Kazakhstani authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all peaceful protesters who were arrested during a massive crackdown on demonstrations today, Amnesty International said. At least 70 people were detained in Almaty when protesters took to the streets demanding the registration of opposition parties and an end to the repression of government critics. Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:
“Kazakhstan’s already poor human rights record has just got even worse. This cowardly campaign of intimidation against critics shows how badly the government fears freedom of expression.
“The Democratic Party of Kazakhstan, a newly created opposition party, was forced to cancel its founding congress today in response to relentless harassment by the authorities. We are also calling for the release of all those who have been detained simply for expressing support for the Democratic Party and other opposition groups.
“These attempts to crush Kazakhstan’s nascent opposition movement are shameful. Forming a political party is a manifestation of the fundamental human rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Kazakhstan’s authorities must fully respect these rights and release anyone who has been detained in the context of protests or opposition support.”
Some of the detainees align themselves with the unregistered Democratic Party. Its organizing committee announced the cancellation of party’s constituent congress scheduled on 22 February and called on its supporters to take part in peaceful protests. According to the party’s representatives, dozens of its supporters were subjected to harassment and other pressure on the eve of the congress in Almaty and other Kazakhstani cities. At least 23 people were put under administrative arrest under various spurious pretexts.