ALMATY, 13 May 2010 – Matteo Mecacci, senior member of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's committee on human rights, met today with Kazakh human rights advocate Yevgeny Zhovtis, serving a four-year sentence in a prison colony in Ust-Kamenogorsk.
Mr. Zhovtis, director of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, was sentenced to four years in prison following a fatal traffic accident last year. He had criticized the current government of Kazakhstan for human rights abuses. Domestic legal experts and international observers at the trial reported numerous procedural violations, and questioned whether he was given adequate ability to mount a defence. Opposition parties in Kazakhstan have also raised concerns about the sentencing.
“Mr. Zhovtis was in good condition but disappointed in the Supreme Court’s refusal to recognize the lack of fairness in the legal proceedings. Unfortunately, I have to conclude that institutions can fail to deliver a fair and proportionate judgment in a situation that to independent observers does not entail criminal responsibility,” said Mr. Mecacci (Italy), Rapporteur of the OSCE PA's General Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions.
Furthermore, he added, "at a time when the Kazakh parliament has approved even wider powers for the President of the Republic, it is important to reaffirm that all OSCE states have committed themselves to respect the rule of law and the separation of powers, and that a special responsibility rests with its OSCE Chairmanship.”
Several senior OSCE PA officials have previously raised concerns about the trial and sentence given to Mr. Zhovtis, but Mr. Mecacci is the first OSCE PA representative to meet with Mr. Zhovtis in prison. The visit was conducted in agreement with the Kazakh authorities and supported by the OSCE Centre in Astana.
Mr. Mecacci is in Kazakhstan to participate in the OSCE PA's Trans-Asian Parliamentary Forum. The Forum, which starts tomorrow in Almaty, brings together more than one hundred Members of Parliament from across the OSCE and beyond to discuss security concerns in the Eurasian area.
As Mr. Mecacci was visiting Mr. Zhovtis in prison, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Secretary General Spencer Oliver raised the Zhovtis case in a speech at the Kazakh National University in Almaty. Mr. Oliver, while praising the Kazakh OSCE Chairmanship, said “this issue needs to be resolved. Mr. Zhovtis was unfairly treated and unjustly sentenced.”