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Amnesty International Report 2003 - Kazakstan

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2003
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2003 - Kazakstan , 28 May 2003, available at: [accessed 13 December 2018]
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.

Covering events from January - December 2002

Head of state: Nursultan Nazarbayev
Head of government: Imangali Tasmagambetov (replaced Kasymzhomart Tokayev in January)
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: not signed

Death sentences and executions continued in large numbers. Reports of torture and ill-treatment continued and at least two detainees died in suspicious circumstances. Two leaders of the opposition were imprisoned and opposition supporters reported harassment. The authorities continued to return refugees forcibly to countries where they were at risk of serious human rights violations.

Human rights protection

In September, the President established the position of Human Rights Commissioner. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) welcomed this development and called for the Commissioner's mandate to be strengthened in line with international standards.

Death penalty

A large number of people continued to be sentenced to death and executed during 2002. The authorities did not disclose exact figures. The newly appointed Human Rights Commissioner and senior government officials including the President made statements in favour of moves towards abolition of the death penalty. The chair of the Supreme Court, however, favoured retaining the death penalty.

There were reports of torture and ill-treatment in several death penalty cases. In addition, the treatment of relatives of condemned prisoners amounted to a form of mental cruelty. Families were not told in advance the date of execution, and usually learned of the execution by telegram a week after it had taken place. The laws also stipulated that they were not to be informed of the burial site for two years.

Torture and deaths in custody

Reports of torture and ill-treatment of detainees continued. At least two people died in pre-trial detention, reportedly as a result of torture.

  • Vladislav Shishov died on 11 September during his transfer from police custody to the investigation-isolation prison in the northern town of Pavlodar. He had been detained on 7 September on drug-related charges. The director of the police station reportedly told Vladimir Shishov's mother that he was uncontrollable and his injuries were self-inflicted. The prison medical officer reportedly refused to give him any medical care. According to a post-mortem examination, he suffered multiple injuries including a ruptured liver and injuries to his head, chest and stomach. In September a six-day criminal investigation was conducted into his death, which found that fellow detainees were responsible. Criminal cases were reportedly opened against two of his cellmates, and two senior prison staff were charged with "criminal negligence" and "improper performance of duty by medical staff". There were reports that the investigation ignored allegations that prison staff deliberately failed to protect Vladimir Shishov as well as allegations that police officers were actively involved in the beatings.
Forcible deportations

Kazakstan continued to return refugees forcibly to countries where they were at risk of serious human rights violations. For example, at least five people wanted by the Uzbek authorities on "religious extremism" charges were forcibly returned to Uzbekistan and at least two of them were reportedly tortured in the basement of the National Security Service in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent.

However, on a positive note, Kazakstan refrained from returning Turkmen former political prisoner Gulgeldi Annannyyazov to Turkmenistan. Gulgeldi Annannyyazov was granted refugee status by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Kazakstan and was flown to Norway for medical treatment at the end of September.

Freedom of expression

Supporters of the secular opposition reported increased harassment by the authorities following the creation of the Democratic Choice of Kazakstan (DCK) movement in late 2001.
  • Mukhtar Ablyazov and Galymzhan Zhakiyanov, two former senior government officials and well-known leaders of the DCK movement, were sentenced to six and seven years' imprisonment in July and August respectively, on charges of "abuse of office" and financial crimes, including misappropriation of state funds. Official corruption is an endemic problem in Kazakstan and goes largely unpunished. Mukhtar Ablyazov and Galymzhan Zhakiyanov were apparently targeted because of their peaceful opposition activities. Despite a sharp deterioration in Galymzhan Zhakiyanov's health as a result of interrogations in May and June, the investigator reportedly insisted on continuing to interrogate him. The trials of both men failed to meet international fair trial standards.
Several journalists known to be critical of the government faced harassment, assaults and allegedly fabricated charges.
  • Sergey Duvanov, an independent journalist, was charged in July with "insulting the honour and dignity of the President", reportedly in connection with an article implicating government officials in financial crimes. On 28 August he was assaulted by three unidentified men in plain clothes and had to be hospitalized. In November he was charged with raping a minor and a trial against him opened on 24 December in Karasay District Court in Almaty region. There were allegations that the case was fabricated to discredit him.
Independent media outlets were subjected to arson attacks and robberies, allegedly government-inspired in order to intimidate independent journalists. The authorities reportedly failed to investigate these incidents thoroughly. Several independent media companies were forced to suspend broadcasts temporarily.
  • On 19 May, a beheaded dog was found in the Almaty office of the independent newspaper Business Review 'Respublika'. The office was burned down several days later in a petrol-bomb attack.
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