Kazakhstan – Ill Poet Beaten Aron Atabek in Prison

Call to Action: Kazakhstan – Ill Poet Beaten in Prison

15 July 2014 – Update No 8 to call to action of 5 August 2013

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.

Other Information

On Torture:

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

Take Action

  • Write to the Kazakh authorities calling on them to protect Aron Atabek from all forms of torture and ill treatment, to investigate the reports that he has been beaten while in detention, and to bring to justice anyone suspected of abuses;
  • Demand that Atabek receives appropriate medical attention for his health complaints;
  • Write to your ambassador to Kazakhstan and, if appropriate, your MEP, urging him/her to raise the issue of Atabek’s torture and lack of proper medical attention with the Kazakh government;
  • Write messages of support to Atabek in jail. He has already received a number of letters from PEN members, and, according to his son, these have helped maintain his morale;


Prison Address:

Учреждение АП-162/1, 140000, г. Павлодар, ул.Циолковского б\н.

Uchrezhdenie АП-162/1, zip-code: 140000, Pavlodar city, Tsiolkovskogo street b/n

President of Kazakhstan
President Nursultan Nazarbayev
President’s Office,
010000 Astana
Fax: +7 7172 559338

Minister of Internal Affairs
Kalmukhanbet Kassymov
Ministry of Internal Affairs
Tauelsizdik Avenue, 1
010000 Astana
Republik of Kazakhstan
Email: Kense [at] mvd [dot] kz

(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: ‘.((strlen(‘http://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-in/kazakhstan’)>40) ? substr(‘http://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-in/kazakhstan’,0,40).’…’ : ‘http://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-in/kazakhstan’).’

You can find your MEP here: ‘.((strlen(‘http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/map.html’)>40) ? substr(‘http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/map.html’,0,40).’…’ : ‘http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/map.html’).’