Kazakhstan: Sentencing of Union Leader a Travesty of Justice

The ITUC has condemned the sentence handed down against trade union leader Larisa Kharkova by a Kazakhstan court today as a travesty of justice, and an affront to democracy. Kharkova, Chairperson of the independent trade union centre CNTUK, was sentenced to four years of restriction on her freedom of movement, 100 hours of forced labour and a five-year ban on holding any position in a public or non-governmental organisation. She is prohibited from changing her place of residence and place of work, banned from visiting certain places, and may not leave her city of residence without authorisation.

The charges, based on a series of false accusations against her, follow the suppression of striking workers at Kazakhstan’s Oil Construction Company (OCC). In April, CNTUK Deputy Chairperson Nurbek Kushakbayev was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison simply for discussing the possibility of the strike continuing. The CNTUK was deregistered by the courts in early 2017, and its accounts, equipment and property were frozen.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, "The penalties imposed on Larisa Kharkova and Nurbek Kushakbayev, who were simply standing up for fundamental workers’ rights guaranteed under international law and the country’s Constitution, are an absolute disgrace and will hurt Kazakhstan’s standing internationally. The beneficiaries of this persecution of a legitimate independent union are rich and powerful heads of the state oil corporation, while the suppression of rights enshrined in ILO Conventions will hurt the living standards of ordinary people in Kazakhstan. This is about dissuading any form of protest action. This abuse of the rule of law is anti-democratic, and we call upon President Nursultan Nazarbayev to ensure that the sentences are reversed and that the campaign against the CNTUK, including OCC Union delegate Amin Yeleusinov, is stopped."

The sentencing of Kushakbayev and of Amin Yeleusinov, who is serving a two-year prison sentence, as well as the deregistration of the CNTUK and its affiliates prompted the ITUC to lodge a formal complaint over violation of freedom of association with the ILO, and international pressure on the Kazakhstan government will intensify following the judgement passed against Kharkova.

Today’s sentence, handed down by the Enbekshinskiy District Court of Shymkent City of the South-Kazakhstan region, follows seven months of almost daily interrogations and sustained psychological pressure on Kharkova during which time she was continuously followed by state security operatives.


PERC letter to Nursultan Nazarbayev