Kazakhstan: Full justice for late activist and blogger Aidos Sadykov

Kazakhstan: Full justice for late activist and blogger Aidos Sadykov - Protection

ARTICLE 19 is gravely disturbed by the death of Kazakh blogger and activist Aidos Sadykov, who passed away in Kyiv following an assassination attempt earlier in June. We call on Ukrainian authorities to allocate adequate resources to ensure an effective, comprehensive and prompt investigation of the crime. All those responsible for the murder must be held accountable. We also call on Kazakh authorities to fully cooperate with the investigation by providing necessary assistance, while refraining from any actions that could impede or delay the process. 

Aidos Sadykov was shot on 18 June in Kyiv and succumbed to his injuries two weeks later, on 2 July. His wife Natalia, who is also an activist and a blogger, announced his death on Facebook,  

Ukrainian law enforcement swiftly identified two suspects in the attempted murder: Kazakh citizens Meiram Karataev and Altai Zhatkanbayev. The office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general indicated that the men fled to Moldova following the attack. On 22 June, Altai Zhatkanbayev voluntarily approached authorities in Kazakhstan and was detained. Maulen Ashimbayev, Chairman of the Senate of Kazakhstan, denied any involvement of Kazakh authorities in the crime and stated that Kazakhstan would not extradite Zhatkanbayev to Ukraine. As of 3 July, Meiram Karataev’s whereabouts are unknown, and he is still being searched for.

Aidos Sadykov, a vocal critic of the Kazakh authorities, left the country with his family in 2014 after his wife was charged with libel. Before that, he led the regional branch of the opposition Nationwide Social Democratic Party (OSDP). In 2010, he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for ‘hooliganism’. 

The Sadykov family moved to Kyiv and were granted political asylum in Ukraine. They launched the YouTube channel BASE, which discusses the abuse of power and oligarchy in Kazakhstan. Sadykov openly supported the 2022 protests in Kazakhstan, which were violently suppressed by law enforcement. In October 2023, he was put on the wanted list in Kazakhstan for allegedly ‘inciting enmity’. 

Despite President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s promises to reboot all key political institutions, the situation for freedom of expression in Kazakhstan remains dire. The president announced a ‘fresh start’ after Kazakhstan plunged into mourning following ‘Bloody January,’ a series of protests resulting in the deaths of at least 238 people due to a harsh crackdown. However, little progress has been made in delivering justice to victims of police brutality. Many cases of torture and other ill-treatment were dropped, allegedly due to insufficient evidence. 

According to the 2023 report prepared by Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law and other civil society organisations, there are at least 47 political prisoners in Kazakhstan. In July 2023, the president signed a law that exerts further state control over the media and introduces administrative fines for ‘disseminating disinformation’ on social media. 

The ruthless attack on Sadykov, resulting in his death, has sent shockwaves among all dissenting voices, prompting a fear that even finding refuge abroad does not guarantee safety, and fuelling a chilling effect. Full justice for Sadykov can only be achieved when all perpetrators and masterminds behind the attack are brought to justice and prosecuted. Impunity for attacks against journalists emboldens perpetrators and creates a chilling effect on freedom of expression. We call on Ukrainian authorities to conduct a thorough, prompt, and effective investigation and expect Kazakh leaders to fulfil their promises of full cooperation to secure accountability.