The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has written to the President of Kazakhstan and the EU’s Foreign Affairs Representative demanding justice for Larisa Kharkova, a leader of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan, who was sentenced in late July to 100 hours of forced labour, four years restriction on her freedom of movement and a five-year ban on holding any position in a public or non-governmental organization.
Luca Visentini, ETUC General Secretary, in his letter to President Nazarbaev copied to Federica Mogherini, states that the sentence by Enbekshinskiy District Court “follows seven months of almost daily interrogations and sustained psychological pressure on Kharkova during which time she was continuously followed by state security operatives.”
The sentence follows the suppression of protest actions, including a hunger-strike, of workers at Kazakhstan’s Oil Construction Company (OCC) and the sentencing of the leader of union at the Oil Construction Company plant, Amin Eleussinov, and Vice-chairman of the CNTUK, Nurbek Kushakbaev, labour inspector of OCC, to unconditional prison terms of two and two and a half years respectively.
The ETUC calls for
- all charges against Larisa Kharkova, Nurbek Kushakbaev and Amin Eleussinov to be dropped
- CNTUK to be registered as a legal trade union, and
- Workers to be guaranteed the freedom to establish and join unions of their own choice.
The EU – Kazakhstan’s major trading partner - has already this year raised concerns about the closure of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions and the arrest of trade unionists with the Government of Kazakhstan, and has assured the ETUC that it will monitor legal proceedings against trade unions and raise the matter with the Foreign Minister.
“If Kazakhstan wants to be a reliable partner for the EU it has to stop abusing the law to silence trade union activists and dissuade workers from joining unions of their choice” said Luca Visentini. “We will do all we can to push the EU to take action to promote labour rights in Kazakhstan. The EU says it wants more responsible trade policy – now is the time to show the world it means business. Trade has to be about workers’ rights as well as investor rights.”
“I am sure the EU will be raising these matters with the Government and President of Kazakhstan.”