Kazakhstan invites UN to probe deadly riots

Dec 22. AFP. ASTANA

Kazakhstan invites UN to probe deadly riotsKazakhstan on Thursday invited the United Nations to take part in an investigation into last week’s deadly rioting in the oil-rich west amid mounting concerns over its treatment of protestors.

At least 15 people were killed in the town of Zhanaozen Friday in clashes between the security forces and striking oil workers that were the worst bloodshed in the Central Asian state since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev arrived in Aktau, the capital of the Mangistau region on the Caspian Sea where Zhanaozen is located, to chair a meeting over Friday’s clashes, the Interfax news agency said.

Kazakhstan’s prosecutor general Askhat Daulbayev invited the UN to take part in the probe at a meeting in the capital Astana with the UN human rights envoy for Central Asia, Armen Harutyunyan, his press service said.

“Askhat Daulbayev noted the openness and the transparency of the prosecutors and invited UN experts to take part in the investigations into the events,” it said in a statement.

Nazarbayev blamed “hooligans” for the violence, which erupted as the Caspian Sea town was preparing along with the rest of the country to celebrate Kazakhstan’s Independence Day.

But the United States said it was “deeply concerned” by the violence, and a video has circulated on the Internet that appears to show the security forces beating and even firing on some of the protestors.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch on Thursday called on Kazakhstan to “immediately investigate” allegations of torture and ill-treatment of the dozens of people detained after the riots.

“Kazakhstan has a poor record on torture, and the state of emergency restrictions imposed in Zhanaozen, limiting access to the city and even phone communications, heighten concerns of mistreatment,” it said.

The prosecutors said 15 people were killed in the riots in Zhanaozen, raising a previous toll of 14, after one more victim died of his injuries. A clash in another town one day later killed one person and injured a dozen more.

Officials have claimed repeatedly over the last days that the situation is under control and the general prosecutors said “not a single crime” had been recorded in Zhanaozen over the last four days.

“The local military, in cooperation with the security forces, have carried out measures to implement the state of emergency” that Nazarbayev declared in the town, they said.

Public offices were now working while shops, chemists and the central market had returned to normal working hours, it added. “The situation is stable and controlled by the security forces,” the statement said.

The prosecutors also said that all the employees of local oil producing firms Uzenmunaigaz and Karazhanbasmunai had returned to work, without giving further details.

Workers in Zhanaozen and other cities in the Mangistau region on the Caspian Sea had been striking for months for higher wages, in a highly unusual dispute for the Central Asian state which prides itself for an ability to attract foreign investors.

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