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KAZAKHSTAN - Abolitionist for ordinary crimes

Government: republic; authoritarian presidential rule, with little power outside the executive branch
State of civil and political rights: Not free
Constitution: first post-independence constitution adopted 28 January 1993; new constitution adopted by national referendum 30 August 1995
Legal System: based on Islamic law and Roman law;
Legislative System: bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate and the Majilis
Judicial System: Supreme Court; Constitutional Council
Religion: Muslim 47%, Russian Orthodox 44%, Protestant 2%, other 7%

Method of execution: shooting
Date of last execution: 11-2003
Prisoners on death row: 27 (as of 30/09/2004)

International Treaties on the Death Penalty and Human Rights:
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • 1st Optional Protocol to the Covenant
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment


FACTS

On December 17, 2003, President Nursultan Nazarbayev introduced a moratorium on executions that is to stay in place until the question of the eventual abolition of the death penalty can be resolved.
Kazakhstan had already taken a number of steps towards the restriction of the death penalty.
The new Penal Code - that came into force on January 1, 1998 - reduced death-qualifiable offences in peacetime from 18 to 3: premeditated murder, genocide and sabotage. The death penalty was retained also for treason in wartime and for 7 other military crimes.
On December 27, 2002 Nazarbayev signed into law amendments to the penal code prohibiting the death penalty for minors, women and men over 65 and establishing that death row inmates could not be executed before a minimum one-year period had passed since their death sentence.
A further step towards abolition was the introduction of life imprisonment as an alternative to the death penalty as from January 1, 2004. Courts may continue to pass death sentences until the death penalty is completely abolished.
“I think that we should rise to this level of humanity,” Nazabayev said with reference to abolition in a televised interview on May 14, 2004.
At least 19 people had been put to death in 2003 before the introduction of the moratorium. According to interior ministry data, 32 people were executed in 2001 and 33 in 2002.
In May 2007, Kazakhstan amended its Constitution abolishing the death penalty for all crimes except terrorist acts that cause loss of human life and exceptionally grave crimes committed during wartime.
On December 20, 2012, Kazakhstan voted in favour of the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly.



NEWS

January 23, 2014: some MPs in the Kazakhstan’s Majilis (lower chamber) suggested the death penalty be removed from the country’s Criminal Code.
“We believe there is a unique possibility to take a sound decision to completely remove death penalty from the Criminal Code”, some majilismen said when unveiling draft amendments into the Criminal Code.
However, the General Prosecutor’s Office did not support the full abolishment of capital punishment. “I heard no arguments in favour of abolishment [of death penalty] apart from the argument that having death penalty in the list of punishments is a sign of backwoods mentality (…) Then let us classify the USA as a backwoods mentality nation”, Johan Merkel, Vice General Prosecutor, said. He emphasized that the state should have a clear-cut mechanism to protect its own citizens. “Kazakhstan’s courts are cautious when applying this measure, although there are some truly spine-chilling crimes. The General Prosecutor’s Office will never support the full abolishment; although, this measure might be renounced for some crimes”, he added.
In the current Criminal Code there are 18 crimes punishable with capital punishment, including plotting lethal terror acts and committing grave crimes in war time. The draft Criminal Code implies capital punishment for 16 crimes.
MPs representing the People's Communist Party are in favour of further applying capital punishment. “We do emphasize that capital punishment is not a silver bullet. We believe that terror acts, premeditated murders (…) should be penalized with capital punishment. There should be a strong warning for every potential criminal that committing a certain crime s/he risks her or his life. The fear of being executed is a strong deterrent”, MP Vladimir Kossarev of the People’s Communist Party commented.
In December 2003, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev introduced an unlimited moratorium on capital punishment. From 1990 to 2003 there were 536 executions carried out in Kazakhstan. Currently about 100 people are serving life-long sentences. (Sources: en.tengrinews.kz, 23/01/2014)


Legislation

May 30, 2014: the Senate of the Parliament adopted in its first reading a draft new Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, increasing the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty.
The new Code would make war crimes, violations of international humanitarian norms during armed conflicts, and international terrorism punishable by death.
First Deputy Prosecutor General of Kazakhstan Johann Merkel said such measures are necessary for fulfilling Kazakhstan's international obligations, including Geneva Convention on protection of war victims, Tengrinews.kz said.
At the same time, the new version of the Criminal Code abolishes the death penalty for abuse of power in the army (Article 360 and 380).
On 9 April, the new Criminal Code passed its second reading in the Majilis, the lower house of the parliament.
Bills customarily require three readings before reaching the President of the Republic for being signed into law. The government hopes to finalise the process before the summer recess so the new Criminal Code can come into force by January 2015.
Kazakhstan already has a number of capital crimes on its books, including genocide, conduct of a war of aggression and use of weapons of mass destruction. However, an indefinite moratorium on executions, issued by presidential decree in December 2003, remains in place in Kazakhstan. (Sources: Hands Off Cain and KA-News, 30/05/2014)

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