Abolition of the death penalty in Kazakhstan – head of government signs law

The death penalty in the Republic of Kazakhstan has been completely abolished with immediate effect. The country’s president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, signed the corresponding law on Wednesday, which had previously been passed by both chambers of parliament.

Previously imposed death penalty sentences will be automatically replaced by life imprisonment. Executions of death sentences had already been suspended in Kazakhstan since 2003.

The Kazakh parliament had previously passed a bill abolishing the death penalty. This measure represents a significant political change for the largest country in Central Asia. The bill, most recently passed by the Senate, the upper house of the bicameral parliament, provides for the complete removal of the death penalty from the criminal code.

The Senate’s passage of the bill came nearly a year after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed a decree ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. With this document, the signatories committed themselves to abolishing the death penalty.

In addition to Kazakhstan, 88 other states are members of the Covenant. The death penalty has been on hold in Kazakhstan since 2003. Life imprisonment was introduced as an alternative punishment in Kazakhstan in 2004. However, courts continued to impose the death penalty for terrorist offenses, including planning an assassination attempt on former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Of nearly 200 states and territories worldwide, 110 have now abolished the death penalty entirely, while 7 others limit its use to wartime. In 27 states, no one has been executed for at least 10 years, and 55 states have and use the death penalty in everyday criminal law, including China, the United States, Cuba, and most Arab countries.

Belarus is also the only European state that still applies the death penalty, and in Russia, execution is suspended until further notice by a Supreme Court decision.