United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Kazakstan, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4418.html [accessed 18 April 2015]
This 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.
KAZAKHSTAN In its third year of independence, Kazakhstan continued to grapple uncertainly with the task of shedding Soviet-era authoritarian political institutions and a centralized command economy. President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in his third year of a 5-year term in office, remained the leading political figure in the country and sought to bolster his position in multiparty elections in March for the Supreme Soviet (legislature) and local councils. The elections were seriously compromised by fraud and judged by international observers as not free and fair. Nevertheless, the Supreme Soviet's independence as a separate branch of government was strengthened by some reformist deputies and by conservatives who showed loyalty to regional interests. It rejected certain economic and social policies as well as some appointees put forward by the President. In October, blaming top ministers for poor progress on economic reform, Nazarbayev replaced Cabinet members with a largely younger and more reformist group. The Ministry of Internal Affairs supervises the criminal police, who are poorly paid and corruptible. The Committee for National Security (KNB) sought to legitimize its role by focusing on efforts to counter terrorism, organized crime, and official corruption. Efforts to build a small, modern army were impeded by the shortage of funds, the flight of ethnic Russian officers to Russia, and continued brutal hazing of conscripts. Kazakhstan is rich in natural resources, such as oil and minerals, but its state-dominated economy continued to decline sharply in 1994, with high inflation, falling production, and a budget deficit of one-tenth of the gross domestic product. Agricultural production remained largely collectivized. Bureaucratic restraints, high taxes, and rampant government corruption hampered the small but dynamic private sector. Privatization, a vital necessity for economic recovery and growth, gained momentum, but abuses and lack of openness led to strong public concerns. While general macroeconomic stabilization came in 1994, faster microeconomic, or structural, reforms are needed. Massive fraud in the March elections effectively deprived citizens of the right to change their government (see Section 3). The Government turned over Uzbek dissidents to security forces of the Government of Uzbekistan (see Section 1.d.). Criminal police continued to beat some detainees and search homes without warrants, and prison conditions deteriorated further due to budget restrictions. Freedom of the media is extensive, and the press frequently criticized the Government despite government control of printing facilities and supplies. Freedoms of assembly and religion were generally respected, but the Government refused to register associations and political parties based on ethnic and religious criteria. The "propiska" system of permits for residence in the capital is still used to restrict internal freedom of movement. Although Kazakh discrimination against non-Kazakhs continued, such practices decreased as ethnic Slavs became more vocal. Domestic violence against women continued. While seeking t become somewhat more independent and critical of the Government, state-sponsored unions continued to subject independent trade unions and their members to harassment and pressure.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Although the law prohibits these practices, there were credible reports that police beat and otherwise treated detainees abusively to obtain confessions. Prison conditions deteriorated further in 1994 due to diminishing budget resources and an increase in the number of persons incarcerated. According to human rights groups, in one Almaty prison, for example, 3,900 prisoners occupied a facility designed for 1,800. The prison diet is inadequate. Prisoners are allowed to receive only one visit every 6 months, but additional visits may be granted in emergency situations. Juveniles are kept in separate facilities. According to press reports and human rights observers, inadequate diet and medical supplies have led to outbreaks of tuberculosis and dystrophy in many of Kazakhstan's prisons. Lice and scabies are common. Some 40 prisoners in Karaganda and 35 in Atyrau reportedly died from conditions aggravated by malnourishment and lack of basic medical treatment. Prison guards, who are poorly paid, steal food and medicines from the prisons, leaving little for the prisoners. Violent crime among prisoners is routine. There was an unconfirmed report of cannibalism in a prison in Semipalatinsk in which five prisoners killed and ate a cell mate. According to the Kazakhstan-American Human Rights Bureau, there were 85,000 prisoners in Kazakhstan in 1994, of whom 6,000 suffered major illnesses because of inadequate diet and sanitation. About 1,150 prisoners died of those illnesses during the year.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Because of the slow pace of legal reform, Kazakhstan continued to use the Soviet legal system, with some modifications, in 1994. The law sanctions pretrial detention. Prosecutors issue arrest warrants. According to the Criminal Procedure Code, police may hold a detainee for 3 days before bringing charges. After 3 days, police may continue to hold the detainee with the approval of a prosecutor, but no longer than 10 days without bringing charges. In practice, however, police routinely hold detainees for more than the legal 10-day limit. The maximum length of pretrial detention is 1 year. Pretrial detainees comprised about 30 percent of the total prison population in 1994. Detainees are not held incommunicado. Defendants in criminal cases have the right to choose an attorney and to appeal the legality of their arrest to the prosecutor before trial. If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, the State will provide one free of charge. There is no provision for bail; defendants remain incarcerated until trial. Some lawyers fear reprisals if they represent a client unpopular with the Government, but there were no reports of such reprisals in 1994. Many lawyers, nevertheless, remain reluctant to defend clients of whom the Government is suspicious. There were instances of arrest without the filing of specific charges. In May the Government arrested 3,000 to 4,000 people in what it announced was an emergency measure against crime. Ninety percent were eventually released without being charged. In 1994 members of Uzbekistan's security services in two instances attempted to arrest Uzbek dissidents in Kazakhstan. The first occurred in May during a human rights conference in Almaty when Uzbek security agents openly sought Uzbek dissidents at their hotels. The Government reacted swiftly, publicly announcing that the Uzbek agents had been located and that they had departed, and that it would guarantee the safety of all those attending the conference. The second incident occurred in June when the Uzbekistan Government, acting under the Minsk Convention of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on cooperation among the security services of CIS member states, requested the arrest of two Uzbek dissidents, Murat Dzhurayev and Dzhakhangir Mametov, on charges of murder. Kazakhstani authorities permitted Uzbek agents to arrest Dzhurayev and another Uzbek dissident, Erkin Ashurov (but not Mametov), and take them to Uzbekistan. Once in Uzbekistan, Uzbek authorities dropped the murder charges and instead charged the two with distributing illegal literature and conspiring to overthrow the Government of Uzbekistan. In August the Uzbekistan National Security Service asked the Kazakhstani KNB to interrogate four Kazakhstani citizens whose names were found among belongings of the arrested dissidents. The KNB interrogated the four but did not arrest or otherwise harass them. Kazakhstani human rights groups and several Supreme Soviet deputies protested the interogations.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Government interference and pressure compromise the court system's independence. During the campaign for the March Supreme Soviet elections, local officials in a number of areas around the country pressured local courts to rule against opposition candidates who contested the refusal of local election commissions to register them as candidates. Several independent trade unions have claimed that local courts often rule against them and that they can expect a fairer hearing if they appeal to a higher court. There are three levels in the court system: the local level, the oblast (province) level, and the Supreme Court. The President recommends nominees for the Supreme Court for Supreme Soviet approval. Heads of oblasts recommend nominees for oblast soviet (council) approval. Regional or city councils elect, at least nominally, lower level judges. Judges are appointed for 10-year terms. The Constitutional Court, established in 1992, interprets the Constitution, resolves legal conflicts between oblasts, and rules on interethnic problems. The law provides for due process, including the right to a public trial, the right to counsel, the right to call witnesses for the defense, and the right to appeal a decision to a higher court. Local courts try less serious crimes, such as petty theft and vandalism (hooliganism, in the old terminology). Oblast-level courts handle more serious crimes, such as murder, grand theft, and organized criminal activities. The oblast courts may handle cases in rural areas where no local courts are organized. Judgments of the local courts may be appealed to the oblast-level courts, while those of the oblast courts may be appealed to the Supreme Court. A special arbitration court handles disputes between state enterprises. There were no known political prisoners in 1994.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The KNB and Ministry of Internal Affairs, with the concurrence of the Procuracy, may arbitrarily interfere with privacy, family, home, and correspondence, a legacy of Soviet rule. The law requires criminal police, who remain part of the internal security structure, to obtain a search warrant from a prosecutor before conducting a search, but they sometimes search without a warrant. There were credible reports in 1994 that police occasionally planted evidence. The KNB has the right to monitor telephone calls and mail, but under the law it must inform the Procuracy within 3 days of such activity.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution and the 1991 press law provide for freedom of the press. The Government continued to own and control printing and distribution facilities and to subsidize periodicals, including many supposedly "independent" ones. However, the opposition press, while dependent on government control of printing supplies, was not subject to intimidation or harassment. Although self-censorship continued, some print media increasingly criticized Supreme Soviet and presidential decisions, the Government's performance, and official corruption. The independent newspaper, Karavan, was particularly successful in expanding its circulation (to about 300,000) and sharply criticized many government policies and actions. Most political opposition groups issue their own publications. There are many radio and television companies, both governmental and private, but the Government controls broadcasting facilities. In April President Nazarbayev restructured state television and radio into a corporation, which encouraged independent stations to join it in exchange for national broadcast time. Fearing government control, leaders of independent television and radio immediately objected to joining the corporation. Their opposition, in which some members of Parliament and even the Ministry of Press and Mass Media joined, was strong enough to prevent the corporation from gaining control over the independents. During the parliamentary election campaign in the winter and early spring of 1994, the television station Telemax went off the air for several days when local authorities, upset by broadcasts critical of Almaty's mayor and other city officials, shut off electricity to the station. The station owners moved to an undisclosed location and continued to broadcast criticism of the local authorities. Later in the spring, when the independent television station from which Telemax had purchased broadcast time expanded its programming and took back the broadcast time, Telemax went off the air, but its affiliate radio stations continue to broadcast news critical of local and national government. Laws insulting the President and Supreme Soviet deputies remain on the books, but according to government officials the provisions for punishment for "insulting" have been dropped. No one was prosecuted for "insulting" in 1994.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, but there are some significant restrictions. Local authorities must approve a demonstration 10 days in advance, or else they consider it illegal. The court sentenced five organizers of a demonstration outside the Supreme Soviet in May to 3- to 15-day jail terms for organizing an illegal demonstration. To participate in elections, a political party must register with the Government. To register, a party must submit a list of at least 3,000 members from a minimum of 11 (out of 19) different oblasts. The list must provide personal information about the members, including date and place of birth, address, and place of employment. Submitting such personal data to the Government recalls for many Kazakhstanis old-style KGB tactics and inhibits them from joining parties. The nationalist and pan-Turkic Alash Party and the Social Democratic Party have refused to register on the principle that they should not have to submit personal information about their members to the Government. Members of unregistered parties may run for elected office as individuals but not as party members. Organizations or movements that conduct public activity, hold public meetings, participate in conferences, or have bank accounts must also register with the Government. Registration on the local level requires a minimum of 10 members and on the national level a minimum of 10 members in at least 11 oblasts. The Government's refusal to register religious and ethnic-based parties and movements is not a stated policy, although some officials refer to Article 55 of the Constitution, which prohibits public associations proclaiming or demonstrating in practice racist, nationalist, social, or religious intolerance or elitist exclusivity. In November the Ministry of Justice suspended the activities of the Semirechye Cossack Society for paramilitary activities and promotion of ethnic intolerance. The Society organized a peaceful but unauthorized demonstration in Almaty on November 19. Two organizers were arrested. According to the new Civil Code adopted in December, political parties, trade unions, and social organizations "engaged in political activity" are prohibited from receiving financial assistance from foreign sources. Government officials have justified decisions not to register ethnic-based parties and movements on the grounds that their activities could spark ethnic violence. Unregistered parties and movements are, nonetheless, able to hold meetings and publish newspapers, although these groups frequently appear to have more difficulty obtaining printing supplies than other publishers.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the various denominations worship without government interference. However, a new Civil Code passed by the Supreme Soviet in December requires state authorities to approve the appointment of the Kazakhstan director of any religious organization operating in Kazakhstan. The Islamic Mufti and the Russian Orthodox Archbishop have appeared together publicly to promote religious and ethnic harmony. Foreign missionaries, unwelcome to some Orthodox and Muslim Kazakhstanis, have complained of occasional harassment by some low-level government bureaucrats.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution provides for the right to emigrate, which is respected in practice. The propiska system of residence permits, a holdover from the Soviet era, remained in effect in 1994. Since 1992, citing ecological and health reasons, the Almaty city administration has limited the transfer of residences in Almaty to people already living there. According to human rights activists, the rising demand to live in Almaty (because of its greater relative affluence) has resulted in a bribery market for propiskas ranging from $1,000 to $3,000. Obtaining a propiska for other parts of the country was generally routine. There is considerable favoritism toward ethnic Kazakhs in the allocational transfer of residences. For example, the Almaty city administration is more likely to give permission to sell or trade a residence if a Kazakh is to receive the property. An exit visa is required for travel abroad, although refusals are exceptional. There have been reports of some officials demanding bribes for exit visas. The Government accords special treatment to Kazakhs and their families who fled Kazakhstan during Stalin's time and wish to return. Kazakhs in this category are encouraged to return to Kazakhstan, are entitled to Kazakhstani citizenship, and may retain any other citizenship they may already have. Anyone else, including ethnic Kazakhs who are not considered refugees from the Stalin era, such as the descendants of Kazakhs who moved to Mongolia during the previous century, must apply for permission to return and must renounce any other citizenship. Ethnic Kazakh citizens already living in Kazakhstan, as well as nonethnic Kazakh citizens, are not permitted to obtain another citizenship without losing their Kazakhstani citizenship.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
While the Constitution provides for this right, the Government infringed it in fraudulent March 7 elections for the Supreme Soviet and local councils (maslikhats). In December 1993, the Supreme Soviet voted to advance the date of parliamentary and local elections (scheduled to be held at 5-year intervals) from autumn 1994 to March 7. This left little time for the Government to prepare a new election law and for parties and candidates to prepare election campaigns. The Government invited the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) and other international observers to monitor the elections. The CSCE observers concluded that the elections did not meet international standards for free and fair elections for the following reasons: (1) the requirement that voters choose about 20 percent of the deputies from a list of names chosen by the President (the "state list"); (2) manipulation of errors and ambiguities in the hastily written election law in favor of progovernment candidates; (3) the stuffing of ballot boxes in many locations; (4) denial of the right to register many opposition candidates; (5) court support for the refusal of election commissions to register opposition candidates; appeals to the Constitutional and Supreme Courts were ineffective; (6) the abetting of election rigging by the Central Electoral Commission, thus compromising its integrity; (7) a number of polling places were "closed" to observers; (8) and harassment and intimidation by the authorities of independent media which were critical of the activities of local election commissions, particularly in Almaty and Karaganda. There is some irony in the fact that this fraud, presumably intended to ensure a more progovernment and compliant Parliament, was somewhat counterproductive because so many of those elected showed more loyalty on some issues to their regions (which were suffering from the economic crisis) than to the central Government. For example, in June Parliament registered a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet's economic and social policies. In October Parliament rejected President Nazarbayev's proposed candidate for deputy prime minister for political and social affairs on the grounds that he was corrupt, and then voted down a second candidate because he was perceived to be too young to occupy such a senior position. Late in 1994, parliamentary opposition forced President Nazarbayev to abandon his bid to create a bicameral legislature, with a more malleable upper house. Parliamentary opposition to the Government's policies comes from both genuine democratic reformers and from conservatives who are protecting parochial or local interests. On some issues they join forces. The combined effect of this opposition has been to make the Parliament more independent. The next presidential elections (also held every 5 years) are scheduled for 1996. All men and women above the age of 18 have the right to vote. President Nazarbayev was elected by 98 percent of the vote in an uncontested election in 1991. The number of seats in the Supreme Soviet is 177: 135 elected directly, and 42 (2 from each oblast or special administrative area) elected from the "state list" of candidates chosen by the President. There are four legally registered political parties: the Socialist Party; the People's Congress Party (formed by poet and environmentalist Olzhas Suleymenov); the National Democratic Party (the political arm of the Kazakh nationalist movement Azat); and the Communist Party, reregistered in July 1994. The Union of People's Unity (SNEK), a registered social movement created by President Nazarbayev to support his presidency, has the largest number of deputies of any group in Parliament. Only about 80 members of the Supreme Soviet are affiliated with a political party, movement, or social organization. President Nazarbayev, although officially not a member of any party, has accepted the formal endorsement of the SNEK. Unregistered opposition parties and movements include the Social Democrats, the Alash Party, and the conservative Kazakh nationalist Republican Party. The Government has refused to register any party or movement whose platforms it claims will foment ethnic tensions. There are no legal restrictions on women participating in politics and government. Owing to prejudice and traditional attitudes, however, few women are professionally active in these fields. Of 177 Supreme Soviet deputies, 22 are women. The Constitution guarantees equal political rights for all citizens regardless of ethnicity or sex.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The most active of several local human rights organizations are the Helsinki Watch Group and the Kazakhstan-American Human Rights Association, which operated without government interference. The Helsinki Watch Group has limited organizational and financial means to observe, contest, and report human rights violations. The Kazakhstan-American Human Rights Association receives assistance from the Union of Councils of Soviet Jews. The two groups cooperate closely on human rights issues, such as the arrest of Uzbek dissidents (see Section l.d.). The Kazakhstan-American Human Rights Association sponsored human rights conferences in Almaty in May and in November in which government officials and parliamentarians participated. The Government permitted representatives of foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) dealing with human rights and the environment to visit and meet with opposition and environmentalist groups as well as some government officials. However, Kazakhstan law currently has no provision for registering foreign NGO's. In November the Government signed an agreement formalizing registration of U.S. NGO's. For periods of time in 1994, the Government interfered with telephone and facsimile (fax) communications of the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, and Isar, an environmental NGO. The new Civil Code prohibits organizations, including political parties and trade unions, from receiving financial assistance from foreign sources. Some government officials assert that the work of foreign NGO's with Kazakhstani political and labor groups promotes instability. Some human rights observers complained that the Government monitored their movements and telephone calls.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
Article 1 of the Constitution states, "Citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan are guaranteed equality of rights and freedoms, regardless of race; nationality; sex; language; social, property, and official status; social origin; place of residence; attitude to religion; convictions; membership in a public association; as well as previously incurred criminal punishment. Any form of discrimination against citizens is forbidden."
There is no legal discrimination against women, but women are severely underrepresented in higher positions in government and state enterprises and overrepresented in low-paying and some menial jobs. Women are disadvantaged in promotions, but they generally have access to higher education. According to human rights groups, there is considerable domestic violence against women, and wife beating is common, particularly because of widespread alcohol abuse among men. Police are often reluctant to intervene in cases of spousal abuse, considering it to be the "family's business," unless they believe the physical abuse is life-threatening. The maximum sentence for wife beating is 3 years, but few such cases are prosecuted. The Government has not specifically addressed the problem as one requiring new policies or government actions.
The Government is committed in principle to children's rights, but, as in many other areas, the absence of a tradition of civil liberties, together with budget stringencies, severely limits its effectiveness in dealing with children's rights issues. There is no established pattern of governmental or societal abuse against children. There were credible reports of the use of child labor during harvests, particularly during the cotton harvest in the south (see Section 6.d.).
Kazakhstan's population of about 17 million is about 44 percent Kazakhs and 36 percent Russians, with Slavs and many other ethnic groups represented. The Government continued to discriminate in favor of ethnic Kazakhs in employment, in government and state-controlled enterprises, as well as in education, housing, and other areas. Although some officials are Slavs, ethnic Kazakhs increasingly predominate in government and in higher positions in state enterprises. The percentage of non-Kazakhs in the new Supreme Soviet increased, however, from 22 percent to 40 percent. President Nazarbayev has publicly emphasized that all nationalities are welcome in Kazakhstan, but most non-Kazakhs are anxious about what they perceive as expanding preferences for ethnic Kazakhs. Many ethnic Kazakhs, however, believe they were second-class citizens under Russian domination for a period of 200 years and that they must take affirmative action to reverse this. Under Communist rule, Soviet authorities repressed Kazakh and other minority languages and cultures, and ethnic Slavs had better opportunities for advancement. Most of the population speaks Russian; only about half of the ethnic Kazakhs can speak Kazakh fluently. The January 1993 Constitution provides that Kazakh would be the state language, that Russian would be the language of interethnic communication, and that there would be a transition period (the duration of which was left undefined) for the majority of the population to learn Kazakh. The Government is encouraging more education of children in the Kazakh language but has done little to provide Kazakh-language education for adults. Although still an important political issue, the economic crisis, corruption, and the demand of many ethnic Russians for dual Kazakhstan-Russian citizenship eclipsed the issue of language. At the end of 1994, Kazakhstan and Russia initialed agreements that established broad legal rights for the citizens of one country living on the territory of the other, and provided for expeditious naturalization for citizens of one country who move to the other. These agreements--which remain to be ratified--represent a pragmatic, positive step toward resolution of the difficult issue of citizenship and may well reduce pressure for dual citizenship.
People with Disabilities
According to the Constitution, citizens with disabilities are entitled to assistance from the State. As a result of inflation, people relying on state disability benefits experienced severe economic hardship. There is no legal discrimination against people with disabilities, but in practice employers do not give them equal consideration. The Government so far has not legislated or otherwise mandated accessibility for the disabled. Issues affecting the disabled are low priorities in the current economic crisis.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The 1993 Labor Code, along with the Constitution, provides for basic workers' rights, including the right to organize and the right to strike. The law does not, however, provide mechanisms to protect workers who join independent unions from threats or harassment by enterprise management or from the state-run unions. Kazakhstan joined the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 1993, but the Supreme Soviet has not yet ratified any ILO conventions. Further, according to the new Civil Code, trade unions would be forbidden to accept financial assistance from foreign sources. Most workers remained members of the system of state-sponsored trade unions that was established during the Communist period. Membership was obligatory. At most enterprises, the state-sponsored unions continue to deduct automatically 1 percent of each worker's wage as dues. In addition, the government pension fund withholds 30.2 percent of each worker's wage, and the state unions, which have the authority to allocate funds for disability and sick pay, housing, and the use of vacation retreats, take 7.3 percent. The state unions under the Communist system were, and for the most part still are, organs of the Government, and use their power coercively to enforce labor discipline and to discourage workers from forming or joining independent unions. The Constitution entitles workers to join or form unions of their own choosing and to stop the automatic dues deductions for the state unions. To obtain legal status, an independent union must apply for registration with the local judicial authority at the oblast level and with the Ministry of Justice. Registration is generally lengthy, difficult, and expensive. The decision to register a union appears to be arbitrary, with no published criteria. Judicial authorities and the Ministry of Justice have the authority to cancel a union's registration. Workers who have joined independent trade unions are subjected to various forms of harassment, including dismissal, transfer to lower paying or lower status jobs, threats, and intimidation. State unions often take an active part in the harassment to inhibit challenges to their hegemony and to pressure new unions. The independent unions have suffered because national laws are not enforced at local levels. For example, in Tekele, after nearly 2 years of court battles, the Tekele mine construction administration is still automatically withholding dues for the state-sponsored union from members of the Independent Miners' Union of Tekele. The Independent Trade Union Center of Kazakhstan claims membership of about 500,000 out of a total work force of about 5,600,000. Unions have the legal right to strike, and several took place during 1994. Many enterprises in 1994 continued to pay part or all wages in scrip rather than in cash, a practice at odds with Article 3 of ILO Convention 95 on the protection of wages, which prohibits payment of wages other than in the legal currency without the express consent of the workers. Enterprise directors claimed that the enterprises were not being paid in cash by their traditional trading partners in other parts of the former Soviet Union, which were also experiencing cash flow difficulties as a result of the general economic crisis. The scrip was often not accepted at stores or was accepted only at devalued levels. By law, unions may freely join federations or confederations and affiliate with international bodies. Most independent trade unions in Kazakhstan belong to the Independent Trade Union Center (ITUC) headquartered in Almaty. The Independent Miners' Federation of Kazakhstan, along with the State Miners' Union of Karaganda, are members of the Miners' International Federation. The unions belonging to the ITUC are not members of international federations but do maintain contacts with European and U.S. trade union federations.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
There are significant limits on the right to organize and bargain collectively. Most industry remained state owned in 1994 and was subject to the state's production orders. Although collective bargaining rights are not spelled out in the law, in some instances unions successfully negotiated agreements with management. If a union's demands are not acceptable to management, it may present those demands to an arbitration commission comprised of management, union officials, and independent technical experts. There is no legal protection against antiunion discrimination. There are no export processing zones. Several free economic zones enjoy all the privileges of export processing zones, as well as other tax privileges and abatements, but labor conditions there appear to be no different than elsewhere in Kazakhstan.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced labor. In some places, however, compulsory labor is used. Some persons were required to provide labor or the use of privately owned equipment with no, or very low, compensation to help gather the annual grain harvest.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The minimum age for employment is 16. A child under age 16 may work only with the permission of the local administration and the trade union in the enterprise in which the child would work. Such permission is rarely granted. Abuse of child labor is generally not a problem, except that child labor was reportedly used, especially during the cotton harvest in the south.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The official minimum wage, set by the Supreme Soviet, is about $3.70 (200 tenge) per month, far from sufficient for a worker and family to live on. Rampant inflation made fixing and enforcing a minimum wage unrealistic. The legal maximum workweek is 48 hours, although most enterprises maintain a 40-hour workweek, with at least a 24-hour rest period. Working and safety conditions in the industrial sector are substandard. Safety consciousness is low. Workers in factories usually do not wear protective clothing, such as goggles and hard hats, and work in conditions of poor visibility and ventilation. Management largely ignores regulations concerning occupational health and safety, enforceable by the Ministry of Labor and the state-sponsored unions. Lack of management concern and economic dislocation have resulted in shortages of safety equipment. Workers, including miners, have no legal right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment.