Copper giant denies suffering of its workers and victimisation of their representatives
On Monday 28 September, Berik Zhakiparov from Zhezkazgan was joined by socialists and trade unionists outside the London offices of KazMinerals plc. The company dominates his home city in Kazakhstan. It exploits tens of thousands of workers in its copper mines, processing mills and smelting works. As I have seen for myself, it pollutes the air and the rivers of the city and of the surrounding countryside.
Over the years, the company has extracted huge profits – up to €200 billion in 10 years, salted away abroad. Yet it refuses to invest in new machinery or safety equipment to ease the burden of its workers and eliminate the horrific rate of deaths and injuries at its plants. The company refuses to pay decent wages or to allow genuine trade unions to be formed. When worker activists speak up they are victimised – harassed or sacked.
Before picketing the London headquarters of KazMinerals in Victoria Street, London, I wrote to the company on behalf of supporters of Campaign Kazakhstan and the National Shop Stewards’ Network to explain why Berik was in London. I telephoned their office on a number of occasions, asking to speak to the Chairman of the company – Vladimir Kim or one of the several English members of the Board. Berik was particularly keen to meet not only Mr Kim but also the head of the Health and Safety committee of the company (who has never visited the actual workplaces!). Berik wanted to put across to both of them how workers feel about the life-threatening working conditions in the company’s plants.
The reply from the company’s receptionist was always that there was no one in the office that we could speak to. Later we received a letter from the Company Secretary of KazMinerals saying his company was now separate from Kazakhmys, which is based in Karaganda, and that it had perfectly good relations with its workers!
When we eventually found the sumptuous offices of Kazminerals in Cardinal Place, some very large private security guards were waiting for us. There were also some casual observers sitting or walking around – obviously from the Kazakhstan embassy and taking a lot of photos!
One of the office guards reluctantly agreed to convey our request for a company representative to come and meet us. Berig had a petition with him that had been signed by more than 300 trade unionists and activists during the week he had been in Britain which he wanted to hand over personally. When the security man returned, he said no one could meet us and would not give any name of who had told him this! We took all of this to indicate a guilty conscience and a direct link between KazMinerals and Kazakhmys!
The demonstrators on Monday held up placards demanding better wages and conditions, an end to deaths in the work-place, the reinstatement of sacked workers’ leader, Erlan Tabinov, and hands off Maksat Esenbayeva and all worker activists.
These demands can be supported by using the petition sheet on this site here.
On Monday 28 September 2015 at 4pm, a protest will take place outside the London office of Kaz Minerals Plc, demanding action to alleviate the suffering of their workers and the victimisation of activists. 100 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 5JL
A letter has been sent to the Directors including the Chairman Vladimir Kim deploring their attitude towards the running of their mines and factories in Kazakhstan. A request has been made for a meeting with them while a representative of the workers has been visiting Britain. The constant reply from their offices was: “There is no one here at the moment but they know about your letter”!
Dear Vladimir Kim and other responsible people at Kazminerals PLC,
Berik Zhagiparov is here in London as a guest of the National Shop Stewards’ Network and individual unions who are supporting his efforts to talk to you about the grievances of the workers of Kazminerals PLC in Kazakhstan.
As you probably know, the once-thriving city of Zhezkazgan, in Kazakhstan’s industrial heartland, is now experiencing very hard times. This, the workers believe, is because of the somewhat negligent policy of “Kazakhmys” – the company on the basis of which the city has been built. They also feel that your company and its directors think only of making profits and not in investing in efficient and safe new machinery.
We wish to bring to your attention that, because the machinery and equipment are old, workers are getting life-threatening illnesses and becoming prematurely unable to work. Far too many accidents are occurring; every month, on average, two workers are killed working for your company in Zhezkazgan.
Nor does your company sufficiently remunerate its workers. Year by year, workers’ wages are reduced and the workers do not have enough to support their families.
Kazakhsmys, or Kazminerals PLC as it is now called, refuses to listen to its workers’ complaints and clamps down on any attempt by them to represent their views in an organised way or fight for their democratic and trade union rights.
We understand that the firm’s foremen behave very arrogantly, finding fault with what workers do over trifles. If the worker begins to speak openly about this this sort of thing they are illegally sacked without any court decision.
Workers of “Kazakhmys” are asking you:
1) Stop the persecution of labour activists. In particular, reinstate Yerlan Tabynova and stop the persecution of Maksat Esenbaeva.
2) Do not interfere with the self-organisation of workers; do not hinder the establishment of an independent trade union.
3) Prevent accidents at work. Create a public commission from amongst the workers to oversee measures to improve safety.
4) Raise salaries in line with the recent devaluations of the tenge which have left workers with a miserable level of income.
Yerlan Tabynova, the activist sacked in July, worked for Kaz Minerals on rail track maintenance.
The depot out of which he worked was a dilapidated building. When it rained the roof leaked. Like miners, he and his fellow workers would need to change their clothes before going home but there was no soap in the wash house and often no hot water in the shower. The radiators were leaky and all the pipes rotting. The place would be freezing in the winter.
Every day the track workers could have to walk 15 kilometres carrying heavy shovels, they would have a meal break from 12-1 but there was no canteen. They would take food to work with them in a jar.
The wage that Yerlan took home was 80,000 tenge per month, less than £200. When he first started in the job he was getting 140,000 tenge. As things got worse for the workers of Kaz Minerals – previously known as Kazakhmys – Yerlan and other fighters like Maksat Esenbaeva, have been more and more involved in fighting for better conditions at work and higher wages. They have been particularly angry about the lack of investment in equipment to establish safe working in the mines and factory. Few workers in the smelting and processing plant reach retirement age. There are two deaths a month on average and many workers suffer disabling respiratory and coronary diseases.
3000 workers are employed in the Kazakhmys copper factory. Two years ago they walked out in protest at plans to close their plant. For three months they occupied the central square of the city. The Nazarbayev dictatorship felt the risk to its survival of sending in armed police to crush the demonstration was too great and a decision was made to keep the factory open. But such has been the suffering of the workers that many cases have been taken against the company through the Courts. One of the latest has been to dispute the sacking of Yerlan and 14 other workers on the 1 July 2015.
The workers of Kaz Minerals Plc are calling for maximum international solidarity in support of their struggle which could be of major significance for the fate of the whole working class in Kazakhstan.
If you or your organisation wish to give support, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Campaign Kazakhstan has received this appeal from Pen International about the horrific treatment in prison of the poet Aron Atabek. Please take up the suggestions made for protests and publicise as widely as possible.
PEN International is deeply concerned at reports that the imprisoned poet Aron Atabek – who is in ill health – has been tortured or otherwise ill-treated by prison guards. According to the poet’s son, Atabek has suffered regular beatings on the head and neck during his incarceration in Pavlodar prison. There is an absolute prohibition on the use of torture or other ill-treatment under international law. PEN International calls on the Kazakh authorities to protect Aron Atabek from all forms of torture or other ill-treatment, to investigate the reports that he has been beaten while in detention, to bring to justice anyone suspected of abuses, and to provide him with appropriate medical care for his ailments.
In December 2012 (whilst in prison on other charges), Atabek was sentenced to two years’ solitary confinement in a maximum security jail in Arkalyk- 1,600km away from his family – for writing The Heart of Eurasia, a book that fiercely criticised President Nursultan Nazarbayev. In March 2014, Atabek was moved to a prison in Pavlodar (1,400km from his family).
Following a recent prison visit, Atabek’s son told PEN that his father has been regularly placed in a solitary confinement, that he has suffered frequent beatings by the prison guards and that some of his prison writings – critical of President Nazarbayev – have been confiscated by the KNB (formerly known as the KGB).
According to the poet’s son, the prison authorities are also continuing to deny Atabek adequate medical attention, despite his deteriorating health. Atabek suffers (or has suffered) from the following conditions: coronary artery disease, chronic gastritis, cerebral sclerosis, lumbar back pain, swollen knee joints and a pinched trigeminal nerve. Due to his back and knee problems, Atabek walks with great difficulty. In the absence of appropriate medical care, Atabek’s son tried to provide his father with medicine during his recent visit. However, this was prevented by the prison guards. Atabek’s supporters have sent packages of medicine, and even crutches, to the poet, but according to his son, these have been withheld from the poet by the prison authorities.
Kazakhstan is a state party to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), both of which prohibit in absolute terms the use of any form of torture or other ill-treatment. As a state party to these international treaties, the Kazakh authorities also have the obligation to investigate all reports of torture or other ill-treatment, to prosecute anyone responsible for such acts and to ensure that any victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible.
On Free Expression in Kazakhstan:
In May 2014, PEN International, in collaboration with Article 19, made a submission to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review of Kazakhstan in which we highlighted the harsh conditions in which Aron Atabek was being held and called on the Kazakh authorities to comply with the UN’s basic rules for the treatment of prisoners.
To learn more about the poet, journalist and human rights defender, Aron Atabek, please see our earlier calls to actions and updates.
To read a poem by Atabek, please see: My Throat Will Die
Арон ЕДИГЕЕВ (АТАБЕК)
Учреждение АП-162/1, 140000, г. Павлодар, ул.Циолковского б\н.
Aron EDIGEEV (ATABEK)
Uchrezhdenie АП-162/1, zip-code: 140000, Pavlodar city, Tsiolkovskogo street b/n
President of Kazakhstan
President Nursultan Nazarbayev
Fax: +7 7172 559338
Minister of Internal Affairs
Ministry of Internal Affairs
Tauelsizdik Avenue, 1
Republik of Kazakhstan
(Please copy your letters to the President and Minister of Internal Affairs to the Kazakh ambassador to your country)
You can find your ambassador to Kazakhstan here: http://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-in/kazakhstan
You can find your MEP here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/map.html
Note to PEN Centres: Please keep us informed of any action you take in regard to Aron Atabek’s case.
For further details contact Cathal Sheerin at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: PEN International, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER UK Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax: + 44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: email@example.com
Researcher & Campaigner, Europe Programme
Writers in Prison Committee
(working days: Tuesday-Friday)
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339
Campaign Kazakhstan has received the welcome news today that Vadim Kuramshin has suspended his hunger strike. He is to be moved to a new place where he will get the medical attention he needs and hopefully,
where he will not be subjected to any further physical or psychological torture.
Hundreds of protests were sent to the authorities and a fairly official delegation visited Vadim at the prison yesterday and made demands about his treatment.
Many thanks to all those who responded to the
appeal for protests. Those who have not yet signed can still do so here.
Of course, the battle to get Vadim
Vadim Kuramshin a stoppé sa grève de la faim !
Nous avons reçu aujourd’hui la bonne nouvelle que Vadim Kuramshin a suspendu sa grève de la faim. Il devrait être transféré dans une nouvelle prison où il recevra l’attention médicale dont il a besoin et nous l’espérons où il ne subira plus davantage de torture psychologique et physique.
Des centaines de protestations ont été envoyées aux autorités et une délégation très officielle a rendu visite à Vadim en prison et a soulevé des demandes spécifiques concernant les mauvais traitements qu’il y recevait.
Merci beaucoup à tous et toutes celles qui ont répondu à cet appel de solidarité. Ceux qui n’ont pas encore signé peuvent encore le faire sur la pétition ici.
Bien entendu, le combat continue pour faire libérer Vadim de prison et pour la levée de toutes les charges à son encontre ! Il doit même être intensifié au moment où les autorités semblent sensibles à la pression internationale. Nous vous donnerons d’autres détails dès que possible.
Political prisoner Vadim Kuramshin has begun a protest hunger strike to the death!
We demand urgent attention be given to him – medical help and an immediate transfer to a safer environment.
Please read the petition below and click here to sign as soon as you have read it. We need a thousand signatures in the next two days!
Please fill your name, mail id and country.[emailpetition id=”1″]
To President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbaev
General Prosecutor of Kazakhstan, A. Daulbaev
The Minister of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan, K. Kasimov
Committee for the Criminal Correction System (KUIS) of Kazakhstan, B. Berdalin
International Human Rights organisations,
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Frontline Defenders,
Freedom House, Special United Nations Rapporteur on torture and other, inhumane or humiliating treatment and punishment
Yesterday, 3 June 2014, we received information from the lawyer of political prisoner Vadim Kuramshin, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison, and is currently held in the Prison Section EC 164/4, Gorny Posyelok (Zhaman sopka), Esilsky district, North Kazakhstan region.
The information about the first day of Vadim Kuramshin’s hunger strike was published on the Internet, with his statement of protest against “illegal methods of mistreatment and intimidation” on the part of the administration of EC 164/4, pressurising him into denouncing the recent article written by his wife Ekaterina Kuramshin.
The recent photograph of Vadim Kuramshin, which has also been published, shows his debilitated physical and psychological condition and signs of physical abuse.
Before his arrest, Vadim Kuramshin severely criticised this particular Prison EC 164/4, and this, in our opinion, is the reason for the maltreatment, which puts his life and health in danger from the authorities of this prison.
We demand an urgent intervention and an immediate end to the intimidation and torture of Vadim Kuramshin!
We demand urgent medical attention and help to Vadim Kuramshin!
We demand the transfer of Kuramshin from EC 164/4 to another prison that has no connection to Kuramshin’s work for the rights of prisoners, where he would receive an impartial treatment.
We also demand prosecution of those guilty of abuse in the administration of EC 164/4.
Президенту Республики Казахстан г-ну Н.Назарбаеву
Генеральную прокуратуру РК г-ну А.Даулбаеву
Министерство внутренних дел РК г-ну К.Касымову
КУИС РК г-ну Б.Бердалину
Международные правозащитные организации
Амнистия Интернешнл, Хьюман Райс Вотч, Фронтлайн Дефендерс, Фридом Хаус, Специальному докладчику ООН по вопросу о пытках и других жестоких, бесчеловечных или унижающих достоинство видах обращения и наказания
Вчера, 3 июня 2014 года, поступила информация от адвоката политзаключенного Вадима Курамшина, осужденного на 12 лет, и находящегося в Учреждении ЕС 164/4 посёлок Горный (Жаман сопка), Есильского района, Северо-Казахстанской области. В интернете опубликовано уведомление Вадима Курамшина о начатой им голодовке в знак протеста «от незаконных методов преследования, давления» со стороны администрации ЕС 164/4 с требованием написания опровержения ранее опубликованной статьи, его супруги Екатерины Курамшиной. Опубликована фотография Вадима Курамшина, где видно, что Вадим доведён до крайнего физического истощения, видны следы избиения и плохое психологическое состояние.
Учреждение ЕС 164/4 ранее, до осуждения, неоднократно критиковалось В.Курамшиным, и поэтому мы считаем, что жизнь и здоровье Вадима находится в опасности.
Просим, срочно вмешаться в ситуацию, прекратить физическое и психологическое давление на Вадима Курамшина!
Срочно предоставить В.Курамшину медицинскую помощь!
Перевести Вадима Курамшина из учреждения ЕС 164/4 в другое безопасное учреждение, которое не имеет конфликта с В.Курамшиным из-за критики условий содержания.
Привлечь к ответственности виновных, в лице руководства ЕС
The case against Vadim Kuramshin’s twelve year prison sentence fell on deaf ears in Kazakhstan’s highest court, Monday 25 November. The three judges remained impervious to the pleas of Vadim’s two lawyers and his mother. His representatives blew holes in the prosecution’s arguments and the court’s decision to overturn a unanimous jury’s verdict that Vadim is innocent.
Vadim’s family is bitterly disappointed but determined not to let the case rest. They now intend to challenge the validity of the Supreme Court’s decision through the auspices of the United Nations Organisation.
More detail will be given of the sham re-trial in Astana and also of the international outcry internationally. Among those expressing their anger and indignation will be the esteemed body of internationally renowned lawyers who have awarded Vadim the Ludovic-Trarieux 2013 prize, which his mother will be receiving on his behalf in Paris on 5 December.
Angry protests are needed once again to be sent to the Nazarbayev regime via embassies and consulates around the world. This following text can be used as a model for protests:
I/we are outraged by the callous and high-handed attitude of your country’s Supreme Court in rejecting the appeal of Vadim Kuramshin on 25 November. His lawyers were fighting to overturn a previous court decision to imprison Vadim for twelve years. They cited the unanimous jury decision to dismiss his case. But this was over-ruled by the Supreme Court.
We know Vadim to be a tenacious fighter for justice – inside and outside Kazakhstan’s hellish prisons. We believe the authorities have singled out Vadim for especially harsh treatment to act as a deterrent against all opposition to the Nazabayev dictatorship.
We will continue to give our fullest support to those fighting for justice in all spheres of Kazakhstan society.
Copies please to firstname.lastname@example.org