Kazakhstan: detention and cruel, inhumane treatment of Lukpan Akhmedyarov (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of Kazakhstan on 18 March 2022. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public. The Government responded on 16 May 2022, and at the time of writing, their reply is undergoing translation.

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication Read the Govenment's response

BACKGROUND

Topic: the detention of Mr. Lukpan Akhmedyarov.

Mr. Lukpan Akmedyarov is a human rights defender and journalist, who was covering the recent protests and demonstrations in Uralsk, in northwestern Kazakhstan. He is the former editor-in-chief of the newspaper Uralskaya Nedelya (Uralsk Week). Lukpan Akhmedyarov ran several civil campaigns in defense of fundamental rights and freedoms. He was repeatedly subjected to unlawful arrests and detentions for his human rights work. In 2012, he received the Peter Mackler Award from the international human rights organization Reporters Without Borders for his civil courage and protection of the principles of independent journalism.

We have previously expressed our concerns about the handling of the protests by the Government of Kazkahstan, including excessive use of force against protesters and violations against civil society activists, human rights defenders and journalists in the context of the protests in our communication KAZ 1/2022, dated 18 January 2022.

ALLEGATIONS

On 7 January 2022, Mr Lukpan Akhmedyarov was arrested upon leaving the editorial office of the ‘Uralsk Week’ in Uralsk. Later the same day, he was sentenced to ten days of administrative detention for participation in an unsanctioned demonstration. He was reportedly detained at the Uralsk Special Detention Center of the Department of Internal Affairs.

According to his lawyer, Mr. Akhmedyarov was present at the demonstrations in his capacity as a journalist, and at one point he reportedly addressed the crowd to urge them to remain peaceful, however the court reportedly refused to take this into account. On 10 January 2022, the court upheld the decision despite the appeal by Lukpan Akhmedyarov’s lawyer to his detention. He was released from detention on 17 January 2022.

Mr. Lukpan Akhmedyarov was reportedly subjected to psychological pressure and inhumane treatment while in detention. He was held in solitary confinement, with no access to his family or lawyer. The lights in his cell were never turned off and he was monitored by a camera 24/7.

He is believed to be under continued surveillance. His WhatsApp and email accounts have been compromised and his bank account is reportedly monitored.

CONCERNS

In the communication we expressed our concerns regarding the arrest, detention and sentencing to administrative detention of Mr. Lukpan Akhmedyarov, which would appear to be solely related to his peaceful activities as a journalist, covering protests. We are further concerned by reports that the authorities have reportedly summoned and questioned journalists who covered the recent nationwide protests, and that at least three journalists were sentenced to administrative detention, in apparent violation of journalists’ rights during and after protests. We would like to further stress that investigations into the protests should not be used as a pretext to stifle critical journalism.

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