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Respect Right To Peaceful Protest,’ Amnesty International Tells Kazakhstan

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Amnesty International has called on Kazakhstan to respect the right to peaceful assembly after hundreds of protesters were arrested across the Central Asian country on one single day last month.

The authorities “once again demonstrated their disregard for the right to peaceful assembly” by detaining the protesters who had gathered in several cities on February 27, the London-based human rights watchdog said on March 5.

A statement said that the peaceful demonstrations and detentions took place near the headquarters of the ruling Nur Otan party in Almaty, Astana, and other cities, as the party was holding a congress.

Protesters accused the government of the energy-rich country of ignoring the needs and demands of ordinary people and families.

Freedom of peaceful assembly is heavily restricted in Kazakhstan, which authoritarian President Nursultan Nazarbaev has ruled since before it gained independence in the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Amnesty International said that those detained on February 27 were questioned in police stations and then released, usually several hours later.

The group quoted human rights defender Dmitry Tikhonov as saying that he was detained along with others, including schoolchildren and pensioners, in Almaty by police officers wearing masks and without any identification badges.

Most of those detained together with Tikhonov reported being questioned about their support for the banned Democratic choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement, according to Amnesty International.

The watchdog called on the Kazakh authorities to respect and protect the right to peaceful protest by “making necessary changes to legislation and respecting the right in practice.”

All those who were arbitrarily detained last month for attempting to exercise this right should be offered reparation, while the police officers and other officials “responsible for or complicit in these violations should be held responsible in due proceedings,” it added.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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