WUC Welcomes Amnesty for Kazakh Human Rights Activist

Press Release – For immediate release
6 February 2012
Contact:  World Uyghur Congress www.uyghurcongress.org
0049 (0) 89 5432 1999 or contact@uyghurcongress.org

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) welcomes the amnesty for prominent Kazakh human rights activist Yevgeny Zhovtis, announced by the court in a penal colony of Ust-Kamenogorsk city last week. He is due for release on 15 February 2012.

Zhovtis was sentenced in 2009 to four years in prison for a road accident that killed a pedestrian. The trial against him was politically motivated and the Kazakh authorities misused the case to silence an important critical voice in the country. In his position as chief of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights (http://www.bureau.kz) in Almaty, Zhovtis was very outspoken on human rights buses in Kazakhstan and did not hesitate to denounce violations committed by the Kazakh authorities.

“I met Mr. Zhovtis in April 2008 in Kiev”, said WUC Secretary General Dolkun Isa today. “We were both attending the World Movement for Democracy’s (WMD) fifth international conference, where we discussed human rights and democracy issues in Central Asia and China, especially under the influence of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Mr. Zhovtis, wo is a member of WMD´s steering committee, is a devoted human rights activist, working hardly to improve democracy within the country. His amnesty is a positive sign for Kazakhstan, a country where human rights abuses are unfortunately still widespread.”

Kazakhstan is the country with the largest Uyghur diaspora in the world, counting around 250.000 people. They often suffer ethnic discrimination, and the close political and economic ties between Kazakhstan and China only worsen their situation. Kazakhstan has a terrible track record of forcibly deporting Uyghur refugees and asylum seekers to China. Past cases include, but are not limited to:

  • Ahmet Memet and Turgun Abbas, Islamic students from Kashgar, who both applied for UNHCR´s refugee status, are believed to have been forcibly returned to China after reportedly being detained in Kazakhstan in December 2001. There is no further information about their current whereabouts, legal status or state of health.
  • In spring 2003, Abdukakhar Idris “disappeared” in Almaty after having been forcibly returned from Kazakhstan to China. He had approached UNHCR for refugee status before he went missing. His current whereabouts, legal status or state of health are unknown.
  • On 30 May 2011, the Uyghur refugee Ershidin Israel was extradited from Kazakhstan to China, he is disappeared since then. Mr. Israel, who fled China in September 2009 after having given a media interview to Radio Free Asia (RFA) on the torture to death of a young Uyghur man in detention, had initially been granted UNHCR refugee status and Sweden had assured him resettlement. This case, which is only one among many others, has clearly shown what happens to Uyghurs if they dare to speak out on human rights abuses in East Turkestan.