As Kazakhstan's accession to the chairmanship of the OSCE in January 2010 moves closer, it seems as if the rule of law is all but suspended for journalists and human rights defenders critical of the incumbent regime. Despite strong international protests, Kazakh courts recently rejected the appeals of two individuals who had in their work been critical of the Kazakh regime in separate rulings under dubious circumstances.
On October 20, a court in Taldykorgan upheld the sentence of the prominent human rights lawyer and former chair of the board of the Soros Foundation Kazakhstan, Yevgeniy Zhovtis, to four years in a labor camp for vehicular manslaughter. The initial trial had been marred by several procedural irregularities that led many to assume that this was a politically motivated sentence.
Just two days later, owner and editor of the Alma Ata Info newspaper Ramazan Yesergepov's appeal was rejected by a court in Taraz. The journalist had been sentenced to three years in prison for "divulging state secrets" after publishing a letter he said revealed links between a businessman and the country's National Security Committee. As in the case of Zhovtis, Yesergepov's trial and conviction were heavily criticized by local and international observers. The OSCE released a statement that the sentence violated international standards and OSCE commitments on media freedom.
At this Open Society Institute forum, the speakers, all of them distinguished human rights defenders from Kazakhstan with intimate knowledge of these and other similar cases, report on the latest developments. They also analyze the current political situation in Kazakhstan and the implications for the Zhovtis and Yesergepov cases, and speak about policy implications for Western governments as Kazakhstan approaches its year at the helm of the OSCE.
All speakers are currently on a U.S. advocacy tour made possible with a grant from the OSI Central Eurasia Project.
- Vera Tkachenko, Legal Policy Center
- Tamara Kaleeva, Adil Soz
- Ninel Fokina, Almaty Helsinki Committee
- Iva Dobichina, Freedom House Kazakhstan
- Anna Alexandrova, Executive Director of the Soros Foundation Kazakhstan (moderator)
Anthony Richter, Director of the Open Society Institute Central Eurasia Project, introduced the event.
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