UN urges protesters to refrain from violence in Kazakhstan

Russia-led troops arrive to help quell the unrest



Published: Thu 6 Jan 2022, 8:54 PM

The United Nations on Thursday urged all sides in Kazakhstan to refrain from violence and seek a peaceful resolution to their grievances following mass unrest after days of demonstrations.

Alarmed by reports of deadly violence and gun battles in the largest city Almaty, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said lethal force, notably live ammunition, should only be used as a last resort.

She also called for the release of people held solely for exercising their right to peaceful protest.

"People have the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression," Bachelet said in a statement.

"At the same time, protesters, no matter how angry or aggrieved they may be, should not resort to violence against others."

The UN high commissioner for human rights said that that force could only be used by Kazakh authorities if necessary and proportionate.

Live bullets should only be used as a last resort against specific individuals to address an imminent threat of death or serious injury, she said.

Moscow-led troops have arrived to help quell the unrest that has so far left dozens dead and hundreds detained.

Bachelet said the use of force -- including by foreign troops -- to maintain public order should be guided by the standards of international law.

"Certain rights, including the right to life, the prohibition against torture and other ill-treatment, and the right not to be arbitrarily detained continue to apply in all circumstances", the former president of Chile said.

During the unrest, Kazakhstan has witnessed widespread disruptions to communications, including mobile phone signals, the blocking of online messengers and hours-long internet shutdowns.

"Shutting down the internet, in effect curbing people's access to information... is not the answer to a crisis but risks fuelling the violence and unrest," said Bachelet.

"I urge the Kazakh authorities to ensure internet services, which are also vital for emergency health services during the Covid-19 pandemic, are immediately and completely restored."

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