

The issues outlined above are only part of the shortcomings of the new legal codes identified by civil society representatives. During all stages of the elaboration of these codes, civil society representatives have been engaged in efforts to bring the provisions of the codes into compliance with the Constitution and international human rights law, as well as best foreign and international practice with regard to the protection of human rights. However, most of the arguments and recommendations presented have been ignored.

In view of this, we call on you as the guarantor of Kazakhstan’s Constitution and the rights and freedoms of citizens to:

1. Veto the new Criminal, Criminal Procedure and Criminal Executive Codes, as well as the new Code on Administrative Offenses adopted by the parliament;
2.  Ensure that law enforcement bodies guided by narrow interests and aspirations to avoid public control of their activities are not involved in the elaboration of new draft legal codes; and to
3.  Ensure that new draft legal codes are subject to national level expert reviews, as well as reviews by international expert bodies such as the Venice Commission with respect to the compliance of the draft laws with international treaties ratified by Kazakhstan, in accordance with article 4 of the Constitution.

The appeal has been signed by the following NGOs and individuals:

1. The International Foundation for Freedom of Expression “Adil Soz”
2. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law
3. The Public Fund “Human Rights Charter”
4. The Public Fund “International Law Initiative”
5. The Public Fund for the Development of Parliamentarism in Kazakhstan
6. The Public Fund “Aman-Saulik”
7. The Center for Research of Legal Policies
8. The Association of Religious Communities of Kazakhstan
9. The Union of Crisis Centers in Kazakhstan
10. The Public Association Echo
11. The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law
12. The Public Fund “Legal Media Center”
13. The Public Fund “Ulagatti Xanya”
14. The Fund “Tilshi”
15. The Fund “Journalists in Trouble”
16. The Pensioner Movement “Generation”
17. The National Social Democratic Party
18. The International Legal Initiative
19. Tazabek Sambetay, the youth branch of the National Social Democratic Party
20. The “Miracle” Center for the Social Adaptation of Orphans and Graduates from Orphanages
21. Rauf Sabitov, chairman of the Mountain Club “Zhabagly-Manas”
22. Saule Seyhakhmetov, “Elim-ay” (city of Zhezkazgan)
23. The Institute of National and International Development Initiatives
24. Ayur Kurmanov, chairman of “Talmas”, vice chairman of the Republican Labour Union “Zhanarty”
25. Asiya Kaliyeva, “Public Position (Almaty)
26. Tatyana Khatyokhina, regional director of the Center for Human Rights in the Sogdh region of Tajikistan
27. N.A. Yantsen, “Formation of Tax Culture”
28. Kyzylorda regional branch of the International Association “Kazakh Language”
29. The editorial staff of the newspaper “Language Guard”
30. Dimitry Tereshkevich,President of the Citizens Assembly of Astana
31. The International Journalist Center MediaNet
32. Kizatova Tokzhan, “Demos” (Atyrau)
33. Asel Nurgazieva, “Zaman” (Atyrau)
34. Natalia Ivaskevich, “Megapolis” (Atyrau)
35. E.E. Romanov, chairman of the Center for Child and Youth Creativity
36. The Fund of Local Communities in the Enbekshikazakh district
37. M.A. Nistolin, chairman of the Center for Rehabilitation of the North Kazakh Region
38. N.G. Romanov, chairman of the “Arch” Center for Supporting Craft
39. Igor Kolov, chairman of the Public Human Rights Committee
40. Mukhtar Umbetov, Independent Trade Unions of the Mangistau Region
41. Aleksey Bozhkov, editor of the Agency of Legal Information and Journalistic Research “Hero”
42. Sergey Solyanik, consultant with Crude Accountability
43. Lyudmila Petrova, director of “Angel”
44. The Center of Economic and Civil Education “Intellect”
45. Baktigul Kanatov, vice chairman of “Zhanirak”
46. Andrey Busikin, member of the World Commission on Protected Areas and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
47. Meryert Makhmutova, director of the Center for Analysis of Social Problems
48. Lyudmila Kurtavseva, vice director of “Reflection” (Temirtau)
49. Sverlana Mogilyok, chairman of “Ekom”
50. Alima Abdirova, director of “Ary Aana” (Aktobe)
51. The Public Fund “People’s Anti-Corruption Committee”
52. Ardak Khanabilova, “Ksonk”
53. Bakhit Aluay, chairman of Human Rights Mission
54. Bayrkhat Zhakarbekuli, president of “A United Nation”
55. Reporters Without Borders
56. Rozlana Taukina, chief editor of the newspaper “People’s Word”
57. The Order for the Protection of the Objectivity of Journalism “Forpost”
58. Eduard Pak, executive director of the Center for Electoral Culture
59. Tatyana Zinovich, deputy director of The Center for Research of Legal Policies
60. Timur Gafurov, deputy chief editor of the daily “Pur Newspaper (Kostanay)
61. Dilnar Insenova, the Movement for Homeless and Landless
62. Evgeniya Kozyreva, Feministic League
63. Bakytzhan Oyshiyev, chairman of the Center for Fair Social Journalism” and deputy chief editor of the newspaper “Zhambyl Taraz”
64. Nazgul Suleymenova, chief editor of the regional social-political newspaper “North Kazakhstan”
65. Viktor Miroshnichenko, reporter with “Vremya” (Astana)
66. Zaure Zhumalieva, president of the “Adil Arch” Fund
67. Saule Akpantayeva, “Adil Arch” Fund
68. Yelena Getmanova, chief editor of the newspaper “Diapazon”
69. Lukpan Akhmedyarov,chief editor of the newspaper “Uralskaya Nedelya”
70. Kaydar Kairzhanov, head of «Metrocom Service»
71. Snezhanna Kim, lawyer with the Kostanya regional bar
72. Tatyana Chernobyl, lawyer and independent consultant on international human rights law
73. Gulnar Esirgenova, human rights defender
74. Marzhan Aspandyarova, human rights defender
75. Marina Vasileeva, Journalist (Aktobe)
76. Sergey Chechulin, engineer at “Katsinkmash”
77. Arzgul Tillyabaeva (Almaty)
78. Kayrat Baltabay, journalist
79. Max Bokaev, citizen journalist (Atyrau)
80. Mukametzhan Sebit Maymakuly
81. Maymak Kenzhegul Sebitkyzy
82. Mukametzhan Bibygul Sebitkyzy
83. Sergey Florov, sociologist
84. Albin Rymzhanov
85. Bakhitnur Otarbaeva
86. Arzgul Tillyabaeva
87. Ayan Zharipbaev
88. Kenzhe Adenov
89. Nurbulat Satagulov
90. Oksama Makushina, journalist
91. I.V. Trishina, engineer
92. Zhollan Tuleulova, Aktabau Regional Philharmonic Orchestra
93. Zhanna Baytelova, journalist, Almaty
94. International Partnership for Human Rights (Belgium)
95.Zhasaran Kyanyshalin, “Zhasa Azzatyk!”
96. Asia Kaliyeva, president of the “Public Position”
97. Svetlana Kovlyagina, chairman of the Committee for Monitoring Criminal Reform and Human Rights
98. Oleksandra Matveichuk and Aleksandra Novichkova, Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
99. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee
100. Gaziz Aldamzharov
101. Natalya Balashova, editor of the economic department of the newspaper “North Kazakhstan”
102. Yulia Maldina, correspondent at the newspaper “North Kazakhstan”
103. Yevgeniya Ivanova, correspondent at the newspaper “Kvartal” (Petropavlovsk)
104. Aleksey Simonov, president of the Glasnost Defence Foundation (Moscow)
105. Asia Kaliyeva, president of “Public Position”
106. Aina Dolgova, chairman of board of the Unification Church
107. Esenbek Ukteshbaev, chairman of “Let’s leave accommodation for the people!”
108. Musaffar Babaev, lawyer and human rights defender
109. Gabbas Kabyshuly, writer and laureate of the international literary award “Alash”
110. Marianna Gurina, president of “Ulagatty Zhanya”
111. The organization “Journalists” (Kyrgyzstan)
112. Zhanara Balgabaeva, lawyer at “Zhanyrak”
113. The Public Fund “Center for Social Analysis and Partnership”
114. The Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Kazakhstan
115. Alexandra Kim, journalist and head of “Freedom”
116. The Research Center “Sandzh”
117. The Media Service Center (Shymkent)
118. The Public Information Center “Open World”
119. Obraz Alimbekov, journalist
120. Anatoly Ivanov, journalist
121. Madya Torebaeva, journalist
122.The organization ”The last hope”
123. The Public Fund “Nota Bene” (Tajikistan)
124. Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor (Armenia)
125. The Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
126. The Human Rights Group “Citizens, Army, Rights” (Russia)
127. The organization “Health of Children”
128. The organization “Civil Defence”
129. The organization “Female beam”
130. Sharip Kurakbay, independent journalist
131. Erzhan Oralbekov, independent journalist
132. The ARGO Association for the Development of Civil Society
133. Pavel Shumkin, miner, Karaganda
134. Lev Guzikov, chief editor of the newspaper “Ready Solutions”
135. Ilmira Turegeldina
136. Rushan Nasyrova, medical worker
137. Orazbek Shyngys
138. R.E. Moldybaeva, pensioneer
139. Almagul Aykan
140. Gulbagidash Abdrahmanova
141. Alya Bukaeva
142. Ar Namys
143. Kharkiv Regional Foundation “Public Alternative” (Ukraine)
144. Tungat Erlan Amyrtayuly, lawyer
145. Gulmira Abdrakhmanova
146. The organization “Ulagat Asyl Ayna”
147. Alosher Sikhanov, builder
148. Dayana Mansurova, lawyer
149. Vladimir Dolgov, director of the International Fund for Education
150. Sergey Mauletbay, journalist
151. Andrey Sviridov, journalist, historian in the area of Kazakh media and public ideas
152. Apsen Abdrakhamov, “Assbasservice”
153. Yuri Dzibladze, Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)
154. Moscow Helsinki Group (Russia)
155. Analytical Center for Interethnic Cooperation and Consultations (Georgia)
156. Human Rights Movement “Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan”
157. Armenian Human Rights Committee
158. Center for Social Action (Ukraine)
159. Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan
160. Kosova Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims
161. Public Verdict Foundation (Russia)
162. Nasyrov Raymbek, graduate student
163. Gulnara Karakulova, director of the Women’s Resource Center
164. Marat Dauletbaev, “Baikonur for Civil Rights”
165. Bayan Egizbaev, chairman of the Center of Problems of Young People (Kyzylorda)
166. Tulegen Kasenov, chairman of “Fate of Nation – Akmola”
167. Sergey Molchanov, Director of “Doctors against Drugs”
168. Almas Kyrmanbetov
169. Aida Kasenova
170. “Eco Center” (Karaganda regional ecological center)
171. “A United Nation” (“Ult birligi”)
172. Human Rights Mission


Kazakhstan: the latest news

More news
Key issues for the EU’s Human Rights Dialogue with Kazakhstan

Key issues for the EU’s Human Rights Dialogue with Kazakhstan

Briefing paper for EU-Kazakhstan Human Rights Dialogue April 2024
Kazakhstan: Crackdown on the opposition, fight against “false” information and publication of “foreign agent” list

Kazakhstan: Crackdown on the opposition, fight against “false” information and publication of “foreign agent” list

Practical Guide to EU Sanctions for Civil Society

Practical Guide to EU Sanctions for Civil Society

Practical Guide to EU Sanctions for Civil Society

Subscribe to our updates

Please select the topic(s) on which you wish to receive news/updates from us
Type of information you wish to receive