Independent Union Under Threat In Kazakhstan, HRW Says

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the Kazakh authorities drop a lawsuit against an independent labor union, saying the case is a violation of workers’ fundamental rights to…

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the Kazakh authorities drop a lawsuit against an independent labor union, saying the case is a violation of workers’ fundamental rights to organize and associate.

In a statement on January 28, HRW accused the Kazakh authorities of trying to have the operations of the Industrial Trade Union of Fuel and Energy Workers suspended.

According to the statement, a court in the southern city of Shymkent will decide on February 1 on the city administration’s lawsuit against the union claiming violations of the union law.

“This brazen attempt to have the activities of an independent trade union suspended is unjustified and should be stopped in its tracks,” HRW senior Central Asia researcher Mihra Rittmann said,

“Less than a year ago Kazakhstan took necessary steps to amend its highly restrictive 2014 trade union law, but now the authorities are cracking down on yet another independent trade union,” it added.

The lawsuit filed against an independent industrial trade union representing workers in Kazakhstan’s oil and gas sector claims that the union violated registration provisions in the trade union law.

The claims are unsubstantiated or based on legal provisions that either no longer exist or do not apply to the union, HRW said, calling on the court in Shymkent to drop the case.

Rights activists and labor leaders have said the government has steadily increased pressure on unions since a series of protests staged by oil workers in western Kazakhstan in 2011.

The protests culminated in violent clashes with police in December 2011 that left at least 16 workers dead in the oil town of Zhanaozen.

In July 2019, a court in Shymkent sentenced to seven years in prison independent union leader Erlan Baltabai, who advocated for energy company workers, after finding him guilty of embezzlement, a case he and his supporters called politically motivated.


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