In Kazakhstan, the freedom of assembly is regulated by the Law № 2126 “On Organizing and Conducting Peaceful Assemblies, Meetings, Marches, Picketing and Demonstrations” of March 17, 1995. Prior authorization regarding the holding of peaceful assemblies is required.
Procedure for organizing meetings
- organizers must be citizens of Kazakhstan and be at least 18 years old;
- a notification about the organization of a meeting shall be submitted at least 10 days before the date on which the planned meeting is to take place;
- local authorities shall inform organizers of their decision at least 5 days before the planned event;
- organizers bear expenses for the holding of an assembly.
Hunger strikes in public places, picketing, tent installation, and setting up other structures are also considered a form of protest.
What is allowed?
Organizers and participants have the right:
- to cover faces with masks;
- to hold meetings in the night-time;
- to gather near government buildings;
- to hold counter-demonstrations at the same time;
- to agitate before the beginning of the event.
Restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly
It is prohibited:
- to hold spontaneous assemblies;
- to hold demonstrations targeted against any social group or aiming to undermine the constitutional order;
- to hold rallies near infrastructural facilities, healthcare, and educational institutions;
- to attend assemblies carrying weapons;
- to obstruct traffic, the work of law enforcement agencies and operation of infrastructure facilities.
Local authorities can introduce additional limitations on holding assemblies.
- participants and organizers can be fined up to $139 (up to 20 x monthly calculation index) or arrested for up to 2.5 months for causing significant harm to rights and lawful interests of citizens, society or state during the event;
- officials can be fined up to $348 (up to 50 x monthly calculation index) for unlawful obstruction of an assembly by means of their official position.
Commentaries of experts and participants of public events
Human rights defenders and public actions’ participants from Kazakhstan note that peaceful assemblies are often held with systematic violations on the side of the authorities. They say that local authorities use their ability to determine venues for rallies independently and restrict possible places to one or two venues in the remote parts of cities or towns.
One activist says that the last rally in the country was held in 2016. One of its organizers is still behind bars. Since then, the authorities have not once given permission to hold an assembly. Police officers detain possible participants and journalists who cover the events even before rallies start.
Those interviewed note that when someone tries to appeal unlawful actions of the authorities or police officers, courts always take the side of the law enforcement and never examine evidence in defense of those who are prosecuted for their participation in public rallies.
The European Court of Human Rights has no jurisdiction over Kazakhstan, but its citizens can make complaints to The United Nations Human Rights Committee. The Committee has several times passed decisions in favour of applicants who claimed that their right to assembly had been violated. However, Kazakh authorities claim that such decisions have recommendatory power only and refuse to comply with them.
Yevgeny Zhovtis, an expert of OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, notes that in 2001, the words «other public events» were added to forms of public protests that had already been mentioned in the Code of Administrative Offences of Kazakhstan. This allowed authorities to consider all public display of dissent a protest action.