UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk has called on Kazakh authorities to thoroughly investigate the violent dispersal of mass anti-government protests in January 2022 that left at least 238 people dead, including 19 law enforcement officers.
Turk also called on the Central Asian nation’s leadership to investigate the deadly dispersal of oil workers in the southeastern town of Zhanaozen in 2011 in which at least 16 protesters were killed by police who opened fire on unarmed men and women.
Turk made the comments on March 17 at a press conference in Astana after holding talks with Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev.
Turk added that he also raised the issue of securing the rights of women and the LGBT community in Kazakhstan during his talks with Toqaev.
The UN official also expressed thanks to the Kazakh government for bringing more than 700 children and women to Kazakhstan from conflict zones in Syria.
He emphasized the importance of developing democratic institutions, civil society, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly for Kazakhstan’s further development.
The Kazakh presidential press service did not mention any of the issues Turk cited at the press conference, stressing only that Toqaev and Turk discussed joint cooperation and information exchange to further develop human rights in the country.
Toqaev “stressed that Kazakhstan had ratified all of the United Nations’ main conventions and agreements and created active entities to secure human rights on the national level,” the presidential press service said.
Meanwhile, a group of Kazakh activists rallied on March 17 in front of the office of the European Union in Astana, urging Turk to pressure the Kazakh government to register political parties, investigate the January 2022 bloodshed, and release all political prisoners.
Turk’s visit to Astana came two days before early parliamentary elections in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.
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