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Cablegate: Kazakhstan: Zhovtis Understandably Pessimistic About Reform

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7552
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 2543
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
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RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000272

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL, EUR/RPM

E.O. 12958: DECL: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM OSCE KDEM KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: ZHOVTIS UNDERSTANDABLY PESSIMISTIC ABOUT REFORM

REF: A) ASTANA 0109
B) ASTANA 0184
C) 09 ASTANA 2197

ASTANA 00000272 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: PolOff visited internationally known human rights
activist Yevgeniy Zhovtis at the minimum-security penal colony in
Ust-Kamenogorsk on February 24. Zhovtis summarized his view of the
possibilities for the resolution of his case, including the Supreme
Court, an amnesty, or parole. He said he would consider applying for
a Presidential pardon, but only as a last resort. If he is forced to
apply for a pardon, Zhovtis said he would leave Kazakhstan for good.
He asserted to PolOff that Kazakhstan's political and legal system
"has become unpredictable," and he believes that it must be
"dismantled and rebuilt." He urged the international community to
"respect your principles" and publicly criticize Kazakhstan when
necessary. Zhovtis said life in the penal colony is akin to Soviet
army barracks: the convicts follow a strict daily schedule for rest
and meal times but are allowed to interact somewhat freely with the
outside world. END SUMMARY.

OPTIONS FOR RESOLUTION

2. (SBU) PolOff visited human rights activist Yevgeniy Zhovtis on
February 24 at the minimum-security penal colony outside
Ust-Kamenogorsk. During the two-hour meeting, which was carefully
transcribed by two penal-colony officials present in the room,
Zhovtis said that he sees four possible resolutions to his case. One
is for the Supreme Court to annul his four-year sentence without
vacating the guilty verdict (ref A). "This would be the easiest
option," according to Zhovtis. The second is for the government to
grant a general amnesty in 2010 for crimes of lesser gravity, like
the one for which Zhovtis was convicted. (NOTE: Minister of Justice
Rashid Tusupbekov told the Ambassador on February 25 that he proposed
to the government an amnesty in 2010, but indicated that the ultimate
decision will be with the Presidential Administration and the
parliament (septel). END NOTE.) The third option is to be paroled
before his four-year sentence expires. Zhovtis noted, however, that
he would not be eligible for parole until early 2011, when Kazakhstan
will no longer be Chairman of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The fourth is to request a
Presidential pardon, which would require Zhovtis to admit his legal
guilt. Zhovtis said that if the first three legal options fail and
he is forced to request a pardon, he would leave Kazakhstan for good
upon his release.

OFFICIALS "BLINDLY" FOLLOW ORDERS

3. (SBU) Zhovtis maintained that he is considering emigrating from
Kazakhstan because "the system has become unpredictable." Instead of
following established rules, he argued, officials "blindly" follow
orders from their direct supervisors, even if that means breaking the
law. He cited his own case as an example. Zhovtis and his
co-inmate, journalist Toniyaz Kuchukov, who was convicted for a
similar crime at the same time as Zhovtis, are the only two convicts
at the penal colony not allowed to leave the premises or find work
outside the colony. Zhovtis alleged that the colony administrators
told him they had "orders from Astana" to keep him "isolated." "Any
attempt to argue reason (with the administration) would backfire and
lead to a clamp-down on the whole colony," Zhovtis maintained. He
said his request to see an outside dentist when he developed a
serious toothache languished for three weeks. "At one point, they
brought a Soviet-era dental chair into the auditorium with the idea
that I would undergo treatment there," he related, "but of course I
refused." The administration eventually agreed to let him see a
dentist outside, "with two guards in tow." "Logic does not apply
here," he ruefully observed.

"THE SYSTEM IS NOT WORKING"

4. (SBU) Zhovtis argued that the political and legal system "is not
working at all." "I have realized here (at the penal colony) that
attempts at (political) reform are useless, the system needs to be
completely dismantled and rebuilt." Zhovtis confided that he is not
sure what direction to take his NGO Human Rights Bureau after his
release. One of the NGO's main tasks is to lobby the government for
legislative reform that would bring Kazakhstan's laws in line with
international standards. But, he said, if those laws are not
followed, then reform attempts are "futile. I am not sure how to fix


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