Kazakhstan: crackdown on protests led to massive police violence and torture

Read the review of Kazakhstan in Russian

At its 76th session on 2-3 May 2023, the CAT considered the 4th periodic report of Kazakhstan. The country’s rapporteurs were Ms Ana Racu and Ms Ilvija Puce.

The country delegation was headed by Mr. Igor Rogov, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. He was accompanied by the Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the UN in Geneva, the judge of the Supreme Court, the deputy Prosecutor General, deputies Minister of Internal Affairs, Vice-Mister of Justice and representatives of the judicial administration, National Security Committee, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Ministry of Healthcare, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This review follows the recent visit of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) to Kazakhstan which took place from 26 March to 1 April 2023 to assess the progress of last recommendations and the efforts made by the Kazakhstani state to realise them. The Republic of Kazakhstan faces the problem of police violence as well as violence in the short and long detention centres, enhancing legislation on torture and accountability for torture. Despite the attempts made by the state and mentioned during the two meetings, there remain issues to be addressed and solved.

Main issues discussed:

The CAT is concerned that the definition of torture in the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan is not fully in line with the definition in the Convention against Torture. The experts commended the recent final abolition of the death penalty in 2021, which has been replaced by life imprisonment, but they remained perturbed about police violence which is affecting the human rights situation in the country.  

In particular, the experts expressed their concerns about the events of January 2022, when protests led to massive crackdown, police violence and massive torture in detention. According to the official information, the events resulted in 238 deaths, including 6 deaths resulted from torture. The CAT therefore called for the elimination of disproportionate use of force, torture and the abuse of power by the Kazakhstani authorities towards all persons, including the LGBTI+ community who have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment by police on several occasions as well as for the effective investigation of torture and ill-treatment committed in January 2022 and beyond.

The CAT experts raised the issue of general conditions of detention and the existing violence inside the prisons by police officers and among the detainees, including sexual abuse. On the table for discussion, they put the numerous cases of suicides and deaths due to the excessive use of force and ill-treatment. Furthermore, the problem with legal safeguards, such as informing persons deprived of liberty of their rights at the time of arrest and detention, was discussed. The experts stressed the importance of the application of the Nelson Mandela Rules, the minimum mandatory rules for the treatment of prisoners.

 Regarding the prevention of torture and ill-treatment, the state delegation declared to implement preventive measures through the use of video recording, especially inside the short detention centres where interrogations take place. 

In relation to widespread domestic violence, the Committee calls for the strategy of prevention in favour of equal rights between men and women and to strengthen accountability. In this respect, attention is drawn to the cooperation between all institutional bodies and civil society.

The CAT's recommendations are available: here.

Follow-up recommendations

The State party should provide information by 12 May 2024 on the implementation of the recommendations on :

  • the events of January 2022;
  • violence and deaths in custody;
  • health care in places of deprivation of liberty;
  • hazing and ill-treatment in the army. 

Watch here (part one) and here (part two) the dialogue with the Committee.