Last Updated: Friday, 26 December 2014, 13:50 GMT

Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Kazakhstan

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Author Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Publication Date 19 June 2008
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Kazakhstan, 19 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4864668bc.html [accessed 28 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Political context

In 2007, Kazakhstan carried out political reforms that aimed primarily at giving a democratic appearance to this key-partner of western countries in the field of energy. In reality, these reforms further strengthened the personal power of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. On May 18, 2007, the Parliament passed a constitutional amendment reducing the presidential term of office to two consecutive five-year terms, but stipulating that this limitation does not apply to the "first President of Kazakhstan", in power since 1989. The few demonstrators who dared to protest against the indefinite presidency of Mr. Nazarbayev were arrested by the police. On June 18, 2007, a constitutional amendment was passed and provides that out of 107 deputies of the Lower House, 98 shall be elected by proportional representation. This should promote pluralism in theory, but in practice, opposition parties have experienced many setbacks. On the one hand, political parties Alga and Ata Meken were unable to obtain their registration. On the other hand, the Parliament approved an amendment banning political parties to form electoral alliances, when two opposition parties, Naghyz Ak Zholand the Social Democratic Party, had just announced their intention to work together to increase their chances to be represented in Parliament. On June 20, 2007, the President dissolved the Parliament and moved forward the date of the legislative elections – scheduled to take place in 2009 – to September 19, 2007. The party Nour Otan, led by President Nazarbayev, won 88.4% of the vote and all the seats in Parliament.

In 2007, violent inter-ethnic conflicts erupted in several parts of Kazakhstan, as happened between people of Kurdish origin and Kazakhs in the south or between Chechens and Kazakhs in the village of Malovodnoe.

As in the past, corruption in the high echelons of power and presidential nepotism remain major problems. Finally, despite the situation of human rights and the fact that since 1989 no Kazakh election has been recognised by the OSCE as free and democratic, Kazakhstan's bid was chosen for the presidency of the organisation in 2010.

An unfavourable environment for human rights activities

If human rights NGOs are not directly targeted, they at least conduct their activities in a particularly difficult context in Kazakhstan. Restrictions on fundamental freedoms considerably hamper their ability to work. Numerous violations of freedom of expression have been recorded, especially during the election campaign, such as unequal access by candidates to the media, the overwhelming majority of which is controlled by the family of the President or his followers, as well as obstruction of websites, or pressure on independent journalists. Freedom of peaceful assembly was also flouted: according to the Centre for Social Technology, a sociological research centre that was established in 2005 and specialises in opinion polls, 96% of demonstrations that took place in 2007 in Kazakhstan were not authorised by the authorities.

On March 30, 2007, Ms. Oralgaïsha Jabagtaïkyzy, Director of the anti-corruption department of the newspaper Law and Justice, disappeared after having published an investigation on the inter-ethnic conflict in Malovodnoe and on the connections between people involved in this matter with representatives of the State and large businesses.

One case of prosecution against an NGO has been brought to the attention of the Observatory in 2007, that of the Association of Prison Services, which provides humanitarian aid as well as psychological and material assistance to the families of prisoners and former prisoners. On August 24, 2007, representatives of the National Security Committee searched the office of the organisation and seized all documents and computers, which completely paralysed its work. A search was also conducted at the home of Mr. Andrey Sadoyan, Executive Director of the organisation.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

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