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Kazakhstan
22.02.21
Urgent Interventions

Kazakhstan: Withdrawal of the charges against two human rights organisations

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

New information
KAZ 001 / 0121 / OBS 013.1
Withdrawal of charges
Kazakhstan
February 22, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your intervention in the following situation in Kazakhstan.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the withdrawal of the charges against the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR) and the International Legal Initiative (ILI Foundation), two FIDH member organisations working in Kazakhstan, which were prosecuted for alleged violations of financial reporting procedures.

On February 4, 2021, the representatives of the KIBHR, the ILI Foundation as well as four other NGOs[1] announced that all charges brought against them by the district office of the Almaty City Department of the State Revenue Committee of the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Kazakhstan had been dropped and that their fines and the decisions to suspend their activities had been canceled.

The Observatory recalls that on January 25, 2021, the tax authorities ruled to fine and suspend the activities of KIBHR and the ILI Foundation. After inspecting thousands of pages of the organisations' reports over several years, the tax authorities drew up multiple protocols on the violation of Article 460-1 of the Code of Administrative Offences for allegedly “inaccurate information” provided by the NGOs in their financial reporting documents. The International Legal Initiative was fined over a million tenge (approximately 1,957 Euros), KIBHR was fined over two million tenge (approximately 4,000 Euros) and the organisations' activities were to be suspended until April 15, 2021.

On February 4, 2021 the Almaty City Department of the State Revenue Committee overturned this decision and sent the relevant notifications to the concerned NGOs. As indicated in the notification, the withdrawal of the charges is due to the "insignificance" of the offence, and both organisations disagree with these grounds. The representatives of the KIBHR and the ILI Foundation believe that the charges against their respective organisations should not have been brought in the first place, and both organisations filed complaints against these decisions to the Almaty Specialised inter-district Court on February 18, 2021.

The Observatory further recalls that from August to December 2020, about 20 NGOs, including human rights organisations, received from the tax authorities a number of protocols related to the same administrative offence for allegedly providing inaccurate reporting information. Previously, international human rights groups noted that the legislation regulating the activities of NGOs in Kazakhstan provides for onerous reporting procedures and puts the activities of NGOs under the state control, which contradicts the principle of independence of civil society and violates the right to freedom of association.

The Observatory welcomes the withdrawal of all charges against KIBHR and ILI foundation but recalls that the two organisations should never have been prosecuted in the first place, as their fines and the suspension of their activities only aimed at preventing them from exercising their legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory calls on the Kazakh authorities to guarantee the right to freedom of association as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the principle of independence of civil society guaranteed by the Kazakh Constitution.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Kazakhstan, urging them to:

i. Put an end to all forms of harassment against all the independent human rights organisations in Kazakhstan;

ii. Ensure that human rights defenders and human rights organisations are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iii. Bring the legislation governing the activities of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in line with international standards by removing the onerous reporting obligations for NGOs receiving grants from foreign donors.

Addresses:

  • H.E. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kazakhstan, Twitter: @TokayevKZ
  • Mr. Yerlan Turgumbayev, Minister of Internal Affairs, Email: Kense@mvd.kz
  • Mr. Marat Beketayev, Minister of Justice, Email: kanc@adilet.gov.kz
  • H.E. Ms. Zhanar Aitzhanova, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission@kazakhstan-geneva.ch
  • H.E. Mr. Almaz Khamzayev, Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Brussels, Belgium, Email: kazakhstan.embassy@swing.be

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Kazakhstan located in your country.

***
Paris-Geneva, February 22, 2021

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

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

• Tel FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18

• Tel OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39

[1] The Wing of Liberty Foundation, the MediaNet International Journalism Center, the Legal Media Center and the Ekho civil rights group.

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