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Past Events
© OSCE/Mikhail Evstafiev
Kazakhstan: Problems with Rule of Law and Basic Freedoms Ahead of the OSCE Chairmanship
New York City
Event Date:November 20, 2009
As Kazakhstan's accession to the chairmanship of the OSCE in January 2010 moves closer, it seems as if the rule of law is all but suspended for journalists and human rights defenders critical of the incumbent regime. Despite strong international protests, Kazakh courts recently rejected the appeals of two individuals who had in their work been critical of the Kazakh regime in separate rulings under dubious circumstances.
On October 20, a court in Taldykorgan upheld the sentence of the prominent human rights lawyer and former chair of the board of the Soros Foundation Kazakhstan, Yevgeniy Zhovtis, to four years in a labor camp for vehicular manslaughter. The initial trial had been marred by several procedural irregularities that led many to assume that this was a politically motivated sentence.
Just two days later, owner and editor of the Alma Ata Info newspaper Ramazan Yesergepov's appeal was rejected by a court in Taraz. The journalist had been sentenced to three years in prison for "divulging state secrets" after publishing a letter he said revealed links between a businessman and the country's National Security Committee. As in the case of Zhovtis, Yesergepov's trial and conviction were heavily criticized by local and international observers. The OSCE released a statement that the sentence violated international standards and OSCE commitments on media freedom.    
At this Open Society Institute forum, the speakers, all of them distinguished human rights defenders from Kazakhstan with intimate knowledge of these and other similar cases, report on the latest developments. They also analyze the current political situation in Kazakhstan and the implications for the Zhovtis and Yesergepov cases, and speak about policy implications for Western governments as Kazakhstan approaches its year at the helm of the OSCE.
All speakers are currently on a U.S. advocacy tour made possible with a grant from the OSI Central Eurasia Project.
  • Vera Tkachenko, Legal Policy Center
  • Tamara Kaleeva, Adil Soz
  • Ninel Fokina, Almaty Helsinki Committee
  • Iva Dobichina, Freedom House Kazakhstan
  • Anna Alexandrova, Executive Director of the Soros Foundation Kazakhstan (moderator)
Anthony Richter, Director of the Open Society Institute Central Eurasia Project, introduced the event.
New York Society for Ethical Culture
Ceremonial Hall
2 West 64th Street (at Central Park West)
New York, NY
Related Information
Call for Applications: OSI/FCO Chevening/University of Essex Human Rights Scholarships
December 8, 2009
The program offers support to students from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Palestine, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to pursue postgraduate programs at the Human Rights Centre.
OSI Statement on the Appeals Court Decision on Evgeniy Zhovtis
October 20, 2009
The Open Society Institute is deeply discouraged by the decision of the Kazakhstani appeals court to uphold the sentence of Evgeniy Zhovtis, a noted human rights defender.
OSI Statement in Support of Evgeniy Zhovtis
September 3, 2009
The Open Society Institute hopes that human rights advocate Evgeniy Zhovtis will enjoy full rights in accordance with the law of Kazakhstan and international conventions to which Kazakhstan is party.
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