Amnesty for human rights defender Evgeniy Zhovtis!

Urgent Appeal

Paris-Geneva, February 3, 2012. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), welcomes the amnesty granted to Mr. Evgeniy Zhovtis, founding member and Director of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.

On February 1, 2012, a court in penal colony ОВ-156/13 of Ust-Kamenogorsk city decided to grant amnesty to Mr. Evgeniy Zhovtis, prominent Kazakh human rights defender and also a member of the Council of Experts of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODHIR) under the Organisation on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in charge of freedom of assembly. The latter should be released within 15 days after the entry into force of the decision.

Mr. Zhovtis has been detained since September 2009 for “traffic accident triggering death”. On April 26, 2010, the Supreme Court eventually rejected the appeal of his lawyer to initiate review proceedings declared by the observers as unfair. Mr. Zhovtis then decided not to make use of his possibility to independently appeal to the Supreme Court with a petition for the review of this sentence or to the Office of the Prosecutor General, considering that no independent review would be possible in the current context.

On July 1, 2010, Mr. Ales Bialiatski, FIDH Vice President and President of the Belarusian Human Rights Centre “Viasna” currently arbitrarily detained in Belarus, had visited Mr. Zhovtis in the penitentiary colony of Ust-Kamenogorsk, in north-east Kazakhstan, 1,000 km away from his residence in Almaty. At the end of the mission, Mr. Ales Bialiatski had declared that “the detention of Evgeniy Zhovtis as well as the conditions he faced in that framework were preoccupying”.

“The release of Evgeniy Zhovtis is a huge relief for the human rights community, and we are looking forward to have him again among us. We nonetheless regret the fact that he was detained for more than two years on the basis of unfair proceedings marred with a number of irregularities. Although the Amnesty decree was published a month ago, the decision on his case was taken only now, and even so, Evgeniy should again wait for two weeks more before finally being free”, FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen said today.

“This overdue decision is good news for Kazakhstan and for Central Asia. There is a dire need for voices like his to be heard loud and clearly if the human rights situation is to improve”, said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock. “We hope that he is allowed to resume his work without hindrance and interference”.

The Observatory more generally urges the Kazakh authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment against human rights defenders and to conform to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights instruments ratified by Kazakhstan.

For further information, please contact:

· FIDH: Karine Appy / Arthur Manet: + 33 1 43 55 25 18

· OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: + 41 22 809 49 39

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