Rights groups urge Kazakhstan to reconsider restrictive freedom of assembly law

Tuesday 12 May 2020

A jointly endorsed expert opinion, expressing concern that proposed legislation would infringe the fundamental right to freedom of assembly in the Republic of Kazakhstan, has been sent to the country’s President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR Centre).

Authored by distinguished international lawyer Sarah Cleveland – Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights at Columbia Law School, IBAHRI Council member and High Level Legal Panel on Media Freedom member – the opinion piece details a number of restrictions on freedom of assembly that the Draft Law ‘On the Procedure of Organising and Holding Peaceful Assemblies in the Republic of Kazakhstan’ includes, such as:

  • excessive notification and approval requirements;
  • excessive authority to ban an assembly;
  • a prohibition on spontaneous assemblies;
  • restriction of assemblies to specific locations;
  • preferential treatment for assemblies organised by the government;
  • a prohibition against foreigners, refugees and stateless persons from organising or participating in assemblies;
  • excessive obligations on organisers and participants; and
  • excessive sanctions for organisers and participants

In their letter to President Tokayevco, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC Director of the IBAHRI; Róisín Pillay, Director of the Europe and Central Asia Programme at the ICJ; and Patrick Mutzenberg, Director of the CCPR Centre, urge him and the Senate of Kazakhstan to revise the Draft Law to ensure it is consistent with the country’s international human rights obligations.

Under Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and according to the OSCE Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and the Venice Commission Guidelines on Freedom of Assembly, Kazakhstan is obligated to protect the freedom of peaceful assembly.

The expert opinion is available in ENGLISH and RUSSIAN. The letter (in English and Russian) to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan can be downloaded here.


Notes to the Editor

  1. Click here to download the letter (in English and Russian) to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
  2. Click here to download the joint expert opinion in English. 
    Click here to download the joint expert opinion in Russian.
  3. View related items on the IBAHRI’s work in Kazakhstan here www.ibanet.org/Kazakhstan
  4. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
  5. Composed of 60 eminent judges and lawyers from all regions of the world, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) promotes and protects human rights through the Rule of Law, by using its unique legal expertise to develop and strengthen national and international justice systems. Established in 1952 and active on the five continents, the ICJ aims to ensure the progressive development and effective implementation of international human rights and international humanitarian law; secure the realisation of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights; safeguard the separation of powers; and guarantee the independence of the judiciary and legal profession.
  6. The Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR Centre) is an independent, non-governmental organisation dedicated to contribute to the implementation of the ICCPR through support to the civil society and through connecting key actors engaged to implement the UN Human Rights Committee recommendations at the national level.

For further information please contact:

Romana St. Matthew - Daniel
Press Office
International Bar Association
4th Floor, 10 St Bride Street,
London EC4A 4AD

Mobile: +44 (0)7940 731 915
Direct Line: +44 (0)20 7842 0094
Main Office: +44 (0)20 7842 0090
Fax: +44 (0)20 7842 0091

Email: romana.daniel@int-bar.org
Website: www.ibanet.org

IBAHRI website page link for this news release:
Short link: tinyurl.com/yac9e4wf

Download a PDF of the letter (in English and Russian):
Short link: tinyurl.com/yc8obr77

Download PDF of the Opinion piece(ENGLISH):
Short link: tinyurl.com/yc5m23aa

Download PDF of the Opinion piece(RUSSIAN):
Short link: tinyurl.com/ybh4vcz3