ALMATY (Reuters) – Kazakh security forces cracking down on unrest last month have arbitrarily arrested peaceful protesters, ill-treated and tortured detainees, and interfered with detainees’ access to lawyers, Human Rights Watch says.
The authorities say at least 227 people were killed in the worst bout of political violence in the Central Asian in its post-Soviet history, which saw former president Nursultan Nazarbayev and his relatives ousted from all positions of power. About 10,000 people were detained after the unrest, the authorities said. Most were released within days but some have complained on social and local media beatings and torture at the hands of police.
HRW said in a statement on Tuesday it had received credible reports of dozens of cases in which police arbitrarily detained peaceful protesters and other people, and subjected some detainees to ill-treatment and torture, including with electric shocks and beatings. Kazakhstan’s interior and foreign ministries have not replied to a request for comment on the HRW report.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said last week that human rights officials were looking into complaints from detainees. Kazakhstan has blamed the violence on “bandits” assisted by Islamist militants some of whom officials said had arrived from other Central Asian countries and had been trained abroad.