Kazakhstan: Judicial harassment of KIBHR and ILI Foundation

28/01/2021
Urgent Appeal

KAZ 001 / 0121 / OBS 013
Judicial harassment /
Restrictions to freedom of association
Kazakhstan
January 28, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Kazakhstan.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR) about the judicial harassment of the KIBHR and the International Legal Initiative (ILI Foundation), two FIDH member organisations working in Kazakhstan, over the alleged violations of financial reporting procedure.

On January 25, 2021, the district office of the Almaty City Department of the State Revenue Committee of the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Kazakhstan ruled to fine and suspend the activities of the KIBHR and the ILI Foundation. After inspecting thousands of pages of the organisations’ reports over several years, the tax authorities drew up multiple protocols on the violation of Article 460-1 of the Code of Administrative Offences for allegedly “inaccurate information” provided by the NGOs in their financial reporting documents. Each of the protocols entails a fine of over 500 000 tenge (approximately 974 Euros) and the suspension of the activities of the organisations for up to three months.

The “inaccurate information” refers to discrepancies in the figures of reporting, which non-profit organisations in Kazakhstan are required to submit if they receive foreign funding. Previously, international human rights groups noted that the legislation regulating the activities of NGOs in Kazakhstan provides for onerous reporting procedures and puts the activities of NGOs under the state control, which contradicts the principle of independence of civil society and violates the right to freedom of association.

The International Legal Initiative was fined over a million tenge (approximately 1 957 Euros) and KIBHR was fined over two million tenge (approximately 4 000 Euros). The organisations’ activities will be suspended until April 15, 2021. The hearing of January 25, 2021 in the case of KIBHR by the district office of the Almaty City Department of the State Revenue Committee lasted for no longer than 5 minutes. Human rights activists suspect that the text of the rulings on administrative offences were drawn up in advance as the authorities announced the ruling immediately after the NGOs’ representatives had finished asking questions. The district office officials did not give the organisations an opportunity to present closing arguments. Substantive parts of both rulings are identical. They erroneously state that both organisations are small businesses, and make references to the Entrepreneurial Code, even though these are NGOs and not business entities.

The decisions are not yet in effect. Furthermore, both organisations stated that they would appeal this decision before the Almaty City Department of the State Revenue Committee and in courts.

The Observatory recalls that from August to December 2020, about 20 NGOs, including human rights organisations, received from the tax authorities a number of protocols related to the same administrative offence for allegedly providing inaccuratereporting information. Previously, on January 15, 2021a similar ruling was issued against human rights organisation “Echo” and “Erkindik Kanaty”.

The Observatory welcomes the statement made by the Deputy Prime Minister - Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Mukhtar Tleuberdi on January 26, 2021, condemning the suspension of activities of the concerned NGOs, and expresses its highest hopes that the decision will be reviewed.

The Observatory condemns the judicial harassment against the KIBHR and the ILI Foundation and calls on the Kazakh authorities to put an end to it and to guarantee the right to freedom of assembly as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the principle of independence of civil society guaranteed by the Kazakh Constitution.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Kazakhstan, urging them to:

i. Put an end to all forms of harassment against the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR) and the International Legal Initiative (ILI Foundation), and all the independent human rights organisations in Kazakhstan;

ii. Ensure that human rights defenders and human rights organisations are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iii. Bring the legislation governing the activities of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in line with international standards by removing the onerous reporting obligations for NGOs receiving grants from foreign donors.

Addresses:

· H.E. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kazakhstan, Twitter: @TokayevKZ
· Mr. Yerlan Turgumbayev, Minister of Internal Affairs, Email: Kense@mvd.kz
· Mr. Marat Beketayev, Minister of Justice, Email: kanc@adilet.gov.kz
· H.E.Ms. Zhanar Aitzhanova, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission@kazakhstan-geneva.ch
. H.E. Mr. Almaz Khamzayev, Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Brussels, Belgium, Email: kazakhstan.embassy@swing.be

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Kazakhstan located in your country.

***
Paris-Geneva, January 28, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
• Tel OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39

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