Open letter to President Nazarbayev

Press release
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A coalition of NGO addressed President Nazarbayev in an open letter about the situation of Yevgeniy Zhovtis, director of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, who is still in jail.

Your Excellency,

We are writing to express our dismay that Kazakhstan’s leading human rights defender, Mr. Yevgeniy Zhovtis, was not granted early release after the expiration of one-third of his four year sentence for vehicular manslaughter. In spite of being the victim of arbitrary treatment while incarcerated, Mr. Zhovtis fulfilled all reasonable requirements for early release. He has also expressed his sincere regret for the loss of life that resulted from the accident in which he was involved and provided material compensation to the family of the victim, while firmly maintaining that he was not guilty of a criminal offense.

Independent observers and analysts have concluded that the investigation, trial, and appeal of Mr. Zhovtis’ case were marred by with fundamental violations of the laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan and of international human rights standards. These flaws have had a profoundly negative effect on your country’s standing in the international community.

The continued incarceration of Mr. Zhovtis, who actively contributed to the drafting of your government’s National Plan for Human Rights reflects poorly on the state of human rights and rule of law in Kazakhstan. We encourage your government to take whatever steps are necessary, consonant with legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan, to undo this miscarriage of justice. It is crucial for Kazakhstan’s government and justice system to be able to correct flaws such as those seen in the investigation, trial, and appeal of Mr. Zhovtis.

Your government’s failure to release Mr. Zhovtis calls into serious question Kazakhstan’s intention to fulfill its human dimension commitments as reiterated late last year at the OSCE summit in the Astana Commemorative Declaration.

We call on you to reverse the decision that keeps Mr. Zhovtis in jail.


Aryeh Neier, President, Open Society Foundation

David Kramer, Executive Director, Freedom House

Harry Hummel, Executive Director, Netherlands Helsinki Committee

Steve Trent, Executive Director, Economic Justice Foundation

Bjørn Enfesland, Secretary General, Norwegian Helsinki Committee

Alain Deletroz, Vice President, International Crisis Group

Yuri Dzibladze, President, Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights

Gavin Hyaman, Global Witness

Ludmila Alexeeva, Moscow Helsinki Group

Brigitte Dufour, Director, International Partnership for Human Rights

Souhayr Belhassen, President, International Federation for Human Rights

Nadira Eshmatova, Director, Youth Human Rights Group, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Mary Lawler, Director, Frontline Defenders

Shuhrat Ganiev, Director, Humanitarian Legal Center, Uzbekistan

Beth Fernandez, Senior Programmes and Policy Officer, ILGA-Europe

Valentina Gritsenko, Director, Spravedlivost, Jalal-Abad, Kyrgyzstan

Jos Boonstra, Head of Programme, EU-Central Asia Monitoring

Abdumomum Mamaraimov, Chairman of the Board, Voice of Freedom

Nigina Bakhrievan, Director, Public Foundation "Nota bene" Tajikistan

Azuza Abdirasulova, Kilim Shami, Kyrgyzstan

Sergey Romanov, Director, Independent Centre for Human Rights Protection, Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Kate Watters, Executive Director, Crude Accountability

Aleh Hulak, Head, Belarussian Helsinki Committee

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

Elisa Massimino, President and Chief Executive Officer, Human Rights First

Ellen Bork, Director, Human Rights and Democracy, The Foreign Policy Initiative

Dr. Leila Alieva, President, Center for National and International Studies, Baku, Azerbaijan

Sardar Bagishbekov, Director, Golos Svobody Public Foundation, Kyrgyzstan

CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Starys Kausinis, Director, Civil Defense Fund, Lithuania

Secretariat and Steering Committee, The World Movement for Democracy

Daniil Meshcheryakov, Chair, Centre for Civil Liberties, Ukraine

Umida Niyazova, Director, Uzbek German Forum for Human Rights

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