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Kazakhastan Must Respect Human Rights

Vladimir Kozlov, leader of the unofficial Alga party, looks out from a glass-walled cage during his trial in the Kazakh city of Aktau, October 8, 2012.

A Kazakhstani court recently sentenced Vladimr Kozlov, leader of the opposition party Alga, to 7 1/2 years in jail.

A Kazakhstani court recently sentenced Vladimr Kozlov, leader of the opposition party Alga, to 7 1/2 years in jail. The opposition leader was charged with "inciting social hatred" and "calling for the violent overthrow or change of the constitutional order" due to his support of striking oil workers in Zhanaozen last December. The United States is very disappointed in the wrongful conviction of Mr. Kozlov.

Kazakhastan Must Respect Human Rights
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The Kazakh judicial system failed to afford Mr. Kozlov the minimum procedural guarantees required for a fair trial, said U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, Ian Kelly. This demonstrates a disregard of Kazakhstan's international obligations and OSCE commitments and casts serious doubt on the country's respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. Most importantly, said Ambassador Kelly, the prosecution failed to produce concrete evidentiary links between Mr. Kozlov's support for the striking oil workers and the subsequent violence that occurred in Zhanaozen. Supporting the worker's strike should not be considered a criminal act, said Ambassador Kelly.

"The [Kazakh] government's apparent use of the legal system to silence political opposition concerns us," said Ambassador Kelly. "The charge of 'inciting social hatred' is problematic because it potentially constrains peaceful expression. A broadly defined charge such as this can also potentially be used to silence opposition activists, civil society organizations, and members of the media in Kazakhstan."

The United States deeply values its strategic partnership with Kazakhstan and its stated commitments to greater openness and democracy. It is in this spirit that the United States calls on Kazakhstan to implement its OSCE commitments fully, including by amending laws which can be used to stifle the freedom of expression that forms the bedrock of democracy and ensuring full respect for its citizens’ fundamental rights of expression, association, and assembly.