Kazakhstan fails to probe violence against January protesters: HRW
Kazakhstan’s failure to investigate rights violations by the authorities during January’s protests has been condemned by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev claimed the protests were hijacked by thousands of “terrorists” exploiting instability to attempt a coup.
A total of 1,113 protesters and others have been convicted with 423 convicted on charges of “participating in mass riots” while one army officer was prosecuted for abuse of power over a man’s death. Another case over three deaths is unresolved while hundreds of allegations of violence against the authorities have not been investigated, the rights group said.
“Nearly a year after the January events, families of those who were killed and the hundreds of people wounded or tortured are still waiting for justice,” said Mihra Rittmann, a Central Asia researcher at HRW. “Kazakhstan’s partners should urgently renew their calls for an independent and effective investigation into the January events.”
Tokayev promised after protests that the government would address concerns about the huge wealth, impunity and power enjoyed by government figures and police officers.
The Kazakh authorities estimate that 238 people were killed in the protests and acknowledge six people died in custody from torture after the protests. This is seen as a heavy underestimate.
On November 16, a military court convicted Mark Zlunyaev, an army officer, over the death of Ernazar Krykbaev, a 24-year-old shepherd who was shot dead near an army camp the day after protests broke out in Taldykorgan. Zlunyaev was sentenced to six years in prison. Another army officer in Taldykorgan is yet to stand trial over three people who were shot dead.
Bakhytzhan Toregozhina, a human rights defender in Almaty, said the authorities in Taraz, Kyzylorda and Shymkent have all cleared their security officers of wrongdoing.
In Kyzylorda investigations were closed into the deaths of 24 people and 20 people in Shymkent on grounds there was no criminal conduct. In Taraz 15 people were killed in January but the prosecutor’s office has closed its investigation.
In Almaty, Kazakhstan’s biggest city where the most sizeable protests took place, rights monitors say the authorities have closed at least 32 cases into 139 deaths.
Hundreds have alleged being tortured after the protests, including allegations that police in Taldykorgan used irons to burn detainees.
But the Prosecutor General’s Office has reported that only two torture cases, involving eight police officers, have reached court and no one has been prosecuted.
Unrest in Kazakhstan in January. Picture credit: YouTube