BERLIN, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Actions by Kazakh security officials against opposition activists suggest the government is moving to silence its critics, Human Rights Watch said.
The rights organization said charges were filed against opposition activists for inciting social frictions. Human Rights Watch said it appears some of the charges are linked to events in the west of the country, where oil workers have held protests.
Hugh Williamson, the director of regional affairs for Human Rights Watch, said, in a statement from Berlin, the Kazakh government promised a transparent investigation into the unrest in the west of the country but has so far only targeted government critics.
"The Kazakhstan authorities' actions will taint the investigation," he said. "A genuinely pluralistic and rights-abiding government tolerates dissent, does not quash it."
Clashes between security forces and demonstrators followed strikes in the oil industry in December that left at least 15 people dead.
Opposition groups in Kazakhstan protested the results of a mid-January election after an election committee said the ruling party won 80 percent of the vote.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe described the elections as "well administrated" but short of international standards for democracy. There is no record of open elections in an independent Kazakhstan.