Take Action: Call on Kazakhstan to repeal labour leader’s unjust conviction
In a blow to independent trade union activism, the Kazakh government unjustly sentenced union leader Larisa Kharkova on 25 July 2017. UNI stands with the ITUC in condemning this sentence as a travesty of justice and an affront to democracy.
Kharkova is the leader of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan, the country’s largest independent trade union confederation, and the charges she faced are based on a series of false accusations.
The sentence restricts Kharkova’s freedom of movement for four years, requires 100 hours of forced labour, and instates a five-year ban on holding any position in a public or non-governmental organisation—such as a labour union. She is prohibited from changing her place of residence and place of work, banned from visiting certain places, and may not leave her city of residence without authorisation.
Kharvoa’s sentencing is part of a sustained campaign of worker suppression in Kazakhstan. In April, Confederation Deputy Chairperson Nurbek Kushakbayev was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for discussing the possibility continuing a strike at Kazakhstan’s Oil Construction Company. Another union leader, Amin Eleusinov, was also sentenced to two years in prison. The Confederation was shuttered by the courts in early 2017, and its accounts, equipment, and property were frozen.
Philip Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, said, “The Kazakh court’s sentencing of Larisa Kharkova is profoundly disturbing. Standing up for workers’ rights is not a crime, and speaking out against injustice is not a crime. But in Khazakhstan, labour leaders like Ms. Kharkova are being severely punished simply for doing just that. We have to demand that the Kazakh government immediately repeal this miscarriage of justice and end its attack on independent trade unions.”
“What’s happening in Khazakhstan is part of a troubling trend of state action to suppress unions. In recent months, there have been crackdowns in Turkey, Bangladesh, Egypt, and elsewhere. We have to take action as a global labour movement to end these outrages,” Jenning’s added.
Kharkova has said that she will appeal her sentencing. The ITUC has lodged a formal complaint over violation of freedom of association in Khazakhstan with the ILO, and international pressure on the Kazakhstan government will intensify following the judgement passed against Kharkova.
Aliaksandr Yarashuk, President of the Belarus Congress of Democratic Trade Unions and ITUC Vice President, was a witness to the trial. He wrote, “I have no doubts that acting together we are able to make the authorities of Kazakhstan stop the reprisals against independent unions, repeal the disgraceful sentence of Larisa Kharkova, release Nurbek Kushakbaev and Amin Eleusinov, thus discharging our professional and human duty to our Kazakhstani brothers and sisters.”
Take action by signing the LabourStart petition: https://www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=3386