Tuesday, June 05, 2012 -
A leading human rights group castigated a Kazakh court Tuesday for convicting dozens of people over deadly riots in western Kazakhstan last year, yet failing to investigate claims that some were tortured while in custody.
The court in Aktau city on Monday sentenced 13 people with jail sentences ranging from three to seven years for their involvement in the clashes with police last December that left at least 15 protesters dead. The court judge granted conditional jail sentences on 16 others and acquitted three. Five more suspects were amnestied.
Many of the 34 people on trial had complained at the trial that police obtained their testimonies by torture or ill-treatment. Yet the judge ruled that there was no evidence to warrant an investigation.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) called the trial “sham justice” for failure to properly looking into the claims.
“The authorities should drop all unfounded charges and thoroughly and impartially investigate the defendants’ allegations of torture and other ill-treatment,” its statement said.
The rights organization noted that the heaviest jail terms were given to the oil workers who were most outspoken during the months-long peaceful protest, before it ended with the outbreak of violence on December 16.
HRW noted that the heaviest jail sentences were imposed on three protesters who spoke most frequently to international media and organizations during the calm period. One of them, Rosa Tuletaeva, will spend the next seven years behind bars.
The law enforcement system in Kazakhstan is largely unchanged from the Soviet era. Prisons are overcrowded and understaffed. A jail term is a death sentence for some inmates. At least one in seven Kazakh prisoners contract tuberculosis, which will kill or leave them debilitated, according to the Partners in Health aid organization.