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Kazakhstan
04.10.17
Urgent Interventions

Judicial harassment of Ms. Larisa Kharkova, President of KNPRK, and threats against her relatives and colleagues.

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URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

KAZ 003 / 1017 / OBS 107
Judicial harassment /

Arbitrary detention / Threats
Kazakhstan
October 4
, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human RightsDefenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture(OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Kazakhstan.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources aboutthe judicial harassment of Ms. LarisaKharkova, President of the Confederation of Independent TradeUnions of the Republic of of Kazakhstan (KNPRK), as well as threats against herrelatives and colleagues. KNPRK is the country’s largest independent tradeunion confederation. Under Ms.Kharkova’s leadership, the confederation has publicly criticized the 2014 Lawon Trade Unions[1] andthe restrictions to freedom of association in Kazakhstan[2].In January 2017, Kazakh authorities shut down KNPRK for failing to comply withthe restrictive 2014 Trade Union law. In June 2017, this decision wasrecognized by International Labour Organization (ILO) as a clear violation ofthe its Convention 87 on freedom of association.

According to the information received, on September 29,2017, the South Kazakhstan Regional Appeal Court, in the city of Shymkentupheld a sentence providing 100 hours of forced labour per year during fouryears, four year of restricted movement, a five-year ban on holding office inany NGO or public organisation and a 100 hour of forced labour sentence againstMs. Larisa Kharkova for “abuse of office” (Article 250 of the Criminal Code). Afirst instance court had convicted her on July 25, 2017 under the sameabove-mentioned charge (see background information).

It is also reported that before the appeal trial started, severalacts of intimidation took place against KNPRK members and against Ms.Kharkova’s relatives. On September 12, 2017, in Almaty, an explosive-lookingdevice was found at the bottom of the car of KNPRK Press Secretary’s husband.The police, firefighters, mine-clearing experts, representatives from theMinistry of Emergency Situations of Kazakhstan and other officers from theoperational response were called up. After one hour, police officers announcedthat they had not found any explosive in the device. They took the package andrefused to show its content.

Two days later, on September 14, 2017, a car owned by Ms.Larisa Kharkova's son, Vladimir, caught fire in Ms. Kharkova's mother courtyardin Shymkent under suspicious circumstances. Firefighters put out the fire andpolice officers inspected the location of the incident in the evening of thenext day. After examining the place of the fire and the burnt-out car, theytook a statement from Vladimir, and left. As of publication of this Appeal, itis unclear whether an investigation in the matter had been opened.

The Observatory fears that the above-mentioned charges havebeen pressed against Ms. Larisa Kharkova solely in reprisal for her defense oftrade union rights, and that KNPRK’s colleagues and her family have beentargeted to intimidate her.

Furthermore, her judicial harassment is part of a widercampaign of harassment against KNPRK and the independent trade union movement(see background information). This takes place in a context of severe limitationsto the rights to freedom of association and assembly in Kazakhstan asillustrated by situations such as the conviction of human rights defenders Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov[3].

The Observatory urges Kazakh authorities to put an end toall forms of harassment including at the judicial level against Ms. LarisaKharkova, as well as all human rights defenders, including trade unionists, andto immediately and unconditionally release Messrs. Nurbek Kushakbaev and Amin Eleusinov.

The Observatory further urges Kazakh authorities to allowtrade unions to freely organise, ensure full respect for freedom of associationand to uphold its international obligations with respect to freedom ofassociation and expression.

Backgroundinformation:

On January 4, 2017, Shymkent Economic Court shut down KNPRKon allegations that it did not meet legal requirements on registration underthe 2014 Law on Trade Unions. This decision was upheld on appeal on March 28, 2017, during a one-hour long courthearing.

On January 9, 2017, Kazakh authorities opened a criminalcase against Ms. Larisa Kharkova on charges of “misappropriation orembezzlement of assets” (Article 189 of the Criminal Code) and “fraud” (Article190 of the Criminal Code), searched her home and confiscated her computer.During interrogation, police officers threatened to take further action againstMs. Kharkova unless she stepped down as confederation president.

On January 20, 2017, Messrs. Nurbek Kushakbaev, KNPRKDeputy Chairman, and Amin Eleusinov, leader of KNPRK’s affiliate unionat the Oil Construction Company plant, were arrested in Western Kazakhstan andsent to a pre-trial detention facility in Astana.

Their arrest occurred as they joined a hunger strikelaunched on January 5, 2017, by about ninety oil workers at the OilConstruction Company in Mangistau region to protest the decision to shut downKNPRK.

On January 22, 2017, the Mangistau Regional Court in Aktauhanded down fines ranging from 114 to 288 Euros each, against 15 oil workersfor “organising an illegal strike”. During the hearing, a journalist wasprevented from entering the courtroom.

On January 23, 2017, the same court ordered 28 otherparticipants to the hunger strike to pay total compensation of more than 3.5million Tenge (approx. 8,629 Euros) for the damage allegedly caused to thecompany from the hunger strike. The judge turned down a request from the oilworkers to provide them with sufficient time to prepare their defence and toget legal representation, arguing that a civil lawsuit could proceed without alawyer.

In April 2017, M. NurbekKushakbaev was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on charges of“calling for an illegal strike”.

In May 2017, M. Amin Eleusinov was sentenced in a separate trial to two years inprison on charges of “embezzlement of union funds”.

The two have denied the charged pressed against them. Inaddition, they were both imposed a multi-year ban on trade union activities.

On July 25, 2017, Ms. Larisa Kharkova was sentenced to 100hours of forced labour per year during four years, four year of restrictedmovement with confiscation of property and a ban for five years on holdingoffice in any NGO or public organisation by Enbekshi District Court under for “abuse of office”.

Ms. Larisa Kharkova appealed the sentence.

On September 27, 2017, an appeal trial against Ms. LarisaKharkova opened before the South Kazakhstan Regional Appeal Court, in the cityof Shymkent.

During the hearing, Ms. Larisa Kharkova submitted to thecourt a 36-page long document detailing various violations of her due processand fair trial rights committed during the investigation and first instancetrial phases. The hearing was suspended until September 28, 2017 in order forthe parties to get familiar with the document.

On September 28, 2017, the judge refused to call one expertwitness as requested by Ms. Larisa Kharkova’s lawyers.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities ofKazakhstan asking them to:

i. Putan end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms.Larisa Kharkova and her relatives, and trade unionists in Kazakhstan;

ii. Immediatelyand unconditionally release Messrs. Nurbek Kushakbaev and Amin Eleusinov;

iii. Re-registerthe Confederation of Independent trade unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan andput an end to any form of restriction to freedom of association and expression,in accordance with international human and labour rights standards;

iv. Repeal legal provisions limiting freedom of association includingthose contained in the 2014 Law on TradeUnions;

v. Conformwith the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted bythe General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especiallyArticles 1, 5, 6 and 12.2; and

vi. Moregenerally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights andfundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of HumanRights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified byKazakhstan.

Addresses:

· Mr. Nursultan NAZARBAEV, Presidentof the Republic of Kazakhstan. Fax: +7 7172 74 56 31 / 74 56 67

· Mr. Kalmukhanbet Kassymov,Minister of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan. Email: Kense@mvd.kz

· Mr. Zhakyp Assanov, ProsecutorGeneral of Kazakhstan. Fax: +7 7172 506 402

· Mr. Askar Shakirov, HumanRights Commissioner of Kazakhstan. Fax: +7 7172 74 05 48

· Ambassador Ms. Zhanar Aitzhanova,Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the UN Office andother international organizations in Geneva. Fax: +41 (0) 22 788 66 02. Email: mission@kazakhstan-geneva.ch

· Ambassador Mr. Almaz KHAMZAYEV,Embassy of Kazakhstan in Brussels. Fax : (+32) 2 374 50 91. Email: brussels@mfa.kz.

· Permanent Delegation of the Republicof Kazakhstan to the OSCE in Vienna. Fax: +43 1 890 80 08 20. Email:kzosce@kazakhstan.at

Please also write to the diplomaticmission or embassy of Kazakhstan in your respective country.

***

Paris-Geneva, October 4, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the codeof this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (theObservatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation AgainstTorture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent orremedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCTare both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented byinternational civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

Teland fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

Teland fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29


[1] Thislegislation imposes a burdensome registration process that results in tradeunions being denied registration on spurious grounds. It also obliges tradeunions to affiliate with higher-tier unions, which undermines their right tofreely determine their structures.

[2] Including at the InternationalLabour Conference in Geneva, in June 2017.

[3] See the Observatory’s Press Relaseon August 24, 2017, “Kazakhstan: UN body declares the detention of Max Bokayevand Talgat Ayanov arbitrary”.

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