A French court in Aix-En Province on Jan. 9 ordered the extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov, Kazakhstan's former energy minister, accused of misappropriating $6 billion from BTA Bank. The French court agreed to the extradition requests from Russia and Ukraine, which both house BTA Bank branches, partly because France does not have an extradition agreement with Kazakhstan. In 2011 Ablyazov gained political asylum in the UK after alleging that he faced prosecution in Kazakhstan because he was the leading figure in the opposition against Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev. Ablyazov also claimed that he had been imprisoned for political reasons prior to these charges. Amnesty International urged against Ablyazov's extradition after the court's ruling. Julie Hall, AI expert on counter-terrorism and human rights, said, "Not only do we have fears that Ablyazov would not get a fair trial in Russia or Ukraine, there is a real danger that he will eventually end up in Kazakhstan, where he will be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment." She cited a report (PDF) on the routine cooperation of Russia and Ukraine with Central Asian republics, including Kazakhstan, to transfer suspects, often at risk of their human rights.
Kazakhstan has recently drawn international criticism for its human rights record. In November a court in Kazakhstan upheld the conviction of an outspoken opposition leader, Vladimir Kozlov, accused of inciting dissent in an attempt to overthrow the government. In October Human Rights Watch claimed that oil workers in the country face mistreatment and repression at the hands of the government and oil companies. In July UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for an independent probe into the previous year's deadly labor unrest. In June HRW demanded that the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan publicly disclose the reason for bringing new charges against a group of labor activists and an oil worker who participated in the 2012 protests. The committee charged them with "calling for the forcible overthrow of the constitutional order." Earlier in June, a court in Kazakhstan sentenced 13 out of 37 defendants to between three and seven years of imprisonment for their participation in the December 2012 unrest. Sixteen of the remaining defendants faced conditional sentences while five defendants were given amnesty and three were acquitted.
From Jurist, Jan. 9. Used with permission.