Nearly 10,000 people are now estimated to have been detained following the unrest. “We understand that the Home Office has announced about 9,900 people have been detained as of January 11. Now, that’s obviously a huge number,” said OHCHR Speaker Liz Throssell briefed reporters at the United Nations (UNOG) in Geneva.
“Under international law, people have the right to protest peacefully and to express their opinions. They should not be detained just for expressing their opinions,” Ms Throssell added.
“All persons arrested and detained solely for exercising these rights should be released immediately,” she added.
She said the devastation and destruction around the country’s largest city, Almaty, had been widely witnessed and reported, and although the UN did not specify who was detained, “there will obviously be some arrests and possible charges”, an OHCHR statement People say.
“At the same time, of course, we must also clearly emphasize that there are also armed men taking to the streets of Almaty and other parts of Kazakhstan,” she added.
Ms Throssell stressed that all detainees should have access to a lawyer as part of their fundamental human rights.
“It is very important to us that the Ombudsman, the Kazakh Ombudsman, is able to fully carry out her tasks related to the so-called national preventive mechanism and torture by visiting places of detention,” she said.
The protests began on Sunday when the government raised the price cap for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), a popular fuel for cars and heating, according to the news agency — though the price hikes were later reversed. Unrest appears to be spreading rapidly, including long-standing political discontent.
The state of emergency declared on January 5 in several regions of Kazakhstan, including the main city of Almaty and the capital Nur-Sultan, has been extended to the entire country.
Calm is gradually returning to Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, a week after the unrest that shook the country began. A day of mourning will be held across the country on Tuesday, and phone networks, internet and public transport are gradually being restored, OHCHR said.
“Lethal force” order
Meanwhile, the UN independent human rights expert said on Tuesday, visit Kazakh authorities and security forces “stop the unrestricted use of force, including lethal force,” against protesters, and called for an independent and human rights-based investigation into how the government used force to quell protests in recent days.
In a statement, Human Rights Council– Appointed experts said they were deeply concerned that Kazakhstan’s president had reportedly ordered security forces and the military to “fire with deadly force” on protesters he called “bandits and terrorists”.
The Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, Fionuara Niolein, made an official visit to Kazakhstan in May 2019 – including to Aktau and Almaty – where protests took place – He said it was deeply worrying that Kazakhstan’s overly broad use of “terrorism” against protesters, civil society activists, human rights defenders, journalists and political parties in this context appeared to be aimed at instilling fear.
Her comments were endorsed by several other UN independent experts.
‘Terrorism’ charge wrongly applied
They cautioned against inaccurate, rhetorical and overly broad use of the term, noting that such use is inconsistent with international law and undermines the human rights of all people in Kazakhstan.
The statement went on to say that misuse of the word “terrorism” undermines the security of all people and “demeans” the word that has a specific meaning in international law.
The experts stressed that the term should not be used “to suppress those who disagree with the government’s views, protest social and economic conditions, and express political views”.
They added that acts of violence should be dealt with appropriately under Kazakhstan’s comprehensive criminal law, which “has sufficient capacity to deal with them. The government must protect the lawful exercise of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” they said.
“Broadly labelling protesters as terrorists is a way of exploiting Kazakhstan’s overbroad terrorism legislation, which allows the use of force against anyone designated as a ‘terrorist’, including a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy,” the expert said. .” .
“Such comprehensive barriers to freedom of expression and assembly premised on terrorism are in absolute violation of the strict provisions of international human rights law regarding the right to life.”
The experts recalled that the use of lethal force must be used only in self-defense and when all other means, including non-lethal force, have been exhausted. They stressed that these principles also apply to foreign troops operating on Kazakhstan’s territory with the consent of Kazakhstan.