NUR-SULTAN (17 May 2019) – An independent UN expert welcomed Kazakhstan’s repatriation of 231 of its citizens from conflict sites in Syria and Iraq earlier this month and urged other states with citizens in the region to follow that humanitarian initiative.
“Kazakhstan has illustrated that it is practical and realistic to bring out women and children, and the remaining responsibility to do so lies with multiple states,” said Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. This important humanitarian initiative safeguards the rights of vulnerable children and their mothers, and shows much needed leadership on this critical global issue.
In the context of this positive development she is nonetheless gravely concerned Kazakhstan’s national law covering terrorism and extremism often targets civil society groups, and called on the Government to allow them to carry out activities as protected by international law.
Ní Aoláin said after an eight-day visit that she was also deeply concerned that religious minorities were subject to persistent and harsh application of domestic terrorism law.
“The use of extremism laws against political groups and critical voices is a worrisome practice and detracts from the genuine and much-needed work globally of addressing distinct and certain terrorism challenges as defined by international law,” Ní Aoláin said in a statement.
The Special Rapporteur highlighted concerns about the fairness of investigations and closed trials in cases of terrorism and extremism, and the lack of transparency in the substance and outcomes of such proceedings.
De-radicalisation methods in prisons and at the community-level was a cause for concern. “Given the wide and problematic definitions of extremism under domestic law, such programming when based on religious or political identity contradicts fundamental human rights protections and raises clear concerns about discrimination directed at vulnerable groups,” she said.
The Special Rapporteur called on all organisations working on issues of de-radicalisation in Kazakhstan to fully implement human rights obligations in their work. “Kazakhstan has a unique opportunity in this time of political transition to recalibrate its laws, to open up civil society space, to build on its long and deep tradition of religious pluralism and tolerance and to avoid the pitfall of using security as a means to limit the democratic and vibrant development of society as a whole,” Ní Aoláin said.
Ms Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin (Ireland), the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, took up her functions on 1 August 2017. She is a University Regents Professor at the University of Minnesota; holder of the Robina Chair in Law, Public Policy, and Society; and faculty director of the Human Rights Center at the University of Minnesota Law School. She is concurrently a Professor of Law at the University of Ulster’s Transitional Justice Institute in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and is co-founder and associate director ofthe Institute.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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