KAZAKHSTAN: Did Security Police Kill Devout Muslim?

Igor Rotar, Keston News Service, 14 January 2002

The lawyer representing a Muslim man who died of serious injuries in hospital in the town of Turkestan on 3 November has told Keston News Service that she believes he died of beatings he had sustained at the hands of officers of Kazakhstan's security police, the National Security Committee (NSC). Kanat Beimbetov was arrested by NSC officers on 26 October in Turkestan, a town in Chimkent region of southern Kazakhstan, 165 kilometres (100 miles) north of the town of Chimkent. A member of the Bar for Chimkent region, Mahbuba Aimetova, told Keston in Chimkent on 7 January that in the wake of the arrest, NSC officers beat Beimbetov severely and demanded that he confess to links with Uzbek Islamic terrorist organisations. Beimbetov was subsequently taken to hospital, but it was too late to save him and he died. "Beimbetov's only 'crime' was that he was a committed believer and attended the mosque regularly," Aimetova declared.

"A criminal investigation into Beimbetov's death was launched on 4 November, but it is quite probable that the NSC employees who killed Beimbetov will remain unpunished," Aimetova reported. She claimed that it was under pressure from the NSC that the legal medical expert analysis concluded on 6 November that "the reason for Beimbetov's death was acute kidney failure. The cause of the acute kidney failure may have been an allergic reaction to the introduction of some kind of medical preparation." She pointed out that the same medical expert analysis had identified a series of injuries on the corpse: an internal injury to the thorax, accompanied by fractures to the ears and 11 ribs, injuries in the form of bruises and scratches to the thoracic region, on the trunk, and on the higher and lower extremities, and an internal injury to the skull.

Aimetova believed it was "noteworthy" that the criminal case relating to Beimbetov's death has been transferred away from the military investigative department of Chimkent region (the organisation that investigates the crimes of military personnel, including NSC officers) to the regional public prosecutor's office. "This gives grounds for believing that the doctors are under suspicion in the investigation, and not the NSC employees who killed Beimbetov," she told Keston.

However, Bekembai Ashirov, chief public prosecutor at the military public prosecutor's office of Chimkent region, said it would be "premature" to draw any conclusions from the fact that the Beimbetov case has been transferred away from the military investigative department. "The investigation into the death of Beimbetov is still underway and will be pursued with the utmost tenacity," Ashirov told Keston on 7 January.

"My own outlook is extremely pessimistic. I am almost sure that the NSC employees who killed Beimbetov will not be punished," Maria Pulman, of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, told Keston by telephone on 11 January. "We have identified dozens of cases where prisoners have been tortured by the law enforcement agencies. Yet these crimes always remain unpunished." She complained that although Kazakhstan has signed the 1984 United Nations Convention against Torture, no independent legal agency has been set up to investigate crimes of torture carried out by law enforcement agencies and their officers. "Officers of the law enforcement agencies 'protect the honour of the service' and always make excuses for colleagues who have tortured prisoners," Pulman declared.

Birgit Kainz, human rights officer at the office in Kazakhstan of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, also pointed out Kazakhstan's responsibility as a signatory to the Convention against Torture. "We too hope that the authorities will carry out an independent investigation and that those responsible will be punished," she told Keston by telephone from Almaty on 11 January. (END)