Human rights in Kazakhstan
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politics and government of
Kazakhstan's human rights situation is uniformly described as poor by independent observers. Human Rights Watch says that "Kazakhstan heavily restricts freedom of assembly, speech, and religion. In 2014, authorities closed newspapers, jailed or fined dozens of people after peaceful but unsanctioned protests, and fined or detained worshipers for practicing religion outside state controls. Government critics, including opposition leader Vladimir Kozlov, remained in detention after unfair trials ... Torture remains common in places of detention."
Kazakhstan's political structure concentrates power in the presidency. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has been the country's leader since 1989, when he was named First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Kazakh SSR, and was elected the nation's first president following its independence from the Soviet Union in December 1991. No election ever held in Kazakhstan has met international standards.
In 2012 Kazakhstan was elected as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. During the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights in 2014, national representatives "commended Kazakhstan’s establishment of a mechanism to prevent torture and of a national human rights institution" but "shared concerns about legal restrictions on freedom".
Politics, freedom of speech and the press
Political expression was reported to be restricted in Kazakhstan in the months leading up to presidential elections in December 2005, according to observers, including Human Rights Watch and Freedom House. Kazakh authorities reportedly attempted to restrict freedom of speech and shut down independent media and civil society groups. In September, the Vremya printing house unexpectedly cancelled contracts with seven newspapers, with no explanation given. Likewise, other printing firms in Kazakhstan's former capital, Almaty, also refused to print the publications. After a week-long hunger strike by the editors of these papers, the Daur publishing house agreed to publish five of the newspapers. Virtually all of Kazakhstan's broadcast media are owned by firms closely associated with the government; newspapers are some of the few sources of independent reporting.
Some outsider observers, including HRW, have noted increasing anxiety in the Kazakh government after recent democratic revolutions in former Soviet states including Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. Efforts to restrict dissent ahead of the 2 December 2005 elections may have indicated the government's attempt to prevent such transformation from occurring in Kazakhstan.
In 2016 Astana hosted a roundtable discussion on Human Rights Day, December 10. The event brought together Kazakh officials and representatives of international organizations, such as International Organisation for Migration (IOM), EU, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Right to fair trial
According to a US government report released in 2014, in Kazakhstan: "The law does not adequately provide for an independent judiciary. The executive branch sharply limited judicial independence. Prosecutors enjoyed a quasi-judicial role and had the authority to suspend court decisions ... Corruption was evident at every stage of the judicial process. Although judges were among the most highly paid government employees, lawyers and human rights monitors alleged that judges, prosecutors, and other officials solicited bribes in exchange for favorable rulings in the majority of criminal cases."
In 1992 after gaining independence Kazakhstan adopted the Law on Freedom of Religion and Religious Associations, which aimed to ensure inter-faith tolerance and religious freedom. As of 2014, there were over 3400 religious organizations in Kazakhstan.
Human Rights watch however has said that "Minority religious groups continued to be subjected to fines and short-term detention in 2014 for violating a restrictive religion law". A UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion recommended "far-reaching reforms" to the 2011 religion law, finding, for example, that "non-registered religious communities ... suffer from serious infringements of their freedom of religion."
In order to promote inter-confessional dialogue and prevent religious conflict worldwide, Kazakhstan hosts regular Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. The first congress was held in 2003 and was attended by 17 religious delegations.
In order to address the threat of religious extremism, the Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions held international conference, Religions against Terrorism, on May 31, 2016. One day later the Congress held its 15th session in Astana.
2006 Hare Krishna evictions
On November 20, 2006, three buses full of riot police, two ambulances, two empty lorries, and executors of the Karasai district arrived at the community in sub-zero weather and evicted the Hare Krishna followers from thirteen homes, which the police proceeded to demolish. The Forum 18 News Service reported, "Riot police who took part in the destruction threw personal belongings of the Hare Krishna devotees into the snow, and many devotees were left without clothes. Power for lighting and heating systems had been cut off before the demolition began. Furniture and larger household belongings were loaded onto trucks. Officials said these possessions would be destroyed. Two men who tried to prevent the bailiffs from entering a house to destroy it were seized by 15 police officers who twisted their hands and took them away to the police car." In response to these events the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe issued a statement: "It appears that state-sponsored action has been focused upon members of the Hare Krishna community in a manner that suggests they have been targeted on the basis of their religious affiliation." Kazakh officials claims that the evictions were legitimate, and that the properties had been acquired illegally.
Human rights dialogue
In 2008, in line with its "Strategy for a New Partnership" with Central Asia, the European Union agreed with the Republic of Kazakhstan to establish an annual human rights dialogue, and its first round was held on 15 October 2008 in Astana.
These dialogues constitute an essential part of the EU's overall strategy to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, sustainable development, peace and stability. On 12 November 2014 the European Union and Kazakhstan held the sixth round of the annual Human Rights Dialogue in Brussels. The Kazakh delegation was led by Mr Yogan Merkel, First Deputy Prosecutor General, who was accompanied by Mr Vyacheslav Kalyuzhnyy, Director of the National Centre for Human Rights, and other senior officials. The EU delegation was led by Mr Silvio Gonzato, Director for Human Rights and Democracy at the European External Action Service. The dialogue was held in a positive and constructive atmosphere. The EU welcomed Kazakhstan's development of a functioning National Preventive Mechanism for the monitoring of places of detention, and encouraged further steps to strengthen the Office of the Ombudsman and the National Centre for Human Rights. The EU acknowledged Kazakhstan's recent engagement in the second cycle of the Universal Period Review (UPR) process at the UN Human Rights Council, and encouraged the Kazakh authorities to consider accepting a number of UPR recommendations that it initially did not support. The next round of the EU-Kazakhstan Human Rights Dialogue is expected to take place in Astana in 2015.[needs update]
OSCE and the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law conduct joint training programs on human rights.
Rule of law
Kazakhstan was ranked 65th in the Rule of Law Index 2015. The country climbed six positions up the rankings compared to the previous year.
In 2015 Kazakhstan introduced amendments to the law on nongovernmental organisation (NGO) activities. The law guarantees to NGOs free access to public, international and private financing allowing them to actively participate in the social and political development of the country.
In January 2017 Kazakhstan's Preseident proposed a reform aimed at delegating some of the President's powers to the Parliament. This initiative is expected to create a stronger system of checks and balances in Kazakhstan.
In 2015, the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan (APK) introduced a Day of Gratitude as a new holiday of Kazakhstan. The proposal to establish it was delivered by President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The Day of Gratitude is celebrated on 1 March and marks the historic past and multi-ethnic unity of the country.
59.2% of the Kazakhstan population is Kazakh, 29.6% is Russian, while 10.2% comprises Germans, Tatars, Ukrainians, Uzbek and Uyghurs. Representatives of more than 140 ethnic groups live in Kazakhstan and some 818 ethnic and cultural associations operate under the auspices of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan's Human Rights Commissioner for Children's Rights and UNICEF Representative for Kazakhstan adopted a Statement of Intentions on Cooperation. The parties agreed to take necessary actions to develop an independent system of monitoring of ensuring children's rights in Kazakhstan.
The Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy places high emphasis on the protection of childhood. Kazakhstan adopted over 90 laws and other normative acts aimed at protecting children's rights.
Commissioner for Human Rights
The institution of the Commissioner for human rights (Kazakhstan's Ombudsman) was established on September 19, 2002 by the President’s Decree. The Commissioner and his associated organization, the National Center for Human Rights, are empowered to investigate human rights issues in the government per the decree of President Nazarbayev.
- Human Rights Watch, World Report 2015: Kazakhstan, accessed October 2015.
- Chivers, C.J. (6 December 2005). "Kazakh President Re-elected; voting Flawed, Observers Say". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
Kazakhstan has never held an election that met international standards.
- Pannier, Bruce (11 March 2015). "Kazakhstan's long term president to run in snap election – again". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
Nazarbaev has clamped down on dissent in Kazakhstan, and the country has never held an election judged to be free or fair by the West.
- Human Rights Council adopts outcomes of Universal Periodic Review of Kazakhstan, Angola and Iran - See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15723&LangID=E#sthash.cA8jiR5R.dpuf - Human Rights Council, 19 March 2015
- Freedom House:
- International Freedom of Expression Exchange:GOVERNMENT MUZZLING FREE EXPRESSION IN RUN-UP TO ELECTIONS, 19 October 2005
- "Kazakhstan Marks Human Rights Day". astanatimes.com.
- "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013: Kazakhstan," Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2013&dlid=220395#wrapper. Retrieved on September 15, 2014
- "Officials: New Laws Protect Freedom of Religion". astanatimes.com.
- "Foreign Ministry Holds Briefing for Diplomats on Religious Freedom in Country". astanatimes.com.
- Human Rights Watch (8 January 2015). "World Report 2015: Kazakhstan". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 27 October 2016.
- "Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions". berkleycenter.georgetown.edu.
- "Parliamentarians, Religious Leaders Discuss Ways to Unite Religions against Terrorism in Astana". astanatimes.com.
- Forum 18 News Service:KAZAKHSTAN: Will rest of Hare Krishna commune now be destroyed?, 24 November 2005
- Finn, Peter (25 July 2007). "Local Property Dispute Grows Into International Issue for Kazakhstan". The Washington Post. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
- "European Union – Kazakhstan Civil Society Seminar on Human Rights. Judicial System and Places of Detention: Towards the European Standards" (PDF). eucentralasia.eu.
- "EU human rights dialogues in Central Asia" (PDF). eeas.europa.eu.
- "Press Release: EU-Kazakhstan Human Rights Dialogue". eeas.europa.eu.
- "OSCE Programme Office in Astana supports human rights education for police | OSCE". www.osce.org. Retrieved 2015-10-27.
- "Kazakhstan improved its position in Rule of Law Index". inform.kz.
- "NGO Law to Ensure Liberty, Equality, Accountability and Transparency". astanatimes.com.
- "Kazakh President, Special Panel Mull Major Political Reforms". astanatimes.com.
- "astanatimes.com". Why Kazakhstan's Model of Maintaining Ethnic Diversity Deserves Attention.
- "Nazarbayev Congratulates Kazakh People on Day of Gratitude, Recalls Country's Historic Past". astanatimes.com.
- "#Kazakhstan: A model of inter-ethnic tolerance and social harmony". www.eureporter.co.
- "inform.kz". Children’s Rights Ombudsman, UNICEF's Kazakhstan Country Office signed Statement of Intentions on coop.
- "Kazakhstan Marks Human Rights Day". astanatimes.com.
- "History of the Kazakhstan Human Rights Ombudsman". www.ombudsman.kz.
- "Human Rights Imbudsman". www.kazakhembus.com.
- Human rights reports
- Censorship in Kazakhstan - IFEX
- 2004 Report on Human Rights in Kazakhstan. - US Government
- 2006 Report on Human Rights in Kazakhstan. - US Government
- 2004 Human Rights Report on Kazakhstan - Freedom House
- Kazakhstan: Religious freedom survey, December 2005 - Forum 18
- Kazakhstan: Humanitarian Country Profile - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- News articles
- KAZAKHSTAN: No under-18s to attend worship or Sunday School (Forum 18) January 20, 2005
- Kazakh Diplomat Praises Presidential Vote - (AP) New York Times 21 November 2005
- Pro-Democracy Groups Are Harassed in Central Asia New York Times. Dec. 3, 2005.
- Opposition Party Excluded New York Times. Dec. 22, 2005.
- Concern over Kazakh religious row (bbc.co.uk) Dec. 11
- KAZAKHSTAN: Expelled for "missionary activity without registration" (concerning a Presbyterian pastor) (Forum 18) November 15, 2006
- KAZAKHSTAN: State bulldozes Hare Krishna commune, bids to chair OSCE (Forum 18) November 21, 2006
- Video of destruction of Hare Krishna homes (Google Video)
- OSCE press release on destruction of Hare Krishna property November 27, 2006
- U.S. Embassy urges Kazakh authorities to end harassment of Hare Krishna International Herald Tribune December 7, 2006
- International response to demolition of Hare Krishna property in Kazakhstan (Wiki-news article) Dec. 12, 2006
- KAZAKHSTAN: "Economic war" to crush Baptists? (Forum 18) May 11, 2007
- Two Years Later, Kazakh Journalist's Disappearance Remains A Mystery. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. March 30, 2009.