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Kazakhstan: UN expert urges reform of law and practice

Kazakhstan: UN expert urges reform of law and practice on terrorism and extremism

NUR-SULTAN (17 May 2019) – An independent UN expert welcomed Kazakhstan’s repatriation of 231 of its citizens from conflict sites in Syria and Iraq earlier this month and urged other states with citizens in the region to follow that humanitarian initiative.

“Kazakhstan has illustrated that it is practical and realistic to bring out women and children, and the remaining responsibility to do so lies with multiple states,” said Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. This important humanitarian initiative safeguards the rights of vulnerable children and their mothers, and shows much needed leadership on this critical global issue.

In the context of this positive development she is nonetheless gravely concerned Kazakhstan’s national law covering terrorism and extremism often targets civil society groups, and called on the Government to allow them to carry out activities as protected by international law.

Ní Aoláin said after an eight-day visit that she was also deeply concerned that religious minorities were subject to persistent and harsh application of domestic terrorism law.

“The use of extremism laws against political groups and critical voices is a worrisome practice and detracts from the genuine and much-needed work globally of addressing distinct and certain terrorism challenges as defined by international law,” Ní Aoláin said in a statement.

The Special Rapporteur highlighted concerns about the fairness of investigations and closed trials in cases of terrorism and extremism, and the lack of transparency in the substance and outcomes of such proceedings.

De-radicalisation methods in prisons and at the community-level was a cause for concern. “Given the wide and problematic definitions of extremism under domestic law, such programming when based on religious or political identity contradicts fundamental human rights protections and raises clear concerns about discrimination directed at vulnerable groups,” she said.

The Special Rapporteur called on all organisations working on issues of de-radicalisation in Kazakhstan to fully implement human rights obligations in their work. “Kazakhstan has a unique opportunity in this time of political transition to recalibrate its laws, to open up civil society space, to build on its long and deep tradition of religious pluralism and tolerance and to avoid the pitfall of using security as a means to limit the democratic and vibrant development of society as a whole,” Ní Aoláin said.


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