UN human rights experts urge Kazakhstan to halt clampdown on land reform protesters


GENEVA (12 May 2016) – United Nations human
rights experts* today called on the Government of Kazakhstan to protect the
rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression after mass
arrests, detention and criminal prosecutions following demonstrations over
proposed land reforms across the country.

Peaceful protests took place last week in six
Kazakh cities in response to amendments adopted on the land law governing the
rights of foreigners to rent agricultural land in the country. Protesters contend
that the changes, which include an increase of such leases from 10 to 25 years,
could facilitate the sale of land to the detriment of Kazakh citizens and

“Arrests, detention and criminal prosecutions are
being used to deter and punish those protesting and expressing their voices
against the land law,” the UN experts noted. “The Government must immediately
end all forms of persecution and take effective measures to protect civil

The UN experts were alarmed by criminal cases brought
against some protestors and human rights defenders for exercising their rights
to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. The criminal charges
being used to target protestors and human rights defenders, include the
‘kindling of social discord’ under Article 174(2) of the Criminal Code.

“Freedom of the press and the right to freedom of
assembly are fundamental for the functioning of a democratic society,” they
said drawing attention to the preventative arrests made of journalists, cameramen
and bloggers targeted for reporting on the recent events. “Detention and
criminal prosecutions must not be used arbitrarily to target journalists and
civil society”, stated the experts.

“The Government of Kazakhstan has an obligation to
promote the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and freedom
of expression and opinion by ensuring a safe and enabling environment for civil
society to carry out their activities without fear of persecution,” they said.
“It also has an obligation not to interfere in the exercise of those rights.

(*) Mr. Michel Forst,
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mr. David
, Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. Maina
, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and
of association, and Mr. José Guevara, First Vice-Chair of the
UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, are part of what is known as the
Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest
body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name
of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that
address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of
the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not
UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from
any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity

Learn more, log on to:

Human rights defenders: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx

Freedom of expression: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx

Freedoms of assembly and association: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/AssemblyAssociation/Pages/SRFreedomAssemblyAssociationIndex.aspx

Arbitrary detention:

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Kazakhstan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/KZIndex.aspx

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contact Ms. Azin Tadjdini (atadjdini@ohchr.org/
+41 22 917 9400).

Formedia inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 /xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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* Original