Kazakhstan’s image is at odds with the reality

Kazakhstan’s image is at odds with the reality

Sir, Your important investigation into the case of the Kazakh opposition figure Mukhtar Ablyazov and the associated “secrets industry” reinforces longstanding concerns about actions by the Kazakhstan government (“The information wars”, September 30). The investigation shows how Kazakhstan spent tens of millions of dollars, maybe more, in efforts to use judicial and other means to pursue opponents living abroad who are seen by Astana as a threat. This contrasts starkly with the international image Kazakhstan works so hard to create of a responsible actor ready to be taken seriously as a global player.

Human Rights Watch takes no position on Mr Ablyazov’s business or political activities. During his detention in France my organisation urged French authorities not to extradite him to Russia or Ukraine because he faced a real threat of onward forced return to Kazakhstan and because he would be at serious risk of ill-treatment or torture and flagrant denial of his fair trial rights there. The decision in December 2016 by France’s Council of State to cancel the extradition order noted that the order was politically motivated.

At the moment, EU institutions and member states are finalising an “enhanced” partnership agreement with Astana. The OECD, the club of rich nations that Kazakhstan is keen to join, is this month reviewing Kazakhstan’s progress in meeting the body’s governance standards.

Governments in Europe and elsewhere are likely to be alarmed by your investigation’s findings and should raise them with Astana. Human Rights Watch has for many years documented serious human rights abuses by government authorities in Kazakhstan. Other governments should consider putting on hold plans to step up relations with Kazakhstan until it lives up to the international human rights and governance standards it claims to adhere to.

by Hugh Williamson
Director, Europe & Central Asia, Human Rights Watch, Berlin, Germany

This article was originally published on The Financial Times. Read the original article.