To the international community
To the Kazakhstani authorities including President, Ministry of Justice, General Prosecutors office,who are capable of stopping illegal acts by law enforcement agencies.
We are the group of active Kazakhstani civil society leaders, kindly ask you to draw attention to violation of rights and freedoms of Kazakhstani civil activists charged for disseminating slander on made up grounds.
On July 20, 2020, civil activists Marat Turymbetov and Danaya Kaliyeva were taken to police custody and interrogated as witnesses with the right for defense in respect to disseminating deliberately false information in times of officially proclaimed State of emergency (as provided in Article 274, Para 4 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan).
The charges were connected to their publication of critical posts on Facebook about the dubious justification of large expenses incurred by JSC Housing Construction Saving Bank (Zhilstroy Bank) hereinafter referred to as the Bank headed by one of high-ranking members of the ruling Nur Otan party for purchase of goods, works and services.
This was further marred by the gross procedural violations committed by the Almaty Police Department while the latter held investigations of a criminal case, interrogation of civil activists, as well as during a house search, when all sorts of office equipment and smartphones of all family members of both activists were unreasonably seized.
The criminal case was initiated upon request of the Bank on April 20, 2020 and suspiciously within short space of time on May 5, 2020 the Almaty Police Department has already received a psychological and philological expertise conclusion on the content of information contained in the posts of activists, which states that mentioned information may serve as a reason to discredit the Bank and affect its business reputation. It is only on July 20, 2020 civil activists were granted access to the results of psychological and philological inspection in violation of all procedural norms.
Civil activists’ lawyer Nurlan Rakhmanov emphasized that «the criminal case was instituted illegally». “According to the kazakhstani law, Bank had to issue a claim for the protection of its honor, dignity and business reputation as a civil act, before contacting the authorities”. According to the lawyer there should have been a pre-trial claim against civil activists, as well as verification of information accuracy in their posts. Moreover, the actual authors of many related posts and publications are unknown, and charged civil activists just made reposts and links to information sources.
However despite all this, the Police Department of Almaty initiated a criminal case, without figuring out whether or not there is a basis for it, based on a sole statement from the Bank. It seems like the Police Department of Almaty is executing some directions from the Bank, in violation of the current legislation. And the Bank is trying to «restore» its business reputation or put to silence the activists. In fact, there are no grounds for initiating this criminal case, since the information published by activists in their posts was obtained from open sources.
We must also keep in mind that there is no inspection or court decision that would recognize inaccuracy and falseness of information contained in the above mentioned Facebook posts which means that criminal case should not have been initiated.
Unfortunately, Article 274 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan during the period of the state of emergency was most frequently used in the practice of persecuting civil activists. At the moment, more than ten criminal cases have been started with reference to this article. Massive administrative prosecutions and threats to initiate criminal proceedings have begun against dozens of civil society activists, bloggers and simply caring citizens in different regions of the country in recent months.
Marat Turymbetov and Danaya Kaliyeva are strong promoters of human rights in Kazakhstan, they are organizers of campaigns for human rights and demand authorities to maintain strict adherence to the law and the Constitution.We seriously fear that criminal and administrative persecution of civil activists, as well as the authors of other critical video messages and statements marks beginning of a new wave of repression under the state of emergency, which is perceived by the law enforcement agencies as a regime of permissiveness and impunity.
Therefore, we ask you to contact the law enforcement agency of the Republic of Kazakhstan which is Ministry of Interior at this stage with an appeal:
1. To stop the politically motivated criminal prosecution of Marat Turymbetov and Danaya Kaliyeva.
2. To ensure the free operation of independent media outlets, journalists, bloggers, civic activists, human rights defenders without intimidation and harassment.
3. To encourage freedom of speech and reject all charges brought against such. Conduct expertise of charges on whether it is violating freedom of speech.
3. To implement the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council within the framework of the Universal Periodic Review (A / HRC / 43/10) on revising abolish Article 274 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, as inconsistent with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the principle of legal certainty and predictability.
Head of PF “Foundation for Support of
Human Rights Watch