Skip to main content
Country reports

A/HRC/43/46/ADD.1: Visit to Kazakhstan - Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protectionof human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism


22 January 2020

UN symbol





The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, conducted an official visit to Kazakhstan from 10 to 17 May 2019. Kazakhstan has made major economic and social strides in recent decades with positively identified national priorities, including youth policy, employment and education in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. Kazakhstan is a leader on security issues in the region and was the first Central Asian country to be elected as a non-permanent member of the Security Council (2017–2018).

The Special Rapporteur commends Kazakhstan for returning 516 persons, mostly women and children, from conflict sites in the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq, with several repatriation operations in January and May 2019. She affirms that, not only is this the positive implementation of its international obligations under Security Council resolution 2178 (2014), it constitutes a welcome humanitarian response to the plight of those women, men and children who are detained in overcrowded camps in the north-east of the Syrian Arab Republic in inhuman conditions.

The Special Rapporteur identifies a number of significant human rights challenges resulting from the security, counter-terrorism and extremism frameworks that are operational in Kazakhstan. She finds that significant aspects of the criminal law concerning terrorism and extremism are broad and vaguely defined, impinging directly on fundamental human rights protected by international law, including but not limited to the rights to expression, movement, family life, and freedom of religion and belief. She is seriously concerned about the use of the term “extremism” in national law and practice. She highlights the use of article 174 of the Criminal Code and its application to the activities of civil society activists and religious minorities. She concludes that the broad formulation of the concepts of “extremism”, “inciting social or class hatred” and “religious hatred or enmity” in national law are used to unduly restrict freedoms of religion, expression, assembly and association.

Cumulative and overlapping measures on the organization of public associations, religious associations and political parties allow authorities to seriously circumscribe and curtail the actions of these groups, resulting in their being discredited and marginalized, if not outright proscribed.

The Special Rapporteur addresses the application of sanctions and financial restrictions and listing under national law. She is particularly concerned that the national terrorism sanctions list automatically includes, in addition to individuals convicted of terrorism financing offences, individuals convicted of other (non-financing) related terrorism offences, individuals convicted of extremism offences, as well as persons against whom there is suspicion of involvement in these crimes but against whom there is insufficient evidence for prosecution, which appears both arbitrary and lacking in oversight. She found a lack of legal clarity in respect of the government body responsible for listing, and significant deficits in the appeals and review process for listed persons.

The Special Rapporteur was encouraged by the progress made overall by the penitentiary system in Kazakhstan in recent decades in terms of the overall decrease in the prison population and development of alternative sanctions. Nonetheless, she sees room for improvement in respect of oversight and meaningful access for persons experiencing torture or inhuman or degrading treatment in prison. She identifies human rights deficits in the prison regime under which persons convicted of terrorism or extremism are held. She makes concrete recommendations in respect of conditions of detention for such individuals.

The Special Rapporteur urges human rights-compliant regulation of the Internet and the avoidance of blanket Internet shutdowns which, in her view, are disproportionate and unnecessary and infringe on fundamental rights of expression.

Issued By:

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism

Delivered To:

the Human Rights Council at its 43rd session