Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2017, 17:20 GMT

Kazakhstan: Zhanaozen sentence for incitement of social hatred should be independently reviewed

Publisher Article 19
Publication Date 17 July 2013
Cite as Article 19, Kazakhstan: Zhanaozen sentence for incitement of social hatred should be independently reviewed, 17 July 2013, available at: [accessed 23 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

ARTICLE 19 urges the Kazakhstan Supreme Court when reviewing the appeal of Vladimir Kozlov this July to recognise that his case concerns the right to freedom of expression. We also urge the Supreme Court to abide by international law, balancing the right to freedom of expression with the other interests in this case, including national security and the rights of others.

About the case

Kozlov, leader of the unregistered political party, Alga, was sentenced for incitement of social hatred and calling for the violent overthrow of the constitutional order. The conviction was in connection with his alleged involvement in the December 2011 violence in Zhanaozen. This violence followed long drawn out strikes by oil workers, and saw oil workers, union representatives and political activists accused and sentenced for inciting the violence.

Vladimir Kozlov was arrested in Almaty in January 2012 and charged with several crimes in connection with the events of December 2011 in Zhanaozen. The crimes included:

inciting social hatred entailing serious consequences (Article 164, part 3 of the Criminal Code)

calling for the violent overthrow of the constitutional order (Article 170, part 2)

establishing and leading an organised criminal group (Article 235, part 1).

Kozlov received a seven-and-a half year prison sentence at Aktau City Court on 8 October 2012. He appealed against his conviction but the appeal was rejected by Mangistau Oblast Court on 20 November 2012. The Supreme Court has announced that it will review Koslov's appeal in July 2013.

ARTICLE 19 considers that the Aktau City Court verdict against Vladimir Kozlov did not comply with domestic criminal law and was not substantiated by the evidence in the case. The court:

failed to establish a link between the defendants' statements and the tragic events in Zhanaozen on 17 December 2011

made no reference to witness testimonies and other evidence to back up the findings

did not analyse the statements which had led to the defendants being brought to trial. Instead, the court accepted the opinions of a number of experts in psychology, philology and political science appointed by the court, without any apparent analysis or explanation.

International standards

ARTICLE 19 considers that the incrimination of incitement to "social hatred" set out in Article 164 of the Kazakh Criminal Code is problematic from an international law point of view. In contrast to incitement to racial, ethnic and religious hatred which Kazakhstan is obliged to prohibit under Article 20 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, prohibition of incitement to "social hatred" is not mandated by international law.

The term "social hatred" has a wide scope and can be used to restrict legitimate expression such as criticism against employers or economic elite.

Moreover as the term 'social hatred' is unclear it can be arbitrary interpreted and is open to potential abuse. In the policy brief 'Prohibiting incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence' ARTICLE 19 proposes a set of recommendations to be used for interpreting and implementing the international obligations which prohibit all advocacy that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.

We call on the Kazakh authorities to revise the Criminal Code in line with these recommendations.

Copyright notice: Copyright ARTICLE 19

Search Refworld