Grigory Pasko: A Week in Almaty, Part 2


[Click here to read Part 1 of this travelogue.]

Who is Zhovtis?

In recent days, the presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan met in a yurt in Orenburg. Three questions particularly worried Nazarbayev: about join control of the state border between the countries; about military-technical cooperation; about the joint construction and operation of the 3rd block of the Ekibastuz GRES-2 [State District Electrostation–Trans.] in Kazakhstan.

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In consideration of the fact that things in the economy of Russia aren’t going well, President Dmitry Medvedev said that “with investments and innovations it is hard for now”. An understandable business that these presidents did not talk about such “trifles” as political prisoners and human rights.

In the meantime, civic actions for the release of human rights advocate Yevgeny Zhovtis, locked up recently in jail, is picking up steam.

Who is Yevgeny Zhovtis? In the Kazakhstan international bureau forhuman rights they told me the following. Yevgeny Alexandrovich sincethe year 1993 heads this bureau. In the year 1977 he completed theKazakh polytechnical institute named after V.I.Lenin with a major as amining engineer-economist and in the course of 14 years worked in thesystem of the Academy of sciences of Kazakhstan (candidate of technicalsciences, author of more than 20 inventions), and in the year 1999 -completed the «Adilet» Higher school of law with a red diploma.

In the year 2001, Zhovtis passed the qualificational examination in theMinistry of justice of the RK for the right to engage in lawyers'[advocate’s] activity. In the year 2002 he was recognized as the bestjurist of Kazakhstan at the «Person of the year» competition.

For his human-rights activity, as well as for contribution to theadvancement of democracy and civil society in Kazakhstan and the worldhe was awarded by the international community on numerous occasions:

  • laureate of the European Union and USA prize for contribution to theadvancement of democracy and civil society in Kazakhstan (1998);
  • laureate of the International league for human rights prize (1999);
  • laureate of the International Helsinki Federation prize (2005);
  • laureate of the “Svoboda» [Freedom] prize (2006);
  • laureate of the Friedrich Ebert foundation prize in the field of human rights (2007).


Yevgeny Zhovtis is a member of various expert and consultative councilsunder the state organs of Kazakhstan (member of the Public chamberunder the Majlis of the Parliament of the RK, member of the Expertcouncil of the Commission for human rights under the President of theRK, member of the Public council under the ministry of internal affairsof the RK for overseeing the activity of the police, member of theWorking group for the examination of facts of torture under the humanrights Ombudsman of the RK and others), as well as being a member ofthe Council of experts of the Office for democratic institutions andhuman rights of the Organization for security and cooperation in Europe(ODIHR OSCE) on the freedom of peaceful assemblies and a member of theCoordination council of the World Movement for Democracy, unitingseveral thousand civic organizations all over the world.

And here the regime of Nazarbayev has decided to put such a person behind bars.

The essence of the case

From the verdict of the Balkhash district court of Almaty oblast ofthe Republic of Kazakhstan: «On 26 June of the year 2009 …Ye.A.Zhovtis, at 22 hours 10 minutes operating…an autocar…violated item19.2., 10.1 of the Rules of road traffic of the RK, i.e. did notenhance attention, did not adopt measures of precaution and duringblinding by an oncoming means of transport, did not adopt measurestowards braking and stopping the means of transport, not changing lanesof traffic, continued movement and allowed a runover of the pedestrianK.Ye. Moldabayev…As a result of the DTP [road transport event, Russianfor “motor vehicle accident”–Trans.] the pedestrian Moldabayev…died atthe place of the event».

They recounted to me that at 22 hours in Kazakhstan in the summer itis already not simply dark, but total darkness. The right-of-way onwhich the DTP took place is not lit. During blinding by the high beamof the headlights of an oncoming automobile, for a certain time adriver does indeed lose vigilance. And to notice a person moving withviolation of the rules of road traffic along the traffic lane ispractically impossible. However, the court for some reason decided thatZhovtis could have avoided a collision.

In general it has to be noted that judicial practice with respect tocriminal cases with respect to DTPs – is an unpredictable thing. Notinfrequently for more grave consequences of an accident the culpritsget way lower terms, and sometimes even escape punishment altogether.(Recently in the blog I wrote about a DTP in Russia where the driver,through whose fault the DTP had occurred and two persons had died, wasconvicted conditionally [received a suspended sentence–Trans.]). InKazakhstan too such cases are known. I do not challenge the actual factof what happened; however, the motives of the court, which had nottaken into account many circumstances, are incomprehensible to me.

It ought to be noted also that in the automobile with Zhovtis weretraveling his friends – Startsev, Nagorny and Nikitenko. They testifiedin court that Zhovtis had not had any opportunity to avoid a collisionwith the pedestrian.

In the words of Roza Akylbekova, an employee of the Kazakhstan bureaufor human rights, the course of the judicial examination, which lasted2 days ( 2 and 3 September), was accompanied by the most egregiousviolations on the part of the court.

Allowed by judge Ch.Tolkunov were serious violations of the principlesand norms of criminal- procedure legislation, as well as of therequirements contained in the normative decrees of the Supreme Court ofthe Republic of Kazakhstan: he did not examine all the petitions thathad been declared [motions filed–Trans.]; not all the witnesses werequestioned, including specialists as well; the report of an independentauto-technical expert examination was not examined…

Zhovtis’s lawyer Vitaly Voronov reported to me such a detail as well: asigned undertaking and declaration of the relatives of the deceasedabout full compensation on the part of Zhovtis of material and moraldamages and the absence against him of claims, containing a request notto bring Zhovtis to criminal liability and to dismiss proceedings withrespect to the given case were not included by the interrogator in thematerials of the criminal case that had been directed to the court.However, the court denied in the satisfaction of the given petition,not citing motives for the denial.

In the opinion of the famous lawyer Salimzhan Musin, this whole case -is an obvious demonstration of force on the part of the powers. «Onlyin Russia, – added Salimzhan Al’muratovich, – they demonstrate in thecapacity of force the naked torso of Putin, while in our countrythey’ve locked up Zhovtis.»

In Russia they also lock up. And not only lock up: they have begun tokill human rights advocates – impudently, practically openly, cynically.

The verdict

But let us return to Zhovtis’s trial. According to the testimony ofeyewitnesses, the verdict pronounced by the judge was read aloud by himfrom a typewritten text of a volume of 4-5 printed sheets. Moreover, itwas pronounced by the judge that the court «having heard out theappearances in the final pleadings of the defenders of the defendantand his last word…» The indicated circumstances rouse well-foundeddoubts that the verdict had been written (printed) by the judge afterthe retirement by him to chambers, inasmuch as this is physicallyimpossible to do in 25 minutes (the time the judge was found inchambers).

The text of the verdict that was pronounced bears witness to its hurried preparation, weak reasoning and grounding.

To all this ought to be added that the court zeroed in, in the main,only on clarifying a circumstances incriminating the defendant andaggravating his liability and punishment. Neither in the process ofprosecution, nor in the curse of the judicial investigation, nor in theverdict of the court was given a legal assessment to the actions of theother participants in the road transport event (the pedestrian, thedrivers of the oncoming vehicle), the observance by them of the rulesof road traffic etc. Groundlessly ignored by the court was the presenceof the written declaration of representatives of the victimized partyabout full compensation of the material and moral damages caused andabout the absence of claims against Zhovtis.

…When I read the verdict, the question unwittingly kept coming up againand again: to whose advantage was it to lock Zhovtis up? After all, itis obvious that on the eve of the chairmanship of Kazakhstan in theOSCE, this demonstrative move spoils the already not irreproachableimage of the country.

(To be continued)