Kazakhstan: NHC calls on authorities to put an end to ongoing crackdown on free speech and alternative views

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.

In a statement, the organisations demand that Vadim Kuramshin should be released in accordance with the jury decision of 28 August 2012, and that the Kazakhstani authorities should make considerable efforts to put an end to the ongoing crackdown on free speech and alternative views in the country and comply with their international obligations in this area.

Kuramshin’s case is not the first time an outspoken critic of the Kazakhstani authorities has been sentenced following flawed court proceedings. Particularly worrying is the tendency that activists are punished for statements made in international fora, such as the case of opposition politician Vladimir Kozlov where his mere presence at the 2011 ODIHR HDIM was used as criminal evidence against him in court.

The ongoing crackdown on alternative opinions and the move to shut down independent media is further illustrated by today’s large administrative fine against “Respublika” editor Tatyana Trubacheva for publishing their material in another registered news platform.

Only a month ago, on November 13 2012, Kazakhstan was elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council. In its letter of candidature, Kazakhstan pledged to respect its obligations to all fundamental human rights, underlining that “In Kazakhstan, the principle of tolerance is not only a norm of political culture, but also a key principle of State policy which is supported and advocated.”

If the development over the last month is indicative of this tolerance, independent voices in Kazakhstan may face serious challenges over the next three years while Kazakhstan is a member of the Council.

Click here to read the statement.