United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Kazakstan, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4f30.html [accessed 19 December 2014]
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KAZAKHSTAN In its second year of independence, the Government of Kazakhstan continued political and economic reform while stressing political consensus and interethnic harmony. The Supreme Soviet (Parliament) adopted a new Constitution which reinforces legal guarantees for basic political and personal freedoms, further removing Kazakhstan from the legacy of Soviet rule. The new Constitution establishes the executive as the predominant branch of government. President Nursultan Nazarbayev, elected in 1991 in a single-candidate election, is the leading political figure in the country. The Supreme Soviet and the judiciary, while generally supportive but not yet fully independent of the executive, proved to be more effective checks on executive power than in 1992. The Supreme Soviet, elected in 1990 under the Soviet system, lacked a democratic mandate. In an effort to speed the reform process, the Supreme Soviet voted in December to move the date of the next parliamentary elections from December 1994 to March 7, 1994, dissolve the Supreme Soviet, and grant the President extraordinary power to rule the country until the new supreme soviet is sworn in. The new legislature will be comprised of 135 deputies elected from districts and 42 appointed by the President. The President's power to appoint deputies has sparked controversy. The Committee for National Security (KNB) is seeking to legitimize its role by focusing more on issues of nuclear proliferation, counterterrorism, and combating organized crime and official corruption. In many respects, however, it is a continuation of the old Soviet Committee for State Security, or KGB. It retains, for instance, the authority to deny citizens permission to travel in and out of the country, to requisition property, and to demand cooperation by citizens (e.g., to inform on other citizens). Declining real wages for the criminal police, which is subordinated to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, resulted in increased corruption. The Government in 1993 accelerated the pace of economic reform, while trying to minimize social dislocation and political and ethnic tensions. Kazakhstan began a World Bank-approved program of privatization. A small private sector is growing and is relatively free to operate, although hampered by bureaucratic holdovers from the Soviet era. The economy continued its decline in 1993, with near hyperinflation and a budget deficit of about one-tenth of gross domestic product. However, its educated, pragmatic people and vast natural resources form a solid basis for long-term economic growth. Basic human rights were generally respected in 1993, although there were significant problems in a number of areas. The most egregious human rights abuse was the effort by the Government and state-sponsored trade unions to harass and suppress independent trade unions and impose other restrictions on worker rights. A widely voiced complaint was that good laws were being passed at the national level, but implementation of them at the local level was weak. A huge bureaucracy, including state enterprises, stifled initiative and reduced openness. Freedom of assembly and religion were generally respected. Internal freedom of movement was restricted by continued use of the "propiska" system of permits for residence in the capital. With the important exception of state television, the media were increasingly pluralistic and more frequently critical of the Government. However, continuing state ownership of printing and broadcasting facilities had an inhibiting effect on press freedom. Ethnic Kazakhs predominate in government and, at times, discriminated against non-Kazakhs, in part out of a sense of a need for affirmative action to reverse decades of second-class status under the Tsarist and Soviet empires. Some ethnic Kazakhs pressed for election laws that would give preferential treatment to Kazakhs. In the interests of interethnic harmony, the Government refused to register political parties that, it claimed, were based on ethnic or religious criteria. The Government expressed concern over contacts between foreign embassies and nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) and opposition parties and independent trade unions and moved to restrict the activities of foreign NGO's.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
No political or other extrajudicial killings are known to have occurred.
No political disappearances or abductions are known to have occurred.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Torture is prohibited by law, and no cases of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are known to have occurred. Prison conditions are deteriorating due to overcrowding, resulting from the increase in crime during 1993. The budget for prisons has not kept pace. Cells are packed to overflowing, and the diet is inadequate. There is not enough equipment and electricity to provide work for the prisoners. Prisoners are allowed one visit every 6 months. Additional visits may be granted in emergency situations. Juveniles are kept in separate facilities.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
With only minor modifications, Kazakhstan continued to use the Soviet legal system in 1993. The new Constitution lays the basis for reform of the legal system. Pretrial detention is sanctioned by law. Prosecutors issue arrest warrants. According to the Criminal Procedure Code, a detainee may be held for 3 days before being charged. After 3 days, the detainee may be held with the sanction of a prosecutor but no longer than 10 days without being charged. The detainee may be held up to 1 year before trial. 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. There were reliable reports of some violations in law enforcement procedures, including arrests without specific charges, detentions of persons for more than 10 days without bringing charges, and instances of refusing access to a lawyer. In many cases, citizens and the police appeared to be uninformed about the right of the accused to have access to a lawyer or the legal necessity of a specific charge within a certain time frame.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
In Kazakhstan's court system, the President recommends nominees for the Supreme Court for Supreme Soviet approval. Heads of oblasts (provinces) recommend nominees for oblast soviet (council) approval. Regional or city councils elect lower level judges. All 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. Kazakhstan 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. There are three levels in the court system: the local level, the oblast level, and the Supreme Court. Local-level courts handle less serious crimes, such as petty theft and vandalism (hooliganism, in the old terminology). Oblast-level courts handle the 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. Judgments of the oblast courts may be appealed to the Supreme Court. A special arbitration court handles disputes between state enterprises. In 1993 the Constitutional Court continued to show its ability to act independently by declaring a number of decrees unconstitutional. During the debate over the Constitution, attempts from some quarters to limit substantially the powers of the Constitutional Court were voted down.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The KNB and the Ministry of the Interior, with the sanction of the Procuracy, may arbitrarily interfere with privacy, family, home, and correspondence, a legacy of Soviet rule. Criminal police, who remain part of the internal security structure, are required by law to have a search warrant from a prosecutor before conducting a search but were sometimes known to conduct searches without a warrant. There were also credible reports 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 new Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press. Kazakhstan has an increasingly pluralistic press and generally respects freedom of speech. However, laws against insulting the President and Supreme Soviet deputies and a government monopoly on broadcast media and printing presses act to limit these freedoms. Kazakhstan has hundreds of publications and radio and television companies, both governmental and private. Because of the slow progress of privatization, the Government continued to control printing, distribution, and broadcast facilities and subsidized "official" as well as most "independent" publications. Government ownership of printing and broadcast facilities tended to encourage self-censorship. For budgetary reasons, the Ministry of Press and Mass Information planned to reduce subsidies further to nonofficial publications. Most political opposition groups issue their own publications, which, though dependent on government control of printing supplies, are critical of government policies. In general, the opposition press was not subject to intimidation or harassment. One exception was Birlesu, the independent trade union publication, which the Almaty city administration harassed in various ways (e.g., denial of paper and other printing supplies). In addition, Russian print journalists were prevented from transmitting reports to Moscow after Russian television broadcast a story on May 22 about the tensions between ethnic Russians living in Kazakhstan and Kazakhs. Official publications also increasingly criticized Supreme Soviet and presidential decisions. Overall, self-censorship appeared to decline in 1993. The prohibition against insulting the President or Supreme Soviet deputies, however, remained in force. Karishal Asanov, tried and found not guilty in 1992 of the charge of insulting the President, was retried in 1993. The prosecutor appealed the 1992 not-guilty verdict, and the Supreme Court, finding technical problems with the first trial, ordered a retrial. Asanov was found guilty and was sentenced to 3 years' probation. He appealed the judgment and was awarded another trial Asanov was acquitted in October of the charge of insulting the President. There were no reports of the Government refusing to allow an academic to publish for political reasons. Despite Kazakhstan's generally positive record on media freedom in 1993, several other cases pointed to continuing problems. In January 1992, the terms of employment for heads of local television and radio broadcasting enterprises with countrywide Kazteleradio were changed from a system in which they were employed under the labor law to a contract system. This was done without the knowledge of the regional employees and made it easier for them to be fired. In January 1993, Kazteleradio decided not to renew the contract of Bakhidzhan Mukushev, the head of Karaganda radio. This decision was widely ascribed to political reasons. Mukushev was a reformer who supported the Independent Miners Union of Karaganda. Also, Kazteleradio insisted that the majority of radio programming in Karaganda, a majority Russian-speaking area, be in Kazakh. Mukushev, an ethnic Kazakh, argued for a more gradual approach. Radio employees who struck in sympathy with Mukushev won the Government's agreement to settle the matter in court. The case was taken to both the Constitutional Court and the local oblast court. The Constitutional Court, ruling on the legality of the contract system under which Mukushev was hired rather than on Mukushev's personal case, decided in Mukushev's favor. The oblast court, nonetheless, ruled against Mukushev, under pressure, many believe, from oblast authorities. Mukushev is awaiting trial in the Supreme Court. Independent television station Tvin reported erroneously in its morning news program "Telemax" that the chairman of Turan Bank, the former state industrial bank, had been arrested for stealing. Telemax caught the mistake within 10 minutes and issued an apology. However, the chairman of Turan bank sued Tvin for 15 million rubles for defamation, an amount that would have bankrupted the station. The Almaty city court awarded only 1 million rubles in damages. The Procuracy has appealed to the Supreme Court for the full 15 million rubles. The Procuracy's action was widely perceived as an attempt to close down Tvin and its radio component radio Max, stations considered liberal and proreform. The Procuracy has the right to appeal the decision of a civil case if it believes the law was not properly followed in the conduct of the trial.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, which in 1993 were generally respected. Demonstrations must have the approval of local authorities 10 days in advance. Those held without prior approval are considered illegal. The organizers may be tried and given jail sentences. There were no illegal demonstrations resulting in punishment during 1993. 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 (provinces). The list must provide personal information about the members, including date and place of birth, address, and place of employment. For many Kazakhstanis, submitting such personal data to the Government recalls old-style KGB tactics and inhibits them from joining parties. The nationalist, pan-Turkic Alash party and the Social Democratic Party 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 hold bank accounts must also register with the Government. A minimum of 10 members is required to register on the local level, and a minimum of 10 members in at least 11 oblasts is required to register on the republic level. The Government's refusal to register religious and ethnic-based parties and movements is not a stated policy, although some officials quote article 55 of the Constitution which states: "The creation and activity of public associations proclaiming or carrying out in practice racist, nationalist, social, or religious intolerance, elitist exclusivity ... is prohibited." Government officials have justified decisions not to register certain parties on the grounds that the activities of ethnic-based parties and movements could spark ethnic violence, if allowed to operate freely. Unregistered parties and movements are, nonetheless, able to hold meetings and publish newspapers, although these groups appear to have more difficulty obtaining paper and ink than other publishers. The only group that actually applied for registration and was refused (in 1992) was the ethnic Russian Yedinstvo (Unity) movement. It was refused on the grounds that it opposed the use of Kazakh as the state language and wanted to form paramilitary units to "assist" the police. Two other political groups, Azat and Alash, have objected to the requirement that they submit personal data about their membership when registering.
c. Freedom of Religion
Freedom of religion is provided for in the Constitution and is respected. Kazakhstan is a relatively secular society. Muslims, Christians, Jews, and members of other religions reported no interference from the Government or any other source. The Mufti and the Orthodox Archbishop appeared together publicly to promote religious and ethnic harmony.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Freedom of movement within Kazakhstan was generally respected. However, although privatization of housing proceeded in 1993, the Government still controlled most housing and required a residence permit (propiska). Obtaining a propiska was generally routine in 1993, with the exception of the capital, Almaty. Since 1992, the city administration has limited the transfer of residences in Almaty to people already living there. There is favoritism toward ethnic Kazakhs in the 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 still required for travel abroad, but refusals in 1993 were exceptional. Some officials, however, reportedly demanded bribes for issuing one. In one reported case, an exit visa was refused on political grounds. Bakhidzhan Mukushev, who had led a strike of radio workers in Karaganda (see Section 2.a.), was invited to attend a seminar sponsored by the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in the United States. Of the three government agencies authorized to issue exit visas, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the local oblast authority, none would issue a visa to Mukushev, each telling him it was the responsibility of one of the other two agencies. Mukushev took his case to the Supreme Court and eventually received his visa, but only after it was too late to attend the seminar. The Government accords special treatment to those Kazakhs and their families who fled Kazakhstan during Stalin's time and wish to move back to Kazakhstan. Kazakhs in this category are encouraged to return to Kazakhstan, are entitled to citizenship, and may retain any other citizenship they already have. Anyone else, including ethnic Kazakhs who are not considered refugees from Stalin's terror, such as the descendants of Kazakhs who moved to Mongolia during the previous century, must apply for permission to immigrate 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. The Constitution provides for the right to emigrate, and it is respected in practice.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The right of citizens to effect a peaceful, democratic change in their government is untested. To speed the reform process, the Supreme Soviet voted on December 8 to move the date of the next Supreme Soviet elections and oblast-level elections up from December 1994 to March 7, 1994. Kazakhstan's first presidential election is expected to be held in December 1995. All men and women aged 18 and above have the right to vote. Shortly before independence, President Nazarbayev won election as the first President of the country. He ran unopposed in the election and received 98 percent of the vote. While Nazarbayev appeared to have broad support, no international monitors were invited to verify that the vote was free and fair. The leader of the Zheltoksan Party, who attempted to run against Nazarbayev, alleged that the Government used a series of legal technicalities, as well as force, to prevent him from fulfilling the requirements to establish his candidacy. Supreme Soviet deputies were elected in March 1990 while the Communist Party retained a monopoly on political power. The Supreme Soviet lacked democratic legitimacy. Nonetheless, it represented a growing, if still modest, check on the President's power. Although it usually supported the President, in 1993 it successfully opposed a number of presidential initiatives. Most of its sessions were open to the press and foreign ambassadors. Members of the Kazakhstani public could be invited by deputies to attend sessions and give speeches on a particular area of expertise, but the sessions were not generally open to the Kazakhstani public. There are two legally registered political parties: the Socialist Party (the former Communist Party); and the People's Congress Party (formed by poet and environmentalist Olzhas Suleymenov). President Nazarbayev is not a member of any party but has accepted the formal endorsement of the People's Unity Movement. There are a number of unregistered opposition parties and movements. The Government has refused to register any party or movement whose platform it believes will foment ethnic tensions (see Section 2.b.). There are no legal restrictions on women participating in politics and government, but, owing to prejudice and traditional attitudes, few women are professionally active in these fields. About 5 percent of Supreme Soviet deputies are women.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
There are a number of local human rights organizations active in Kazakhstan. The Government did not interfere with the activities of the local Helsinki Watch group. The latter had limited organizational and financial means to observe, contest, and report human rights violations. It did protest such actions as the retrial of Karishal Asanov (Section 2.a.). Members of the Supreme Soviet's human rights committee supported the establishment and registration of the Kazakhstan-America Human Rights Association. The Association, funded with the assistance of the Union of Councils of Soviet Jews, cooperated with Helsinki Watch and other Kazakhstani organizations. The Government permitted representatives of the Free Trade Union Institute (FTUI), the AFL-CIO, the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), ISAR (a group that assists in the development of environmental organizations), human rights groups, and foreign constitutional lawyers to visit Kazakhstan and contact opposition and environmentalist groups. However, in midyear the Government ordered the NDI and IRI to suspend their activities until they were formally registered with the Ministry of Justice. Kazakhstan's law currently has no provision for registering foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGO's). Government officials stated that other foreign NGO's are allowed to operate despite their lack of registration because they are not working with opposition political parties. At various times during 1993, the Government interfered with the IRI's, NDI's, and ISAR's telephone and facsimile (fax) communications.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
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. Several women's organizations exist, including the Union of Women of Kazakhstan, the Union of Women Entrepreneurs, the League of Muslim Women, and the Union of Feminists, which is headed by a man. There are also mothers' groups organized around specific issues, including the Mothers of Soldiers, Mothers of Invalids, and Mothers of Many Children. The major concerns of most women's groups are to obtain support for families during the economic crisis and to increase the number of women in government and business. The women's groups generally supported the Government and avoided partisan politics. According to reliable local observers, wife beating is common, particularly because of widespread alcohol abuse among men. Police are reluctant to intervene unless they believe the beating is severe or life threatening. The maximum sentence for wife beating is 3 years.
The Government is committed in principle to children's rights and has signed the U.N. Convention on children's rights (it has not yet been ratified by the Supreme Soviet). As in many other areas, the absence of a tradition of civil liberties and budget stringencies severely limit the Government's effectiveness in dealing with children's rights issues. There is no established pattern of governmental or societal abuse against children. According to credible reports, child labor is used during harvests, particularly during the cotton harvest in the south (Section 6.d.). Article 51 of the Constitution states: "The upkeep, teaching, and upbringing of children is the obligation of the parents or persons substituting for them. The nature and forms of upbringing and education should not damage the interests of the child." Article 52 states: "The State provides for the upkeep, upbringing, and education of orphaned children and children deprived of parental care, and encourages charity toward children."
Kazakhstan's population of about 17 million is comprised of about 43 percent Kazakhs; 37 percent Russians; 7 percent other Slavs, mainly Ukrainians; and smaller populations of Germans, Uzbeks, Tatars, Uyghurs, Koreans, and scores of other ethnic groups. Many Slavs and Germans have emigrated to the West or to the countries of their national origin in the hope of better economic opportunity and, in some cases, for fear of eventual discrimination by ethnic Kazakhs in an independent Kazakhstan. There was increasing discrimination 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 predominated in government and in higher positions in state enterprises. The Supreme Soviet had 360 deputies, of whom only 80 were not ethnic Kazakhs. The Constitution provides for equal political rights for all citizens regardless of ethnicity. President Nazarbayev has publicly emphasized that all nationalities are welcome in Kazakhstan, but most non-Kazakhs are nervous about preferences for ethnic Kazakhs and discrimination against those who do not speak the Kazakh language. Many ethnic Kazakhs, however, believe they were second-class citizens under Russian domination for 200 years and that action is needed to reverse this. Under Communist rule, Kazakh and other minority languages and cultures were repressed. The majority of the population speaks Russian; only about half of ethnic Kazakhs can speak Kazakh effectively. The Supreme Soviet declared in January that Kazakh would be the official 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. There are reports of ethnic Kazakh gangs in rural areas targeting ethnic Russians for theft, and reports of more frequent exchanges of insults between Russians and Kazakhs in public places. However, there are no reports of politically organized ethnic violence between Russians and Kazakhs.
People with Disabilities
According to the Constitution, citizens with disabilities are entitled to assistance from the State. As a result of inflation, people relying only on state disability benefits experience severe economic hardship. There is no legal discrimination against people with disabilities, but in practice employers do not give them equal consideration. The Government has not legislated or otherwise mandated accessibility for the disabled.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Supreme Soviet adopted a new Labor Code during its spring session which, 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 and harassment from the state-run unions or from enterprise management. Kazakhstan joined the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 1993. Most workers remained members of the system of state-sponsored trade unions established during the Communist period. Membership was obligatory. At the vast majority of enterprises, the state-sponsored unions continued automatically to deduct 1 percent of each worker's salary as dues. In addition, 30.2 percent of each worker's salary was withheld for the government pension fund, and 7.3 percent was taken by the state unions, which have the authority to allocate funds for disability and sick pay, housing, and the use of vacation retreats. The state-run unions under the Communist system were, and in most respects still are, an organ of the Government. They often use their power coercively to enforce labor discipline and work hand in hand with government and management to minimize labor unrest 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 at the republic level. Registration is generally a lengthy, difficult, and, especially for smaller unions, expensive process. 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 joined independent trade unions were subjected to various forms of harassment, including dismissal, transfer to lower paying or lower status jobs, threats, and intimidation. State unions often took an active part in the harassment to inhibit challenges to their hegemony and to pressure new unions. Independent unions suffered in 1993 as a result of the lack of enforcement of national laws at local levels. For example, in Tekele, a group of miners left the state-sponsored union to form an independent union. After 7 months, dues were still being deducted automatically from their salaries for the state union. The miners took the case to the oblast court. The judge told them to go to the state union and, in effect, "to work it out," leaving them at the mercy of the state union. The miners then took the case to the Supreme Court, where it remained pending at year's end. The Independent Trade Union Center of Kazakhstan claims that membership in independent unions has nonetheless doubled from 250,000 in 1992 to 500,000 in 1993, out of a total work force of about 5,600,000. Unions have the legal right to strike, and several major strikes occurred in 1993. In January the Karaganda radio workers went on strike to protest the removal of Karaganda radio director Bakhidzhan Mukushev for what they perceived to be political reasons. The radio workers received support from the Independent Coal Miners Union (NPG) and others in solidarity. The strike lasted several weeks but failed to achieve Mukushev's reinstatement. A major cause of labor unrest in 1993 was the payment of part of, or all, wages at some enterprises 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 expressed 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 accepted at a discount in its value. In Kentau, some 15,000 miners went on strike in May after not being paid full wages in cash since February. The enterprise agreed to pay the wages in full, although as of December most miners were receiving about 20 percent or less of their normal salaries. When paid, the miners' salaries are usually well above the minimum wage. In 1992 the NPG of Karaganda won the right for the miners to market privately 15 percent of the coal they produced. In 1993 enterprise and oblast authorities used bureaucratic obstacles to limit the miners' ability to market their 15 percent. 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 NPG, along with the State Miners' Union of Karaganda, became members of the Miners' International Federation.
b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively
There are significant limits on the right to organize and bargain collectively. Most industry is state owned and is subject to the State's production orders. Although collective bargaining rights are not spelled out in the law, in some instances unions have successfully negotiated agreements with management. If a union's demands are not acceptable to management, they may be presented to an arbitration commission comprised of management, union officials, and independent technical experts. There is no law 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 in them appear to be no different from those elsewhere in Kazakhstan.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced labor is prohibited by law. Compulsory labor, however, is used to gather the annual grain harvest. Some persons were required to provide labor or the use of privately owned equipment, with no or very low compensation, to help gather the harvest on state-owned farms. University-level students were also required to help with the harvest at minimal compensation.
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 at which the child would work. Such permission is rarely granted. Abuse of child labor was generally not a problem, except that child labor was used during the harvest, especially the cotton harvest in the south.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There is no universal minimum wage that covers all employment sectors. The current economic crisis with its high inflation rate has made implementing and enforcing a meaningful minimum wage difficult. In its October session, the Supreme Soviet set a new minimum wage rate of about $7 per month, which is not sufficient for a worker and family to live on. The legal maximum workweek is 48 hours, although most enterprises maintain a 40-hour workweek, with a 24-hour rest period. Working and safety conditions in Kazakhstan's industry are substandard. For example, workers in factories usually do not wear protective clothing, such as goggles and hard hats, and work in conditions of poor visibility and ventilation. Economic dislocation is a major cause of shortages of safety equipment. The regulations concerning occupational health and safety, enforceable by the Ministry of Labor and the state-sponsored unions, are largely ignored by management and not enforced. Lack of management concern, as well as economic dislocation, has resulted in shortages of safety equipment. Workers, includsing miners, have no legal right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment.