Kazakhstan scraps death penalty after nearly 20-year moratorium

Executions were paused in Kazakhstan from 2003 [File: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters]
Executions were paused in Kazakhstan from 2003

Kazakhstan has abolished the death penalty, making permanent a nearly 20-year freeze on capital punishment in the Central Asian country, according to a notice on the presidential website.

The notice published on Saturday said President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev had signed off on parliamentary ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – a document that commits signatories to the abolition of capital punishment. Executions were paused in Kazakhstan from 2003 but courts continued to sentence convicts to death in exceptional circumstances, including for crimes deemed “acts of terror”. Ruslan Kulekbayev, a lone gunman who killed eight policemen and two civilians during a rampage in Kazakhstan’s largest city Almaty in 2016, was among the convicts set to be executed if the moratorium were lifted, Kulekbayev will serve a life sentence in jail instead.

Life imprisonment was introduced in Kazakhstan in 2004 as an alternative punishment, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was adopted in 1966, entered into force in 1976, and 173 states acceded to it. The Second Optional Protocol to it, aimed at the abolition of the death penalty, was adopted on December 15, 1989, and came into force in 1991. Kazakhstan’s parliament ratified the protocol on December 29, apart from Kazakhstan, 88 other nations are members of the agreement. “The signatory countries take the following obligations: first, not to apply the death penalty, second, to take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within their jurisdiction. The only exception is the death penalty is allowed in case of wartime,” Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi said at the time.

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