Kazakh Human Rights Activist Languishes in Prison

It’s been a great disappointment to me how all the media attention has disappeared with regard to the case of the human rights activist Yevgeny Zhovtis in Kazakhstan, who was unlawfully jailed after having the bad luck of being involved in a terrible car accident (which ended up serving as pretext for his persecution).  However, I can understand why:  it’s been incredibly hard for reporters or international observers to have any access to Zhovtis, whom the authorities decided should be incarcerated way out east in Ust-Kamenogorsk near the Russian border (call it the Khodorkovsky treatment – these leaders seem to learn a lot from each other).

Michael Allen at Democracy Digest has posted up a good update, which reports that the Italian Parliamentarian Matteo Mecacci finally succeeded in being granted access to visit Zhovtis.  Mecacci stated that “Mr. Zhovtis was in good condition but disappointed in the Supreme Court’s refusal to recognize the lack of fairness in the legal proceedings,” and that the Kazakh courts had failed “to deliver a fair and proportionate judgment in a situation that to independent observers does not entail criminal responsibility.”

These were some harsh statements from a diplomat, but I would take it even further:  Kazakhstan’s appointment to the chairmanship of the OSCE has made a mockery out of the organization and deprived the club of its meaning.  They should exhibit their good will toward cooperation with the international community by releasing Zhovtis without delay, and then perhaps a new conversation can begin.