The ITUC welcomes the release of Erlan Baltabay, leader of the Independent Oil and Energy Workers’ Union by special decree of the new President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
In July this year Erlan Baltabay was sentenced to 7 years in prison under forged charges that the international labour movement condemned as being politically motivated. The criminal case against Baltabay was initiated in response to his active trade union activities and principled stand to support other leaders of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (CITUK) who have also had their freedom restrained after politically motivated convictions.
The ITUC appealed to President Kassym-Jonart Tokayev, urging him to ensure justice for Baltaba and has expressed a cautious welcome for the move.
“The release of Erlan Baltabay is a step in the right direction. For years Kazakhstan has had the reputation of a country that oppresses freedom of association, a fundamental human right. For two consecutive years it has been among the top ten violators of workers’ rights according to the ITUC Global Reporting Index”, said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow. “We hope that this intervention by the President is a sign of changing attitudes towards independent unions in the country. Further steps should be taken, in line with the conclusions of the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards, to ensure implementation of freedom of association in the country in law and in practice”, she added.
Erlan Baltabay is at home with his family and has expressed his gratitude to international trade union movement, national trade union centres and all the organisations and activists who supported him and joined the international campaign that led to his release, including a LabourStart global campaign.