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New briefing note: Repression of labor protests in Kazakhstan

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Almaty, Brussels, 18 October 2011. A briefing note published today by Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law and International Partnership for Human Rights examines the response to the ongoing labor protests in the oil industry in western Kazakhstan. It describes a number of cases of repressive and intimidating measures targeting protesting workers and those assisting, supporting and reporting on their struggle.

“The Kazakhstani authorities have sided with the employers and failed to take appropriate measures to mediate in this labor conflict,” said Roza Akylbekova, Acting Director of Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law. “Instead, they have sought to stifle the workers’ protests and punish those who help them to pursue their rights,” she pointed out.

During the last few months, thousands of oil industry workers have been striking and protesting in the natural resource rich Mangistau region in western Kazakhstan, where a considerable part of the country’s oil output is extracted. Most oil companies are partly or fully state-owned. The workers have demanded fair pay and work conditions, as well as the right to carry out labor union activities without interference.

The strikes have been declared illegal by court, as a result of which workers have been fired for their involvement in them; peaceful protest meetings held by workers have been forcefully dispersed and participants have been fined and arrested; leading figures in the strike movement have been criminally and administratively charged on what appear to be politically motivated grounds; and strike activists and political opposition members supporting the protesting workers have been intimidated and harassed in different ways. There have also been attempts to obstruct monitoring and reporting on developments related to the labor protests.

“These developments are highly problematic in light of international human rights standards,” said Brigitte Dufour, Director of International Partnership for Human Rights. “Kazakhstan’s international partners should continue to speak up about them and insist that no one must be punished for the legitimate and peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, association and assembly or labor rights in connection with the protests,” she added.

The briefing note published by the two organizations will be presented as a contribution to an EU-Kazakhstan Civil Society Seminar on Human Rights, which will take place in Almaty on 19-20 October 2011.

Download the briefing paper.

For more information: Roza Akylbekova, Acting Director of Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (Russian, Kazakh), tel.: +7 701 713 6509; Brigitte Dufour, Director of International Partnership for Human Rights (English, French), tel.: +32 473 36 38 91

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