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On June 13 the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and Human Rights Watch sent letters to the president and foreign councillor of Switzerland and the president of Finland, urging them to raise human rights issues during their official visits Kazakhstan this summer. June 10 marked the official opening of the Expo 2017 in Astana. The expo, dedicated to energy of the future, is the first world exposition to be held in Central Asia, and is estimated to have cost between $3 and $5 billion. According to local news, at least 17 heads of state will visit the expo before it closes at September 10.
Kazakhstan: Free political prisoners Bokayev and Ayan:
Today the Norwegian Helsinki Committee congratulates political prisoner Max Bokayev on his 44th birthday and appeals to the authorities of Kazakhstan to free him and fellow political prisoner Talgat Ayan. The two remain in prison after an Atyrau court last year sentenced them to five years imprisonment in retaliation for their peaceful activism. Текст на русском ниже
-Authorities in Kazakhstan must ensure civil society organizations the freedom to fully carry out their activities in accordance with domestic law and international human rights standards, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. – In a recent development local authorities have aimed to thwart civic education events organized by the not-for-profit organization Youth Information Service of Kazakhstan (YISK).
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee condemns the five-year sentence given yesterday to peaceful activists Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan in retaliation for their peaceful protest against proposed amendments to the country’s land-law in April and May. The harsh prison sentence is in violation of the Constitution of Kazakhstan and the country’s international human rights obligations, and must therefore be quashed, the NHC said.
Authorities in Kazakhstan must drop all charges against civil society activists Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan, and immediately free them, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said in a statement today. The trial against Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan is scheduled to start on October 12 in the city of Atyrau. The two peaceful activists risk five to ten years imprisonment if found guilty on charges that appear trumped-up in retaliation for their role in organizing peaceful protests earlier this year, the NHC said.
Do you want to join a small team in NHCs active office in Kazakhstan? NHC has a vacancy for an Administrative Officer at our Central Asia Office in Almaty. Deadline for applications is 24 June 2016.
Authorities in Kazakhstan must immediately release all peaceful activists arrested ahead of planned protests on May 21, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Adil Soz, International Legal Initiative and Association for Human Rights in Central Asia said in a statement today.
Stop Harassment, Ensure Fair Trial: The prosecution of an independent journalist on charges of “disseminating false information” will commence before a court in Almaty, capital of Kazakhstan, on May 5, 2016, Human Rights Watch and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said today. Authorities detained Guzyal Baidalinova, 47, a journalist and the owner of Nakanune.kz, an independent online news site, on December 23, 2015 as a suspect in the case, and have held her in pre-trial detention since her formal arrest three days later, despite multiple requests for bail.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is pleased to announce the continuation of our small grants fund in Kazakhstan. We welcome
project proposals related to human rights, democratization and the strengthening of civil society. Click on the links below
to read the announcement in full.
NB! The Norwegian Helsinki Committee informs that the deadline for applications has been extended to 18 April, 2016.
On 5 November 2015 a controversial draft law pertaining to the activities of the non-governmental sector passed its second reading in the Kazakhstani Senate. Approved by the Senate, a signature by the president of Kazakhstan is the next step.
Together with six other international human rights organisations, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee today sent a letter to the Prosecutor General of Kazakhstan, Askhat Daulbaev. The letter concerns a recent case of intimidation, pressure and obstruction of the work of lawyer Snezhanna Kim in Kostanay, Kazakhstan.
The new NHC report Kazakhstan: Cunning democracy, analyzes the current situation for democracy in the country, and summarizes some of our current concerns with regards to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion or belief. The report is co-written with Freedom House.
On 26 April 2015 presidential elections were held in Kazakhstan. Incumbent Nursultan Nazarbayev, in office since 1991, expectedly won the race with an official 97.7 % of the vote, in an election characterized by lack of genuine choice.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee today publishes a new report on the right to public protest in Kazakhstan, an essential part of the country’s obligation to ensure Freedom of Assembly and Association.
Statement issued by International Partnership for Human Rights, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and Kazakhstan International
Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, 27 February 2015.
The Almaty City Court yesterday upheld the closure of the outspoken ADAM bol magazine over an article about the conflict in Ukraine. We condemn this decision as another serious blow to freedom of expression and media pluralism in Kazakhstan.
OSCE meeting in Warzaw:
NHC is active at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2014 which is currently taking place in Warsaw.
The President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Sir Suma Chakrabati, visited Kazakhstan during the week of 9 June. During his visit to Almaty, the President and several of his colleagues from the EBRD met with the Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s Regional Representative in Central Asia, Ivar Dale, to discuss recent developments in the sphere of human rights.
On 9 April, the Parliament of Kazakhstan has the second hearing on a reform package of four laws related to criminal proceedings in Kazakhstan. – The reform is long awaited since there are several problematic issues with the current legislation, but unfortunately the suggested amendments, if implemented, will result in a more restrictive legislation package rather than an improvement, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the International Legal Initiative in Kazakhstan warn.
On the same day as the Prime Minister and his cabinet unexpectedly stepped down in Astana, yet another independent newspaper was ordered to close in Almaty. The newspaper Assandi Times has been covering cases also critical to the government since 2002, but was closed after a 1 April 2014 court decision following a trial that none of the staff of the newspaper were informed of.
NGO Forum for Human Rights:
Norwegian Helsinki Committee, of behalf of the Norwegian NGO Forum for Human Rights, has submitted the annual recommendations to the Government of Norway on human rights at United Nations. The recommendations are particularly directed towards Norway's efforts before the UN Human Rights Council, but are relevant also to other UN bodies.
The Freedom of Religion or Belief in Central Asia Project is part of NHC’s larger Human Rights in Central Asia program, and focuses in particular on Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is pleased to announce the continuation of our small grants fund for Central Asia. All organizations with project proposals related to human rights, democratization or strengthening of civil society may apply. While we are open to all good proposals, we encourage projects in Kazakhstan related to the outlying regions of the country. In Kyrgyzstan, we are particularly interested in projects addressing the basic human rights of vulnerable groups as well as legal initiatives. In Tajikistan, strengthening of the media and the rights of children is important. However, we are open to original and innovative ideas.
Following her detention upon arrival to Tashkent International Airport from Bishkek at 7:20 PM on Monday 24 June, prominent Kyrgyzstani human rights activist Tolekan Ismailova was deported to Almaty, Kazakhstan in the afternoon of 25 June.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is pleased to announce that the following projects have been selected to receive support from its annual Small Grants Fund.
In a statement supported by other Civic Solidarity Platform members, the NHC expresses regret that Baroness Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, did not use her recent visit to Central Asia to raise the human rights challenges in the region. This is particularly disappointing as the EU is about to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for its "advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights".
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee was distressed to learn of serious, anonymous threats made against the Central Asia Program Director of Human Rights Center Memorial, Vitaliy Ponomarev, on 12 January 2012 and urges Russian and Uzbekistani authorities to open an investigation.
One year after Kazakhstani security forces shot 16 people following a strike in the oil town Zhanaozen in Western Kazakhstan, the authorities are intensifying the pressure against alternative voices in the country. The scrutiny also extends to activity outside the country’s borders. A Kazakhstani independent trade union activist was attempted kidnapped in Moscow this weekend. -Since the Zhanaozen events, Kazakhstan has moved in the wrong direction regarding civil society, states Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Bjørn Engesland. -Whilst trying to keep up appearances abroad, for example by becoming a member of the UN Human Rights Council, activists and independent media working for the same rights at home are subject to an unacceptable crack-down.
Alerted by the recent sentence against civil society activist Vadim Kuramshin, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, International Partnership for Human Rights and the Netherlands Helsinki Committee call upon Kazakhstani authorities to ensure that activists are not punished for their civic engagement or for their exercise of their freedom of expression.
Oslo/Almaty, 21 November 2012: The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is deeply concerned at today’s request by the Prosecutor General’s office in Kazakhstan that the court ban what in effect are all news outlets critical of the current government.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee was disappointed to learn of the 7 ½ year prison sentence given to Kazakhstan opposition leader Vladimir Kozlov on 8 October 2012. Kozlov is the head of the main opposition party in Kazakhstan, Alga (Forward).
(15/09-2010) I en fullsatt prøvesal i Det norske teatret mottok Svetlana Vitkovskaja, Rosa Akylbekova og Yurij Gussakov på vegne av prisvinnerne Jevgeny Zhovtis og Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law. Prisutdelingen ble en seremoni til inspirasjon og ettertanke, som viste hvordan enkeltpersoner tar høy risiko ved sitt arbeid for fremme av menneskerettigheter og demokrati i mange av de land Den norske Helsingforskomité arbeider i.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is pleased to announce the continuation of our small grants fund for Central Asia. All organizations with project proposals related to human rights, democratization or strengthening of civil society may apply. While we are open to all good proposals, we encourage projects in Kazakhstan related to the outlying regions of the country. In Kyrgyzstan, we are particularly interested in projects addressing the basic human rights of vulnerable groups as well as legal initiatives. In Tajikistan, strengthening of the media and the rights of children is important. In addition to our regular program, we are glad to announce that additional grants have been allocated for smaller projects in Kazakhstan. These grants may be up to 9,999 USD, and are intended to support projects in more outlying regions of the country. The deadline and other requirements are the same.
NHC interventions at OSCE HDIM in Warsaw:
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is represented also at this years' OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw. In our interventions at the meeting we will focus on the importance of independent judiciary drawing upon the examples of the Sergey Magnitsky case in Russia and the case against several oppositionals in Western Kazakhstan, and also drawing attention to governments' obligation to facilitate human rights eduaction, including by refraining from hindering participation by visa denial.
Five Year Anniversary of EU Central Asia Strategy:
- Five years on, there is broad consensus that the human rights dialogues established with the Central Asian governments and other measures taken to implement the Strategy’s human rights objectives have not been as effective as desired. The overall human rights situation in Central Asia has not improved in any substantial way and, in some respects, human rights protection has even deteriorated in the countries of the region. NHC is among the signatories of an appeal to the European Union in occation of the five year anniversary of the EU Central Asia strategy.
On 22 and 23 May, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Coalition for the International Criminal Court organized a seminar in Almaty, Kazakhstan with participants from civil society in all five Central Asian republics.
The Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), a global network of more than 2500 organizations including the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, urges Kazakhstan to accede to the ICC Rome Statute. - Central Asia is significantly underrepresented at the Court; only Tajikistan is a state party, said William R. Pace, Convenor of the CICC in a letter addressed to H.E. President Nursultan Nazarbayev. - When Kazakhstan joins the international justice system established by the Rome Statute and represented by the ICC, it will give the region a greater voice in the global fight to end impunity, and it will be an important step forward nationally toward greater commitment to justice and accountability, he highlighted.
On 15 March the European Parliament adopted a resolution that is clear in its criticism of the latest developments in Kazakhstan, and which expresses concern with the human rights situation. In that connection, the NHC sent a statement to the European Parliament jointly with the International Partnership for Human Rights in Brussels and the Netherlands Helsinki Committee in The Hague, in an appeal to use the new cooperation agreement to push for follow-through on Kazakhstan’s human rights promises.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee was delighted to learn Friday that prominent Kazakhstani human rights defender Evgeniy Zhovtis was finally released from prison in Ust-Kamenogorsk. Having been amnestied after serving 2,5 years in prison following a highly politicized trial in 2009, Zhovtis can now rejoin his family, friends and colleagues in Almaty.
Det olje- og gassrike Kasakhstan har lenge vore kjend som det best utvikla landet i Sentral-Asia, utan etnisk eller anna uro og med stabil økonomisk utvikling. President Nasarbajev har styrt landet sidan 1989, og med referanse til stabilitet og økonomisk framgang har både innbyggjarane og det internasjonale samfunnet stort sett latt Nasarbajev styre utan innblanding. Men så gjekk ei gruppe oljearbeidarar i det vestlege Kasakhstan i mai 2011 i streik for å få den løna og arbeidsforholda dei meinte dei hadde krav på etter lova. I sju månader var det ingen som brydde seg særskild om dei streikande, før dei skrekkelege nyhenda kom den 16.desember 2011: minst 17 menneske var drepne og fleire skadde i opptøyar mellom streikande og politistyrkar i den vesle byen Zhanaozen i ørkenen. Korleis kunne ein grunnleggjande arbeidskonflikt om lovregulert løn og arbeidsforhold gå så langt?
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is disappointed to learn of raids and arrests of opposition politicians and journalists in Almaty, Kazakhstan on 23 January 2012. The arrests are connected to the ongoing investigation of the events in Zhanozen on 16 December 2011.- Authorities seem intent on cracking down on remaining opposition rather than to carry out a transparent investigation to establish responsibility for the many deaths during these tragic events, says Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee Bjørn Engesland.
On Sunday 15 January, Kazakhstan held early Parliamentary elections after President Nazarbayev expressed that more than one party now should be represented in Parliament and law amendments were made to provide for this. However, despite promises of democratization and the recent period as chair of the OSCE, several violations took place and did not allow for a fair and democratic competition for the seats in Parliament.
At least 14 people have been killed and 86 people wounded in clashes between police and demonstrators in the Mangistau region in Western Kazakhstan. The unrest follows seven months of conflicts between striking oil workers and authorities, and reportedly started in Zhanozen on 16 December, when people attacked a stage set up for the Independence Day event. – It is of paramount importance that investigations into the clashes and the resulting deaths are conducted in an independent and transparent way, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General. – Efforts to find peaceful solutions to this conflict should be initiated, and these efforts should be guided by fundamental human rights principles such as freedom of association and speech.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) is concerned with recently adopted legislation on religious organizations; coming into force on 25 October 2011. – The legislation is very restrictive, violating international human rights on numerous points. Prohibiting unregistered religious activities and establishing censorship of religious literature is clearly in breach of human rights provisions on freedom of religion or belief. In addition, so far authorities have failed to present instructions on how to abide by the law, says Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
Having experienced economic growth, while granting limited freedoms to its population since independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has recently been shocked by terrorist acts. In Atyrau, Western Kazakhstan, on 31 October four young men placed bombs close to security service instalments. One of the four, a local resident, died when one of the bombs went off prematurely. In a further serious development, on Saturday 12 November, a young man killed five law enforcement officers, two bystanders and himself in a shooting spree in Taraz, Southern Kazakhstan.
Two new laws restricting freedom of religion or belief has passed through the Maijilis (lower house) and the Senate of the Parliament at great speed (21 and 29 September, respectively), without including consultation with civil society or other relevant stake holders. – The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) is concerned with the rapid passage as well as the restrictive nature of the new laws, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the NHC. – The way to prevent violent religious extremism is not to restrict freedom of religion. There are plenty of examples showing that undue restrictions are counterproductive in this regard.
The appeal case of Natalya Sokolova, legal representative of a trade union formed by employees of the Karazhanbasmunbay oil company in the Aktau region of Kazakhstan, is proceeding these days in Aktau, Western Kazakhstan. - The appeal hearing should lead to immediate release of Mrs Sokolova, says Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.
Natalya Sokolova, legal representative of a trade union formed by employees of the Karazhanbasmunbay oil company in the Aktau region of Kazakhstan, has been sentenced to six years of imprisonment. - The verdict should be revoked, says Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is very disappointed that the human rights activist and laureate of the Sakharov Freedom Award Evgeniy Zhovtis on 2 August again was rejected in his appeal for early release.
The NHC is pleased to announce a contest for project proposals aiming at improving the situation regarding human rights, democratization or civil society in Central Asia. All organizations in the region with project proposals related to human rights, democratization or strengthening of civil society may apply. At the same time, we encourage projects targeting political rights in Kazakhstan, minority rights in Tajikistan, and reconciliation and protection of basic human rights after the Osh events in Kyrgyzstan.
This week the Ombudsman of Kazakhstan Askar Shakirov and a delegation of two are visiting Norway on invitation by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. The Ombudsman will meet with various ombudsman institutions in Norway, the National Institution and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The NHC is pleased to announce a contest for project proposals aiming at improving the situation regarding human rights, democratization or civil society in Kazakhstan. Additionally, the NHC also announces vacancy as assistant to Program Manager of the NHC Representative Office in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Today, five days after the landslide victory in disputed Presidential elections, President Nursultan Nazarbayev was inaugurated at a ceremony in Astana. In the speech, he referred to congratulations received from world leaders, grateful to how these congratulations “mean a wholehearted support not only for the choice of the people of Kazakhstan, but also for our strategic course”.