NEW YORK—The Open Society Justice Initiative joins the Kazakhstan International Bureau on Human Rights and the Rule of Law in welcoming the release from prison under a broad government amnesty of its director Yevgeniy Zhovtis.
Kazakhstan must now acknowledge that his imprisonment was the result of a politically-motivated unfair trial and arbitrary excessive sentencing.
Zhovtis has for years been recognized as the most authoritative voice on human rights issues in Kazakhstan. But he was given a four year prison sentence in 2009 after he was involved in a fatal traffic accident, following a manifestly unfair trial during which he was denied due process and subject to an arbitrarily heavy sentence.
The circumstances of the trial and sentencing are now being reviewed by the UN Human Rights Committee, following a complaint filed by the Open Society Justice Initiative and the Kazakhstan International Bureau on Human Rights and the Rule of Law.
Roza Akylbekova, acting director of the Kazakhstan International Bureau on Human Rights and the Rule of Law said: “It is a great relief to see Yevgeniy Zhovtis free at last. But the joy is marred by the refusal of the authorities to recognize and rectify the human rights violations he endured”.
“The Bureau and Zhovtis will continue to demand justice in his case, domestically and internationally,” she added.
James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, said: “The release of Yevgeniy Zhovtis is a much delayed step that ends his arbitrary imprisonment. But he is still awaiting justice.”
In September 2009, Zhovtis was sentenced to four years in prison after he was involved in a fatal traffic accident. He was prevented from mounting an adequate defense, and both the trial and appeal were severely biased against him. He received an excessive prison term and prison authorities subsequently subjected him to arbitrary restrictions, including ungrounded refusals of early release.
On December 28th, 2011, Kazakhstan’s president approved an amnesty law to mark the 20th anniversary of the country’s independence. The law provided for the release of several categories of persons sentenced for minor crimes, which included Zhovtis.
This release is available below in Russian.