Kazakhstan: Activists, Journalists Harassed on Independence Day

WashingtonDecember 20, 2018

Following the detention and interrogation of human rights activists and journalists in Kazakhstan on December 16 and 17, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“Detaining, interrogating, illegally searching, and threatening human rights activists and journalists to prevent even the chance of public dissent on a major national holiday is an intimidation technique commonly employed by authoritarian regimes across Eurasia, and the Kazakh government has made ample use of it,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “As the nation celebrates the anniversary of its independence, but also mourns the lives lost years ago during bloody crackdowns on protesters in Zhanaozen and Almaty, the government should encourage thoughtful dialogue and reflection instead of threats and repression.”


At least 15 human rights activists and reporters were detained and harassed on December 16, the national independence day, and on the following day as they went to lay flowers at the independence monument on a central square in Almaty. Without a warrant, police searched the phones of those detained, interrogated them on possible connections to the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan Party, and forced them to sign a commitment to not visit the central square. In the city of Oral, two journalists were prevented from leaving their homes, and two others were detained. December 16–17 is also the anniversary of the 2011 crackdown on protesting oil workers in the western city of Zhanaozen, which took the lives of 14 people, and of the repression of the 1986 Jeltoqsan demonstrations in Almaty, which led to the deaths of an estimated 200 people.

Kazakhstan is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2018, Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2018, and receives a democracy score of 6.71 on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 being the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2018. 

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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