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UN Calls On All Involved In Kazakhstan Unrest To Choose Peace Over Violence

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By Ephrem Kossaify

The UN on Friday appealed to all those involved in the unrest in Kazakhstan to exercise restraint, refrain from violence and resolve their grievances through peaceful means.

The country is experiencing the worst street protests it has witnessed since the nation gained independence from the Soviet Union three decades ago, and dozens reportedly have been killed.

“It’s important that there be a stop to the violence,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York.

“The killing of police officers is unacceptable; the killing of protesters is as well. There is a clear need in any situation to respect human rights and international standards while we reestablish public order.”

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has referred to demonstrators as “terrorists.” On Friday, he authorized security forces to shoot to kill when responding to anti-government protests.

The demonstrations began on Jan. 2, following a near-doubling of fuel prices, and quickly spread across the country.

On Thursday, Michelle Bachelet, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, reminded the Kazakh authorities that any use of force must be subject to “strict requirements of necessity and proportionality.”

She added: “Lethal force, in particular live ammunition, should only be used as a last resort against specific individuals to address an imminent threat of death or serious injury.”

A police spokesperson in Kazakhstan’s main city of Almaty said that security forces have killed dozens of protesters. More than 1,000 people reportedly have been injured.

According to the Kazakh interior ministry, 12 police officers were killed during the unrest and more 300 have been injured.

“International law is clear: People have the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression,” Bachelet said. “At the same time, protesters, no matter how angry or aggrieved they may be, should not resort to violence against others.”

Internet service in Kazakhstan has been severely disrupted since Sunday, including intermittent complete shutdowns. Bachelet warned against denying people access to information and their right to freedom of expression, and added: “Shutting down the internet is not the answer to a crisis but risks fueling the violence and unrest.”

She urged the Kazakh government to immediately restore full access to the internet, pointing out that it is “vital for emergency health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

She also called on the authorities to enshrine the importance of dialogue and the protection of human rights during the state of emergency and beyond.

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Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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