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Kazakhstan’s Senate Passes Bill to Abolish Death Penalty

By Vusala Abbasova December 26, 2021

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Senate's approval of the bill came almost a year after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed a decree ratifying the UN's Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Kazakhstan’s parliament has passed a bill that would abolish the death penalty, a measure that, if signed by the country’s president, would mark a significant policy change for Central Asia’s largest country.

The bill, approved by the Senate — the country’s upper chamber of its bicameral parliament, will completely exclude the death penalty from its Criminal Code.

“The complete abolition of the death penalty in the Republic of Kazakhstan will contribute to the harmonization of national legislation under international legal obligations and provision of human rights and guarantees of the highest constitutional value - the right to life,” reads the document adopted by the Senate at a plenary session on Thursday.

Senate’s approval of the bill came almost a year after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed a decree ratifying the UN’s Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This document commits signatories to abolish capital punishment. The ratification of the Second Optional Protocol in January 2021 is in line with the country’s efforts to humanize criminal legislation. Apart from Kazakhstan, 88 other nations are members of the agreement.

The death penalty has been on the moratorium in Kazakhstan since 2003. Life imprisonment was introduced in Kazakhstan in 2004 as an alternative punishment. Yet, courts continued to sentence offenders to death for terrorism-related offenses, including plotting the assassination of former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Since Kazakhstan established a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in 2003, Ruslan Kulikbayev, who killed eight police officers and two civilians during a rampage in Kazakhstan’s largest city Almaty in 2016, has become the only person set to be executed for terrorism and murder charges. Kulikbayev now serves a life sentence in jail instead. 

The new bill passed readings in Kazakhstan’s lower chamber, the Mazhilis, on December 8 before being approved by its upper chamber. The document is now expected to be signed by the country’s president.

“By adopting this law, Kazakhstan joins the group of countries where the death penalty is legally prohibited. In addition, our country proves it supports the international movement aimed at the complete abolition of the death penalty,” Inform.kz quoted Senate Chairman Maulen Ashimbayev as saying on Thursday.

Russia, Belarus, and Tajikistan are now the only three countries in Europe and Central Asia that haven’t signed or ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant On Civil and Political Rights. Russia and Tajikistan continue to observe moratoriums on executions.

Meanwhile, globally, executions fell 26 percent worldwide in 2020, showing “the lowest number of executions that Amnesty International has recorded in the past decade.”