NUR-SULTAN — Human rights activists in Kazakhstan have slammed a government list of men and women killed during and after anti-government protests in January, calling it “insufficient.”
The unregistered Qaharman (Hero) human rights group said in a statement on August 17 that the list, released by the government a day earlier, showed only last names and initials of the victims.
The group demanded that detailed information on each victim be made public, including first and patronymic names, ages, exact times of death, causes and exact places of death, and the circumstances when the deaths occurred.
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The group also called on Kazakh citizens who lost people in the unrest but did not see those victims on the list to contact it immediately.
Bakhytzhan Toreghozhina, a leading member of the Almaty-based human rights group Ar, Rukh, Khaq (Dignity, Spirit, Truth), said the list provided by the Prosecutor-General’s Office was incomplete.
“For example, during the unrest in Almaty, a 22-year-old citizen of Israel, Levon Kogeashvili, who resided in Kazakhstan for several years, was killed. But his name is not in the list. Why? We have our own list with all necessary details, such as names, ages, and cities where they were killed. We will make our list public in the coming days,” Toreghozhina said.
On August 16, Kazakh authorities raised the death toll from the unrest to 238, adding six more people who died in police custody to the original tally.
Thousands were detained during and after the protests, which erupted when a peaceful demonstration in a western district over a fuel-price hike led to nationwide anti-government protests that were violently dispersed by law enforcement and the military.
President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev blamed the unrest on “20,000 terrorists” from abroad, a claim for which authorities provided no evidence. Russia briefly sent troops to help protect key government facilities.
In June, prosecutors said the overall death toll stood at 232. Deputy Prosecutor-General Aset Shyndaliev also said at the time that six people had been tortured to death after being arrested for taking part in the January protests.
He also said that an unspecified number of security officers had been arrested in connection with the alleged torture.
Eldos Qilymzhanov, a top official with the Prosecutor-General’s Office, said on August 16 that six individuals who were detained during the riots had died as a result of “illegal methods of interrogation by law enforcement structures,” adding that 15 law enforcement officers were under investigation.
The Prosecutor-General’s Office said earlier that 25 people were officially considered victims of torture and had been subjected to hot irons used by investigators during interrogations.
Human rights groups have said the number of killed demonstrators was much higher than any of the various figures provided by officials. The groups have provided evidence that peaceful demonstrators and people who had nothing to do with the protests were among those killed by law enforcement and military personnel.
The unrest led to the removal of former President Nursultan Nazarbaev and his relatives from Kazakh politics. Some relatives have been stripped of their posts, lost influential positions at companies, or even been arrested on corruption charges.
Kazakh authorities have rejected calls by Kazakh and global human rights groups for an international probe.