Thank you, Mr Chair.
Welcome Deputy Prime Minister to the Permanent Council and thank you and your delegation for informing participating States about the recent situation in Kazakhstan.
Mr Chair, yesterday marked the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the UK and Kazakhstan. As close friends, we are profoundly concerned by the traumatic events that have confronted the people of Kazakhstan in recent weeks. We deeply regret the loss of life caused by the violence and offer our condolences to the families of the deceased. We condemn the acts of violence and destruction of property and are relieved that life in Almaty and other cities is returning to normal.
We note that President Tokayev, in his public comments last week, made a clear distinction between peaceful protestors with legitimate grievances, and ‘organised criminal elements’ who appear to have hijacked the peaceful protests, in Almaty and some other cities. He was clear that this latter group had an agenda to disrupt the constitutional authorities, and carry out, in his words, ‘an attempted coup’. This is an extremely serious matter which requires thorough investigation.
We therefore welcome the President’s decision to establish an investigative committee to ascertain what led to these unprecedented events and loss of life. We support the Kazakh authorities’ commitment that this will be an effective and transparent investigation and that it will have the confidence of the people of Kazakhstan. To this end, we strongly encourage the Government of Kazakhstan to consider involving respected international experts in this investigatory process, including a potential role for the OSCE. Given the nature of recent events, civil society can also play a crucial role in this process. The formation of the ‘Human Rights Alliance for Fundamental Rights’, a group of leading NGOs – with the objective to facilitate honest and impartial identification of the timeline of events; analyse law enforcement and protestor actions; monitor due process; and identify wrongdoing – is a very constructive step.
Mr Chair, in contacts with the Kazakh Government in recent days, UK Ministers have welcomed reassurance that the many international human rights commitments to which Kazakhstan is a party will be respected as the investigation into recent events continues. It is vital that those who have been arrested are afforded due process under the rule of law in a timely manner. We understand there are a number of well-known activists who have been detained and we await further information about their status and well-being. We welcome the re-establishment of internet connectivity, which is vital to independent reporting of events, and ask that the Kazakh authorities respect their international commitments to freedom of speech and expression.
We took careful note of President Tokayev’s speech to the Kazakh parliament on 11 January about his plans for significant economic, social and political reform in response to the underlying demands of the peaceful protestors. The President reiterated the goal of his economic policy – “the creation and development of a modern market economy with a modern social orientation.” We look forward to hearing