Jailed human rights defender released

After two and a half years in prison, the Kazakhstani human rights defender, Yevgeniy Zhovtis, was released on February 17. Yevgeniy Zhovtis is head of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, and was imprisoned after a tragic car accident in which a pedestrian was killed.

Irregularities in the investigation and trial imply that Kazakhstani authorities used the accident to silence an acknowledged and persistent human rights defender. Yevgeniy Zhovtis was released under an amnesty law in which certain categories of prisoners sentenced for minor crimes were included.

“The release of Yevgeniy Zhovtis is very positive and welcome. The authorities of Kazakhstan, however, have still not recognized the human rights violations he were subjected to. It is important that justice is brought in this case as well as in other politically motivated cases in Kazakhstan”, said Joanna Kurosz, Programme Director Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Civil Rights Defenders.

In September 2009, Yevgeniy Zhovtis, was sentenced to four year’s imprisonment after a traffic incident, in which the human rights defender accidentally killed a pedestrian. The investigation and trial that followed have been criticized for having violated fair trial standards in several ways.

Among other violations Yevgeniy Zhovtis was not informed that he was a suspect during parts of the interrogations. The police did not take into account a statement from the mother of the victim, in which she accepted the apology given by Yevgeniy Zhovtis and reconciled with him. Such a statement should under Kazakh law lead to the end of a criminal case procedure.

Instead a trial was initiated, during which only witnesses of the prosecution was allowed to testify. The defence was not allowed to bring in independent experts who could provide their assessment of whether the accident could have been avoided or not. The prison sentence that followed was assessed as excessive. While in prison, Yevgeniy Zhovtis was subject to arbitrary and discriminatory use of prison rules.

Several attempts to appeal the case failed. In November 2010 the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, together with the Open Society Justice Initiative, brought the case to the UN Human Rights Committee. The decision by the UN Human Rights Committee is still pending.

Categories: News.
Tags: Kazakhstan and Yevgeniy Zhovtis.
Regions: Kazakhstan.