Human rights defenders (HRDs) in Kazakhstan are faced with physical and verbal threats, acts of intimidation, judicial harassment, and arbitrary detention; their work continues to be hindered by legislative obstacles that vastly infringe on the rights to freedom of association, assembly, and expression, as well as human rights monitoring and promotion.
In 2015, Kazakhstan's government passed a law that imposes burdensome reporting obligations and state regulation on funding of non-governmental organisations through a government-appointed body, therefore subjecting HRD initiatives to further restrictions on their work. Additionally, broadly defined existing laws relating to ‘incitement to social, national or religious discord’, ‘defamation’, ‘encroachment on the honour and dignity of the President or State officials’, dissemination of information known to be false’ and ‘providing “assistance” to “illegal” assemblies, enable the increased use of unsubstantiated charges such as hooliganism, bribery of public officials, extortion, inciting social discord, and terrorism against HRDs and journalists who report on human rights violations in the country. According to the U.N Human Rights Committee, the use of such legislation in Kazakhstan serves to “unduly restrict freedoms of religion, expression, assembly and association.”
HRDs who promote the rights of workers and minorities, expose practices of corruption in the government and document human rights violations in Baikonur, a city leased and administrated by the Russian Federation, are particularly targeted. Although Baikonur city is subjected to both Russian and Kazakh jurisdiction, HRDs are often prohibited in their promotion and protection of human rights by repressive Russian laws. Furthermore, in 2015, Kazakhstan's government passed legislation that bans ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientations,’ which drove LGBT rights initiatives and defenders into hiding.