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Building capacity of the legal community to provide legal assistance and protect the right to peaceful assembly

Implementation period: February 2020-November 2020

Donor: Soros Foundation-Kazakhstan

The well-known international human rights organization Human Rights Watch in its report on Kazakhstan for 2019 noted that mass detentions of participants in “unauthorized” rallies in Kazakhstan were repeated several times during 2019, and the police even dispersed one person’s protests and arbitrarily detained organizers and participants.

According to the speech of representative of the General Prosecutor’s office of Kazakhstan Azamat Sargazin published by Radio Azattyk “over the past five years more than 750 actions were held in the country, in which more than 25 thousand people took part”. In June 2019 alone, 550 people were charged and brought to administrative or criminal responsibility for “participating in an unauthorized protest”.

Another world-famous international human rights organization, Freedom House, noted in its 2019 report that the Kazakh authorities usually refuse permission for peaceful protests and, thus, impose strict restrictions on freedom of assembly. International organizations have repeatedly reported violations of the right to peaceful assembly in Kazakhstan and called on Nur-Sultan to fulfill its human rights obligations. Human rights defenders have recorded numerous expedited trials held in police stations, at night, and in many cases without the presence of lawyers or in conditions where lawyers could not effectively and efficiently protect their clients. In this regard, there is an urgent need for lawyers with the knowledge and skills necessary to protect the rights of persons participating in peaceful assemblies in a timely and effective manner.

During peaceful assemblies held in Kazakhstan in June 2019, the LPRC supported the work of lawyers who defended individuals detained as a result of peaceful assemblies and expressed their disagreement with state policy. Working with lawyers demonstrated a number of the following problems:

  • A narrow circle of lawyers who are ready to work with this category of citizens in the framework of pro bono;
  • Insufficient knowledge of the specifics of freedom of peaceful assembly;
  • Lack of effective skills and algorithms to protect this category of detainees;
  • There is a high need to exchange professional opinions among colleagues on strategies for protecting citizens who participate in peaceful assemblies and are repressed for expressing their opinions in peaceful ways.

These circumstances prompted us to organize in-depth trainings for defense lawyers and defenders of the non-governmental sector on effective protection of citizens who use peaceful assemblies in dialogue with the authorities.

The goal of this project – to support civil society efforts to promote and protect freedom of peaceful assembly in Kazakhstan.

Tasks:

  1. Professional development of defense lawyers and defenders of the non-governmental sector for the protection of persons detained during peaceful assemblies in the Republic of Kazakhstan.
  2. Raising awareness of the situation of freedom of peaceful assembly in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Project activities include:

1. Practical component. Conducting a Set of online trainings for defense lawyers and defenders of the non-governmental sector to develop effective skills for protection of persons detained during peaceful assemblies. The set consists of five training sessions on:

1) Organization and conducting peaceful assemblies: new legislation and practice.

2) Features of detention of peaceful assemblies participants. Tactical actions of the defender.

3) Features of administrative proceedings in cases related to peaceful assemblies. Strategic protection issues.

4) Appeal against court decisions and actions of administrative prosecution bodies in cases related to peaceful assemblies.

5) Media and peaceful assemblies. Features of protection of media representatives and their rights in connection with coverage of peaceful assemblies.

The training session will end with a large-scale Case forum, where lawyers will share their practical experience, tactics and strategies for protecting people detained during peaceful assemblies. Upon completion of the training, participants will be awarded certificates. The total number of training hours is 17 astronomical hours. More information about the training set can be found here.

2. Informational component. Publishing of information and analytical materials on the project in the media and social networks.

Within the project three podcast episodes will be produced on the following topics:

  • The new law on peaceful assemblies.
  • Dialogue with the authorities through peaceful assemblies in Kazakhstan. History and present.
  • The landscape of peaceful assemblies in the post-soviet space.

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