By James Moules
AMNESTY International has criticised government repression in Kazakhstan as protests continue to sweep the nation.
The human rights organisation called upon Kazakhstan’s regime to not threaten the demonstrators and find a peaceful solution to the protests that began on January 2, 2022.
The protests, which were sparked by soaring fuel prices, began in Zhanaozen and have quickly spread across the whole country including its largest city Almaty – where protestors stormed the government buildings.
Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, said: “The protests unfolding in Kazakhstan, which have turned violent, are a direct consequence of the authorities’ widespread repression of basic human rights.
“For years, the government has relentlessly persecuted peaceful dissent, leaving the Kazakhstani people in a state of agitation and despair.”
Kazakhstan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and is characterised as an authoritarian regime by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index.
Nursultan Nazarbayev ruled of Kazakhstan from independence until his resignation in 2019, when he was succeeded by current president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
In response to the protests, president Tokayev declared a state of emergency. In a televised address, he vowed to remain in the country, and claimed: “This is a matter of the security of our state. I am confident the people will support me.”
Struthers said: “Instead of threatening to crack down on protesters, the Kazakhstani authorities must resolve the situation peacefully by immediately and unconditionally releasing all those who have been arbitrarily detained and addressing past abuses committed by the state.
“Protesters accused of internationally-recognised crimes for violent actions should be provided with fair trials in accordance with international human rights law.
“Kazakhstan’s commitments under international law and its own constitution enshrine the right to peaceful assembly. The authorities must honour these obligations, protect peaceful protesters and respect free speech.
“They must also ensure that police do not use unlawful and excessive force. Any police officer or other official responsible for inflicting human rights violations must be held to account.”
The Kazakhstan Embassy in London was contacted for comment.
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