Today, all over the post-Soviet region, civil society everywhere is experiencing pressure and destruction. The authorities initiate restrictive legislation and repressive measures against the organisations and individuals who are brave enough to criticise government policy and defend human rights, justice and the rule of law. As a human rights defender (HRD) working in Kazakhstan, I am troubled by the worrying situation which has evolved recently against independent media and political opponents, HRDs and civil activists.
From this platform here in Dublin, I want to say the names of political prisoners. It is very important for them to know that they are being talked about, that they have not been forgotten. The opposition leader Vladimir Kozlov, sentenced to extended prison terms because of unjust judicial proceedings on politically motivated charges. The dissident poet Aron Atabek. The HRD Vadim Kuramshin. The former head of KazAtomProm, Mukhtar Djakishev. Mukhtar Abljazov is under arrest in France. For many years he financed legal opposition in Kazakhstan and himself was an opposition politician. We are troubled by the fact that the French government decided to extradite him to Russia because it did not think there was any political element in his case. I can testify that the political element in Mukhtar Abljazov’s case makes up 98%, and with his arrest the political opposition has ceased to exist in Kazakhstan. The opposition field has been completely cleared.
All opposition political parties have been liquidated. The civil activist bloggers Ermek Narymbaev and Serikjan Mambetalin have been arrested on the charge of ‘inciting national discord’ simply for sharing an article on Facebook. Criminal cases have been taken against the HRD Elena Semenova and civil activist Bolatbek Bljalov. As the result of a court decision, the prominent independent newspapers Pravdivaja Gazeta, Kazakhstan Pravda, Nakanue.kz and the magazine Adam have been shut down and charged enormous fines. Popular internet resources are blocked without any explanation. There is an ongoing court case against the oldest newspaper Jas Alash which they also want to shut down. By order of the court, the social network Live Journal has been shut down in Kazakhstan and there is a serious danger that the social networks Facebook, Youtube and Twitter might be blocked very soon as the government thinks that these social networks are destructive and they refuse to cooperate with Kazakh secret services.
It is clear that the real reason for this repression is that the internet has become the newest platform for the population to express its opinion. A new bill affecting NGOs has been initiated by a pro-government organisation and this constitutes a threat to the whole of independent civil society.
Society believes that these repressive measures are connected to the governments desire to destroy active civil society. Therefore the authorities attempt to inhibit any expressions of protest. There are active limitations on political and civil rights and freedoms, the freedom to receive and distribute information, the freedom to gather peacefully and to express a critical opinion. We continue to actively carry out legal proceedings and monitoring of all political affairs but I should emphasise that in Kazakhstan there is no fair, independent process of law. Corruption in all areas of power has become the main problem in our society.
Society believes that these repressive measures are connected to the governments desire to destroy active civil society. Therefore the authorities attempt to inhibit any expressions of protest.