Press release

Kazakhstan: Authorities Rush to Further Limit Peaceful Assembly

In response to COVID-19, Kazakhstan implemented a state of emergency that banned all mass gatherings, including peaceful protests, raising concerns about international human rights standards.

In response to the adoption by Kazakhstan’s Senate of a draft law on peaceful assembly on first hearing, without public consultation, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“We are concerned about the Kazakhstan Senate’s decision to rush its vote on the draft law on peaceful assembly during the COVID-19 country lockdown,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Freedom House’s Europe and Eurasia programs. “That a law severely limiting peaceful assembly is adopted during a state of emergency, without anywhere near the necessary levels of transparency or public consultation, raises serious concerns about the democratic process in Kazakhstan. This move is especially disturbing after the government refused repeated demands by civil society to request an expert opinion on the draft from the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, based on their assessments that the bill contradicts international standards of peaceful assembly. We call on Kazakhstan’s authorities to postpone voting on the bill, and request that it be reviewed by the OSCE.”

Background: 

On March 15, in response to COVID-19, Kazakhstan implemented a state of emergency that banned all mass gatherings, including peaceful protests. In subsequent weeks, the lower house rushed through voting on a bill restricting peaceful assembly, and passed it to the Senate. On April 21, the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association addressed the government of Kazakhstan, saying “parts of the new law do not seem to be in line with international human rights standards, and more precisely the right to freedom of peaceful assembly as guaranteed by Article 21 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” which Kazakhstan ratified in 2006. A group of Kazakhstani civil society organizations and their international allies called on the government to submit the draft bill to the OSCE and the UN for expert review. However, on April 30, the Senate adopted the bill in the first reading.

Kazakhstan is rated Not Free in 
Freedom in the World 2020 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2019.