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The human rights situation in Kazakhstan has been an area of concern for many outside governmental and non-governmental observers. Observer group Freedom House ranks this former Soviet state with a 6 in Political Rights and a 5 in Civil Liberties (scale of 1-7; 1 is the highest), denoting it as "Not Free."

The website of the US Embassy in Kazakhstan notes that in 2004-2005 the Kazakhstan government's human-rights record "remained poor," and "the Government continued to commit numerous abuses."[1]

Kazakhstan's political structure concentrates power in the presidency. Current President Nursultan Nazarbayev was elected to a 7-year term in a 2006 election that, many observers note, fell far short of international standards. [1] The legislature and judiciary, as well as regional and local governments are not independent from executive control, and changes or amendments to the Constitution require presidential consent. No opposition parties are represented in the Lower House of Parliament. Corruption remains systemic.

While civilian authorities maintained effective control of the security forces, members of the security forces are reported to have committed human rights abuses. On some occasions, members of the security forces, including police, tortured, beat, and otherwise mistreated detainees; some officials were punished for these abuses. Prison conditions remained harsh; however, the Government took an active role in efforts to improve prison conditions and the treatment of prisoners. The Government continued to use arbitrary arrest and detention and to selectively prosecute political opponents; prolonged detention was a problem. Amendments to several laws governing the authority of procurators further eroded judicial independence. The Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights. [2]

In November 2005, a former minister in the Nazarbayev government, Zamanbek K. Nurkadilov, who had stated he planned to speak publicly about high-level corruption, was found shot dead according to accounts by police and an opposition leader, the New York Times reported. His death came three weeks prior to upcoming presidential elections. Nurkadilov had been fired from his position as minister of emergency situations in 2004, after saying that President Nazarbayev ought to answer allegations that Kazakh officials had accepted millions of US dollars in bribes from an intermediary for U.S. oil firms in the 1990s. [3]


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, according to observers, including Human Rights Watch and Freedom House. [4] 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. [5]

It is reported that independent media have been targeted in several government lawsuits alleging journalists of "insulting officials' 'honor and dignity'", according to Human Rights Watch. At least four newspapers face legal action for criticism of officials. Likewise, Internet media have also been targeted, with access to websites critical of Kazakh President Nazarbaev and his policies having been blocked over recent months.

New national security laws in Kazakhstan limit free expression, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports. The country's "Law on Mass Media" contain what may be "deliberately vague language" that may leave the legislation open to abuse for political purposes.

Additionally, over 30 civil society groups and NGOs have faced tax investigations and allegations of transferring Western aid money to political opposition parties.

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. [6]

Right to Fair Trial

According to a US government reported issued in March 2007, in Kazakhstan "[t]he law does not adequately provide for an independent judiciary. The executive branch limited judicial independence. Procurators enjoyed a quasi-judicial role and were permitted to suspend court decisions. . . . Corruption was evident at every stage and level of the judicial process. Although judges were among the most highly paid government employees, lawyers and human rights monitors alleged that judges, procurators, and other officials solicited bribes in exchange for favorable rulings in the majority of criminal cases."[2]

Religious freedom

Kazakhstan police bulldoze the home of a Kazakh family of Hare Krishna devotees. November 21, 2006.
A young mother with her newborn baby, photographed from outside her window as Kazakh police break down her door and prepare to demolish her home. November 21, 2006.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the various religious communities worship largely without government interference. The generally amicable relationship among religions in Kazakh society contributes to religious freedom. Despite all this, the Government has encouraged local officials to limit the practice of religion by some nontraditional groups.

Forum 18, the Oslo-based religious-rights organization, reported in 2005 that Protestant groups and Hare Krishna followers, as well as Islamic groups not controlled by the state, have been targets of state hostility.

In 2005 and 2006 the state had persistently and repeatedly tried to close down the only Hare Krishna farming community in the entire Commonwealth of Independent States.

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."[7]

The Hare Krishna community had been promised that no action would be taken before the report of a state commission – supposedly set up to resolve the dispute – was made public. On the day the demolition began, the commission's chairman, Amanbek Mukhashev, told Forum 18, "I know nothing about the demolition of the Hare Krishna homes – I'm on holiday." He added, "As soon as I return to work at the beginning of December we will officially announce the results of the Commission's investigation." Other officials also refused to comment.

In January 2008, under the new Article 164 'religious organizations' law, Kazakh secret police arrested Unification Church missionary Elizaveta Drenicheva. [8] As reported by Kazakhstan's television news, she was sentenced to two years in prison, simply for lecturing about the Divine Principle, her church's basic theology. Kazakhstan's own government Human Rights office protested her conviction.

See also


  1. ^ Retrieved 30 Nov 2006.
  2. ^ "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2006: Kazakhstan," Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Retrieved on July 31, 2007

External links

Human rights reports
News articles


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