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Harassment of human rights groups in Kazakhstan must stop immediately

Transparency International calls on the government of Kazakhstan to uphold the rule of law and immediately cease harassing independent civil society groups working on election integrity, human rights and public oversight in Kazakhstan. Fragile gains in Kazakhstan’s anti-corruption framework are at risk of being reversed if independent civil society is not able to fulfill its crucial watchdog function. Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International, said: “Kazakhstan will not achieve its goals of meeting international good governance standards if it continues to suppress and undermine independent civil society.”

The tax authorities in Kazakhstan recently imposed fines upon and suspend the activities of local civil society organisations that monitored the presidential elections in 2019 and elections to the lower house of parliament in January 2021. Local civil society groups report that the authorities ignored statutes of limitations and omitted procedural steps designed to ensure a fair hearing.

In January, authorities fined and suspended the activities of Echo and fined Erkindik Kanaty. Both civil society organizations were engaged in monitoring the elections and training observers in Kazakhstan.

On January 25, the decision to suspend activities, but with different levels of fines, was made against the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, and the International Legal Initiative. Three more organizations, the human rights group Gadir-Kasiet, and NGOs dealing with media freedom and freedom of speech, MediaNet and Legal Media Center, are awaiting consideration of their cases.

Altynai Myrzabekova, Regional Advisor for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Transparency International, said: “The harassment has to stop. For several years the government of Kazakhstan has been declaring its intention to endorse the Open Government Standard. This means fostering a culture of open government that empowers and delivers for citizens, and advances the ideals of open and participatory 21st century government. In practice, however, legislation and law enforcement continue to limit lawful human rights activities and threaten civil society groups seeking to protect public resources and advance democracy. We urge the government of Kazakhstan to fulfil its domestic and international obligations and immediately stop attacking independent civil society through the tax authorities.”

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