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Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev (file photo)

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has become the head of the Central Asian country’s Security Council for life.

State-run media published a presidential decree on July 12 that brought the new law into force.

The decree was adopted by Kazakh lawmakers in May and approved by the country’s constitutional court in June.

Nazarbaev signed the decree on July 5, a day before his 78th birthday that was lavishly celebrated on same day as the Day of the Kazakh Capital, Astana, a public holiday. But the law only came into force on July 12 after it was made public.

According to the law, Nazarbaev was granted the right to lead the Security Council "for [his] life time due to his historic mission."

Under the decree, the status of the body was changed from consultative to constitutional, increasing its clout.

Many in Kazakhstan see the move as a sign that Nazarbaev is seeking to ensure that he will maintain his grip on power if he steps down as president.

But amid persistent speculation that he may be preparing for a political transition, Nazarbaev said on March 5 that he will "continue to work so that our people will look to the future with confidence."

Last year, Nazarbaev announced plans to delegate some of his sweeping powers to parliament and to the government, transforming his own leadership into a role he described as "Supreme Arbiter."

Nazarbaev has been in power in the energy-rich Central Asian country since before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

He was last elected in 2015, securing a new five-year term after moving the vote up from 2016 in what was widely seen as a move to strengthen his control.

Rights activists and critics say he has persistently suppressed dissent, prolonged his time in office through undemocratic votes, and used the levers of power to neutralize potential opponents.

The Amnesty statement included an image used in Iranian news coverage of the incident, showing a young man tied to a tree as he was being flogged by a masked man. The rights watchdog said it could not independently verify whether it was a photo of the actual flogging in question.

Amnesty International is denouncing Iran for the public flogging of a young man whose alleged crime was having consumed alcohol at a wedding when he was 14 or 15 years old.

Amnesty in a statement issued late on July 11 called the flogging "horrific" and "absolutely shocking," and said it violated international law as well as international conventions on civil and children's rights.

The public flogging took place on July 10 in Niazmand Square in Kashmar in Iran's Razavi Khorasan Province, where the man, who was identified only as M. R., was flogged 80 times on his back for having consumed alcohol at a wedding 10 years ago when he was a teenager.

The Amnesty statement included an image showing a young man tied to a tree as he was being flogged by a masked man with a crowd of people watching at a distance.

When contacted on July 12, Amnesty could not independently verify that the image was of the flogging in Kashmar, and said that photo attached to its report was from Iranian news coverage of the incident.

"The circumstances of this case are absolutely shocking, representing another horrific example of the Iranian authorities’ warped priorities," said Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Director Philip Luther.

"No one, regardless of age, should be subjected to flogging; that a child was prosecuted for consuming alcohol and sentenced to 80 lashes beggars belief,” he said.

"The Iranian authorities’ prolific use of corporal punishment, including on children, demonstrates a shocking disregard for basic humanity. They should immediately abolish all forms of such punishment, which in Iran includes amputation and blinding as well as flogging," he said.

Luther said that Iran, as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is legally obliged to forbid torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment.

"It’s simply unacceptable that the Iranian authorities continue to allow such punishments and to justify them in the name of protecting religious morals," he said.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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