Advocacy group urges Kazakhstan to abolish death penalty13 october 2014, 13:27
According to Amnesty International, more than two in three countries of the world have abolished the death penalty either in law or in practice. Kazakhstan prohibited death penalty for ordinary crimes in 2007.
In accordance with the Constitution and the new Criminal Code, the death penalty still remains in Kazakhstan for crimes of terrorism involving loss of life, as well as for serious wartimecrimes committed in wartime. The death penalty is also provided for such crimes as: mercenary activity, attempt on the life of the First President, attempt on the life of the president and coup de main.
536 executions were carried out in Kazakhstan between 1990 and 2003. The last execution was carried out in 2003. In December that year a time-unlimited moratorium on capital punishment was introduced, after which not a single death penalty sentence was carried out.
Still, there are those in Kazakhstan who believe that it is not enough and the death penalty should be altogether abolished.
One of them is Saule Mektepbayeva, Regional Director of Penal Reform International (PRI) in Central Asia, who spoke to Tengrinews on the sidelines of the panel discussion in the Kazakh State University in the framework of the World Day against the Death Penalty.
Mektepbayeva acknowledged that Kazakhstan had been consistently and progressively moving towards abolition of the death penalty, but insisted that the system still needed serious reform.
“The death penalty is still provided for in the Constitution and in the criminal law as punishment. Many human rights activists had hoped that with the adoption of the new code, this problem would be completely resolved. But unfortunately, it remained as a form of punishment in the Criminal Code, and only the number of crimes for which it can be used was reduced from 18 to 17. This is the only change that was made," Mektepbayeva said.
"By and large, the question of the death penalty is essential for the whole system of human rights, so it is always in sight. That is, regardless of whether it is applied or not applied, the fact that it is in the Constitution is a very serious situation, which requires special attention," Mektepbayeva continued.
She said she was hopeful that in the end the death penalty would be abolished leading to the humanization of the whole justice system of Kazakhstan, because the gradation of punishment starts from the maximum down to the minimum.
In addition, the expert believes that availability of capital punishment does not reduce the number of crimes.
"As most studies have shown, the death penalty, unfortunately or fortunately, has no deterrent effect on the crime rate. And Kazakhstan is a proof to that: the death penalty has not been carried out in Kazakhstan for more than 10 years but this has not affected the crime situation in the country," Maktepbayeva said.
The activist also does not agree with the view that the Arab countries are able to preserve strong public order thanks to the death penalty.
"It is believed that the Arab countries have the death penalty, which is why they have a fairly strong rule of law. Although in reality, the main reason for their success lies in the clan system of their society. I have just recently visited the Arab countries and the local community there is very watchful over individual behaviour. It is not about the death penalty there. A person who commits as a crime is criticised by the local society. Even a petty theft makes the offender feel very uncomfortable," the Central Asian PRI representative shared.
There are clan societies in all five Central Asian countries, but that obviously has not become the main reason for success in achieving a fairly strong rule of law in the area. But the PRI rep did not specify why.
She also commented on the popular view in Kazakhstani society that the death penalty should be applied in high-profile cases involving crimes committed against children.
"I believe that life imprisonment is a very severe punishment, and many studies suggest that it is much more severe than the death penalty. Therefore, I believe that life imprisonment for serious crimes committed against children is an adequate measure,” Saule Mektepbayeva said and reminded that prisons for those sentenced to life imprisonment were “the harshest”.
Earlier, Saule Mektepbayeva asked First Deputy Prosecutor General of Kazakhstan Iogan Merkel as to what was preventing Kazakhstan from completely abandoning the death penalty.
"What's stopping? Constitution prevents us from removing the death penalty. Whilst the Constitution does not change, it will remain," Merkel said.
Incidentally, Merkel himself opposes abandoning of the death penalty.
"For some reason we forget about the rights of victims. Why, aren’t they people? By no means is it acceptable. If we talk about the number of such convictions handed down, there are only 5 [that were handed after the moratorium on the death penalty, but never carried out]. What does this mean? That the courts are very discreet with this kind of punishment and practically do not hand it out [opting for life imprisonment], despite the fact that some crimes make hair stand on end," he said in January this year.
Reporting by Renat Tashkinbayev, writing by Dinara Urazova