The Open Society Institute is deeply discouraged by the decision of the Kazakhstani appeals court to uphold the sentence of Evgeniy Zhovtis, a noted human rights defender. In September of this year Mr. Zhovtis was convicted of unintentional vehicular manslaughter and sentenced to four years in prison. The Zhovtis case exposed a justice system in Kazakhstan that urgently needs to be reformed and strengthened.
Mr. Zhovtis' defense team and international observers have pointed to numerous procedural violations during both the investigation and trial that prevented Mr. Zhovtis from presenting all evidence in defence of his innocence. As Kazakhstan prepares for its chairmanship of the OSCE, the Open Society Institute urgently calls on the authorities of Kazakhstan to open a new investigation of the case and release Mr. Zhovtis.
Evgeniy Zhovtis was chair of Soros Foundation Kazakhstan from 1999 to 2002; he is the recipient of many international awards for his work. An outspoken advocate for human rights in Kazakhstan (including freedom of religion and assembly, electoral reform), Zhovtis also actively participates in various government commissions bringing his expertise and insights as a human rights defender. He was involved in an accident on July 26 during which a pedestrian was killed.