The coalition of Kazakhstani non-governmental organizations “Kazakhstan – OSCE 2010” expresses its deep concern regarding the continued imprisonment of human rights defender Evgeniy Zhovtis, who, since October 25, 2009, has been serving his sentence in a penal colony despite significant procedural flaws in his trial, sentencing, and review of appeal.
On January 18, 2011, the parole board considered Evgeniy Zhovtis’s request for early release, which it eventually denied, explaining that the convict “had not mended his ways and needed to continue serving his term.” Its decision does not comply with criminal executive legislation or with the established practice of granting parole for similar cases.
According to members of the Public Commission of Observers (East Kazakhstan) present at the hearing, the penal colony’s administrators negatively represented Evgeniy Zhovtis to the board, despite the fact that he has actively provided legal support for other prisoners, participated in cultural events, and took measures to pay compensation to his victim’s family.
The board concluded that Mr. Zhovtis “had not mended his ways” only because he did not participate in the colony’s so called law and order division because of his views. In this regard, it is important to mention that participation in the aforementioned division is voluntary and is thus not a condition for parole. It was also noted that Mr. Zhovtis had two annulled penalties; according to Kazakhstani legislations, parole boards should not take annulled penalties into account while reaching a verdict.
In addition, regarding established practice, individuals sentenced to this category of crimes are rarely denied parole. However, detention facility administrators did not lay out any special conditions that would prevent Evgeniy Zhovtis from receiving parole.
Thus, the decision to deny Evgeniy Zhovtis parole violated principles of law and order, equality under the law, and sentence differentiation and individualization, as declared in Article 6 of the Criminal Executive Code of Kazakhstan. The board’s clear absence of impartiality while considering Evgeniy Zhovtis’s request gives reason to conclude that his rights violations are directly due to his human rights activities and active role in civil society.
We are calling the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Justice, and the Committee of the Criminal Executive System of the Ministry of Justice to respect the principles of the rule of law and to respect Evgeniy Zhovtis’s right to parole.
The “Kazakhstan – OSCE 2010” coalition was founded in July 2008 by several leading non-governmental organizations of Kazakhstan. The coalition’s principal task is to monitor how Kazakhstan fulfills its OSCE obligations for democracy development and rule of law in light of the country’s chairmanship in this organization. The Coalition unites Almaty Helsinki Committee, the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, “Adil Soz” International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech, International Center for Journalism “MediaNet,” “Human Rights Charter” Public Foundation, National Network of the Independent Observers, Research Center for Legislation Policy, and “Internews Kazakhstan.”