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A coalition of NGO has written an open letter to the president of Kazakhstan about Yevgeniy Zhovtis, director of Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law who was recently denied early release from prison.

January 20, 2011

His Excellency Nursultan Nazarbayev
Republic of Kazakhstan
Astana, Kazakhstan

Your Excellency:

We are writing to express our dismay that Kazakhstan’s leading human rights defender, Mr. Yevgeniy Zhovtis, was not granted early release after the expiration of one-third of his four year sentence for vehicular manslaughter. In spite of being the victim of arbitrary treatment while incarcerated, Mr. Zhovtis fulfilled all reasonable requirements for early release. He has also expressed his sincere regret for the loss of life that resulted from the accident in which he was involved and provided material compensation to the family of the victim, while firmly maintaining that he was not guilty of a criminal

Independent observers and analysts have concluded that the investigation, trial, and appeal of Mr. Zhovtis’ case were marred by with fundamental violations of the laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan and of international human rights standards. These flaws have had a profoundly negative effect on your country’s standing in the international community.

The continued incarceration of Mr. Zhovtis, who actively contributed to the drafting of your government’s National Plan for Human Rights reflects poorly on the state of human rights and rule of law in Kazakhstan. We encourage your government to take whatever
steps are necessary, consonant with legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan, to undo this miscarriage of justice. It is crucial for Kazakhstan’s government and justice system to be able to  correct flaws such as those seen in the investigation, trial, and appeal of Mr.

Your government’s failure to release Mr. Zhovtis calls into serious question Kazakhstan’s intention to fulfill its human dimension commitments as reiterated late last year at the OSCE summit in the Astana Commemorative Declaration.

We call on you to reverse the decision that keeps Mr. Zhovtis in jail.


Aryeh Neier
Open Society Foundation

David Kramer
Executive Director
Freedom House

Harry Hummel
Executive Director
Netherlands Helsinki Committee

Bjørn Engesland
Secretary General
Norwegian Helsinki Committee

Yuri Dzibladze
Center for the Development of
Democracy and Human Rights

Brigitte Dufour
International Partnership for Human Rights

Nadira Eshmatova
Youth Human Rights Group
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Shuhrat Ganiev
Humanitarian Legal Center

Valentina Gritsenko
Jalal-Abad, Kyrgyzstan

Abdumomun Mamaraimov
Chairman of the Board
Voice of Freedom

Azuza Abdirasulova
Kilim Shami

Kate Watters
Executive Director
Crude Accountability

Steve Trent
Executive Director
Economic Justice Foundation

Alain Deletroz
Vice President
International Crisis Group

Gavin Hayman
Global Witness

Ludmila Alexeeva
Moscow Helsinki Group

Souhayr Belhassen
International Federation for Human

Mary Lawler
Frontline Defenders

Beth Fernandez
Senior Programmes and Policy Officer

Jos Boonstra
Head of Programme
EU-Central Asia Monitoring

Nigina Bakhrieva
Public Foundation “Nota bene”

Sergey Romanov
Independent Centre for Human Rights Protection
Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Aleh Hulak
Belarusian Helsinki Committee

Kenneth Roth
Executive Director
Human Rights Watch

Ellen Bork
Director, Human Rights and Democracy
The Foreign Policy Initiative

Sardar Bagishbekov
Golos Svobody Public Foundation

Starys Kausinis
Civil Defense Fund

Daniil Meshcheryakov
Centre for Civil Liberties

Elisa Massimino
President and Chief Executive Officer
Human Rights First

Dr.Leila Alieva
Center for National and International Studies
Baku, Azerbaijan

CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Secretariat and Steering Committee
The World Movement for Democracy

Umida Niyazova
Uzbek German Forum for Human Rights


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