WORK OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS BUREAU IS PARALYZED
Jubilee Gift to Evgeny Zhovtis for His Fiftieth Birthday
On Monday, August 15, 2005, when the staff of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR) arrived at work, they discovered their office had been broken into and ransacked.
The looters who visited the KIBHR office in building No. 83 on Masanchi Street, it is assumed, late Sunday night/early Monday morning, broke a window grating of one of the Bureau offices and nearly all of the inner office doors from the hallway into the offices. The burglars stole (carried or hauled away from the building) a large portion of the Bureau’s computer equipment. According to calculations of KIBHR staff, 13 processors and 6 LCD monitors, a flash-chart server computer, and also two telephones disappeared from the office. In those same offices where computers were left behind, system components were removed from their processors, which makes it possible to assume that the nighttime burglars were not as much interested in the hardware, although expensive, as in the information available in the computers.
Today, the Bureau’s everyday work is paralyzed, and this was done on the eve of the 2005 presidential elections, the date of which has still not been officially announced, but the election campaign in favor of the current president is already in full swing. Furthermore, the draft law on NGOs, drafted as if specially against such nongovernmental organizations as the KIBHR, is in a state of limbo “it will pass – it won’t pass – it will pass, but not now, but later”.
In the small garden near a broken window, Bureau staff found (and right away turned over to the investigative group from the Bostandyk District Internal Affairs Directorate) a number of pieces of material evidence lost or discarded by the burglars, namely two pairs of knitted gloves, a hacksaw and chisel, and inside the office on the floor – a whole bundle of inner office keys. Such carelessness by the burglars, not at all striving to take everything with them but, on the contrary, throwing away the tools of crime in a visible place, may be a sign of criminal courage (they say, they won’t find them anyway!), as well as – much more likely! – a demonstration of certainty of the most complete impunity. But a legitimate question arises in such a case: Who were these nighttime burglars (or who did they sense they were)? Were they just criminal elements or also “conscious representatives of the people”, whose acts of force against the “human rights agitators” always find support on the part of the authorities, who have had “Zhovtis’ Bureau”, known far beyond the borders of Kazakhstan, stuck in their throat for a long time now?!
In this regard, one should recall that the former offices of KIBHR, located on that same Masanchi Street, but several blocks lower in building No. 57, right between the two buildings of the Main Internal Affairs Directorate of Almaty, was burned down by unknown arsonists five and a half years ago. Those responsible for the arson on November 4, 1999, still have not been found. And already in 2005, the KIBHR was subjected to harsh verbal attacks on the part of the rather well-know Mazhilisman Yerasyl ABYLKASYMOV. This deputy actually accused the human rights defenders of treason and other subversive acts against the state, supported by the West. Simultaneously holding the position of RK human rights ombudsman, Bulat BAYKADAMOV complained to the head of state about the Bureau and its director, Evgeny ZHOVTIS, which allegedly were “protecting the wrong people and not doing what they should be doing”.
Hot on the trail of these two performances, inspectors from the financial police and the prosecutor’s office arrived at the KIBHR, and then these auditors came to the Bureau’s offices like it was a job, sitting in them for several months in search of any violations. The results of the audit have still not been fully made public, but the pro-authorities newspaper Express K, has already published, with reference to materials from this audit, some libelous text, accusing the human rights activists of “amoral behavior” (Soviet-language of so-called immoral behavior, for which a person can’t be imprisoned for but can and must be thrown in the mud at the meeting of the party committee or trade union committee).
It is also quite interesting that the timing of the break-in of the KIBHR offices was chosen according to all the rules of black PR and dirty political technologies. This event opened not only the work week (the office was ransacked late Sunday night/early Monday morning), but also the second half of the month (Monday, August 15) – as if to make it more convenient for all the mass media, including the weekly newspapers, to cover the event. And the tastiest of all is that the Bureau’s offices were broken into two days before August 17, 2005, when KIBHR Director Evgeny Zhovtis celebrates his fiftieth birthday.
We would remind you that a similar gift was presented for the fiftieth birthday on January 29, 2003, to a staff member and one of the founders of KIBHR, the well-known journalist Sergey Duvanov, whose guilty verdict was handed down by the Karasaysk District Court of Almaty Region on no other day but that one.
Of course, the main thing here is not in symbolic dates, but in symbolic actions: the human rights organization, having protected and continuing to protect people from the arbitrariness of power, itself became a victim of arbitrariness. And just whose arbitrariness – also power from above or this time still a criminal from below? In order to answer this question according to the second possibility, i.e., with the least damage to power, the authorities will have to prove its noninvolvement in the “jubilee pogrom” to the Kazakhstan and world public opinion. And the authorities can do this, first of all, directly and unequivocally condemning the actions of the thugs and burglars and, secondly, applying all available levers the have to immediately solve the crime and do whatever they can to compensate the victims for the damage inflicted on them.
Andrei SVIRIDOV (KUB.kz website, August 15, 2005)