Kazakhstan: draft law on peaceful assemblies should be reconsidered

The ICJ, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), and the Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR Centre) today published a legal opinion by ICJ Commissioner Professor Sarah Cleveland, on compliance of Kazakhstan’s Draft Law on the Procedure for Organising and Holding Peaceful Assemblies, with the Republic of Kazakhstan’s international human rights obligations.

“Excessive restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly in Kazakhstan have been of significant concern to the UN Human Rights Committee, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, and other human rights bodies for many years,” said Sarah Cleveland.

“Kazakhstan now has an important opportunity to bring its law into compliance with its international human rights obligations, but the draft law currently being considered does not achieve this.”

The Opinion finds that the proposed legislation includes of number of restrictions on freedom of assembly that are fundamentally contrary to Kazakhstan’s human rights obligations, including (1) excessive notification and approval requirements; (2) excessive authority to ban an assembly; (3) a prohibition on spontaneous assemblies; (4) restriction of assemblies to specific locations; (5) preferential treatment for assemblies organized by the government; (6) a prohibition against foreigners, refugees, stateless persons from organizing or participating in assemblies, (7) excessive obligations on organizers and participants; and (8) excessive sanctions for organizers and participants. The timing and process for adopting a law that so fundamentally impacts domestic compliance with core human rights obligations itself raises serious human rights concerns, given the limited ability of civil society organizations and the general public to participate in a robust public debate regarding the law during the quarantine.

In light of these serious human rights concerns, the IBAHRI, the ICJ and the CCPR Centre urge the Senate and/or the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan to halt consideration of the Draft Law, and to seek guidance from the OSCE/ODIHR Panel of Experts on Freedom of Assembly and Association, the Office of UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, and/or the Venice Commission regarding how the current law on freedom of peaceful assembly might be revised consistent with Kazakhstan’s international human rights obligations.

Kazakhstan-Assembly Law Opinion-Advocacy-2020-ENG (full text in PDF)