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UN group slams Kazakh authorities for silencing protesters

UN rights group slams Kazakhstan's authorities for labelling protesters as 'terrorists'
2 min read
A UN rights group has slammed the Kazakh authorities for using excessive force against protesters and for mislabelling those who oppose them as 'terrorists'.
A UN rights group accused Kazakh security forces of using 'unrestrained...force' against protesters [source: Getty]

UN-mandated independent human rights experts on Tuesday condemned the Kazakh authorities for the use of deadly force against demonstrators in the Central Asian state and for labelling opponents "terrorists".

They criticised the security forces' "unrestrained use of force" and they said they were concerned that President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev had chosen to describe the protesters as "bandits and terrorists".

The use of such terms appeared to be designed to instill fear, said Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights - a position endorsed by several experts on the Human Rights Council

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"Misuse of the word 'terrorism' undermines the security of all and cheapens this term which has a specific meaning in international law," they said in a joint statement.

It "should not be used to silence those who do not share the government's opinion, who are protesting about social and economic conditions, and expressing political views," they said.

"Acts of violence should be appropriately dealt with under Kazakhstan's comprehensive criminal code which is adequately equipped to address these acts," they added.

Last week's protests, notably against fuel price rises and corruption, saw levels of violence not experienced in the vast former Soviet republic since independence in 1991.

Dozens of people were killed and hundreds more injured with more than 10,000 arrests made.

Branding people "terrorists" and then implementing a shoot-to-kill policy against them represented a significant violation of their rights, the experts argued, calling on the government to protect fundamental freedoms.

"Any domestic investigation must consider Kazakhstan's international human rights obligations," they added.

In an address to the nation last week, Tokayev said 20,000 "armed bandits" had attacked Almaty and authorised his forces to shoot to kill without warning.