Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Kazak Blacklist Fears

A measure to discourage membership of Hizb-ut-Tahrir could have serious implications for political parties and other groups.
By Andrey Grishin

New steps taken by the Kazak authorities to clamp down on the radical Muslim organisation Hizb-ut-Tahrir may result in opposition parties and ethnic minority groups being outlawed, activists have warned.

They are concerned about a draft law on militant activity - submitted to parliament on May 25 - which makes reference to a “blacklist” of extremist groups operating in Kazakstan.

Human rights activists now fear that the National Security Committee, KNB, has compiled a secret list of all unregistered organisations in Kazakstan - which not even parliamentary deputies are allowed to read.

The KNB’s press service denies that such a list exists, and says that the new draft law merely makes provision for one to be drawn up using intelligence gathered by it on the activities of extremist organisations at home and abroad – specifically Russia, the United States, Britain and Kyrgyzstan.

Analysts believe that Hizb-ut-Tahrir will be the first group to fall foul of the law, as it is increasingly being represented in the media as an illegal group that incites racial and religious hatred.

Neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have already banned it, but have attracted criticism for the increasingly repressive measures they have used to curb its activities.

Maria Pulman, a lawyer with the Kazakstan International Human Rights Bureau, told IWPR, “I haven’t read the draft law itself, but I feel that if it includes a precise description of extremism – not a vague wording – then it is a good thing as any extremism should be tackled and fought.

“However, I am afraid that witch hunts and reprisals may soon start, because of the way that things are done [in Kazakstan] - especially if a blacklist of such organisations already exists.”

The draft law also has implications for other groups besides Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Until now, the authorities have levelled a series of charges against those involved in “non standard” activities, including hooliganism, participation in illegal protests and “insulting the honour and dignity of the president”.

A recent law on political parties states that any party or organisation that fails to gain state registration is automatically considered unlawful. Now, opposition politicians and civil rights activists are concerned that the law will make it easier for unregistered groups to be accused of “extremism” and criminalised.

Amirjan Kosanov, of the Republican People’s Party of Kazakstan, RNPK – which is itself unregistered and therefore at risk - told IWPR, “This draft law has been put before parliament in haste, and I don’t see why such a law had to submitted for consideration without public consultation and agreement.

“It’s also possible that this new law will be used to get any disagreeable opponents of the current regime out of the way before the next parliamentary elections.”

Ainur Kurmanov, co-chair of Solidarity - Workers Movement of Kazakstan, who once spent six months in prison on charges of insulting the honour and dignity of the president, expressed a similar opinion.

“One may assume that under the guise of fighting extremism, activity of any person or organisation standing up for their rights by using non-parliamentary methods such pickets, meetings and appeals to strikes, can be suppressed,” he warned.

“Consequently, everything could be classified as an extremist activity.”

Organisations representing national minority interests, such as those of the Uighurs and Kurds, may also find themselves blacklisted if the new draft law is passed by parliament.

Guncham Nurakhunova, of the Centre of Legal Assistance to Ethnic Minorities, which runs a project assisting Uighur refugees, doesn’t believe extremism is as much of a problem as the government claims, “After all, if the KNB knows about them and possesses evidence of their extremist activity, why don’t they arrest them? Even with Hizb-ut-Tahrir, for some reason only boys carrying leaflets are arrested, instead of the supposed ringleaders.”

The authorities here, as in other Central Asian republics, are frequently accused of torturing suspected Hizb-ut-Tahrir members.

Concerns have been raised about a trial of two young men Ruslan Ginatullin and Vladimir Sevastianov in the Pavlodar region. Local human rights activists, acting on information given by relatives and friends of the two, claim Sevastianov spent more than a month in an Almaty psychiatric clinic where he was subjected to systematic beating by staff.

Andrey Grishin is an independent journalist in Almaty.