The United Nations insisted that Kazakhstan allow an international investigation into deadly riots in oil towns, which exposed human rights abuses and growing inequality in Central Asia’s largest economy.
U.N high Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay said that the December riots in Zhanaozen, during which police opened fire on protesters, should show Kazakhstan that economic prosperity must not be prioritised above human rights.
President Nurlsultan Nazarbayev has habitually put economic growth ahead of democratic freedom in more than two decades of leading Kazakhstan, a former Soviet state with 3 percent of the world’s recoverable oil reserves.
“Ignoring this was the mistake made in Tunisia, where very positive economic indicators masked the despair of a population deprived of many of their fundamental human rights” Pillay told a news conference during her first visit to Central Asia.
She went on to say, “I have recommended to the government that the only way to credibly answer these questions once and for all, and draw a line under these tragic events, is to authorise an independent international investigation into the events themselves, their causes and their aftermath”.
Kazakhstan’s economy has expanded by an average of 8% annually over the last decade. But the unrest in December, where at least 12 people were killed in the height of a labour dispute by oil workers, shattered Kazakhstan’s image of stability.