U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Kazakstan
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Kazakstan, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa7fc.html [accessed 18 September 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
KAZAKHSTANThe Constitution of Kazakhstan concentrates power in the presidency. President Nursultan Nazarbayev is the dominant political figure. The Constitution, adopted in 1995 in a referendum marred by irregularities, permits the President to legislate by decree and dominate the legislature and judiciary; it cannot be changed or amended without the President's consent. Presidential elections originally scheduled for 1996 did not take place, as President Nazarbayev's term in office was extended to 2000 in a separate 1995 referendum, also marred by irregularities. Under the 1995 Constitution, Parliament's powers are more limited than previously. However, members of Parliament have the right to introduce legislation. During the Parliament's first full session, deputies drafted 19 bills for consideration. The judiciary remained under the control of the President and the executive branch. The lack of an independent judiciary made it difficult to root out corruption, which was pervasive throughout the Government. In October as part of a larger government reorganization, the law enforcement community was restructured. The Committee for National Security (the KNB, successor to the KGB) is responsible for counterintelligence and law enforcement activities on the national level. A new external intelligence service, Barlau (the Kazakh word for intelligence), was created to supervise overseas operations. Both report directly to the President. The Ministry of Internal affairs supervises the criminal police who are poorly paid and widely believed to be corrupt. The State Committee for Investigations (GSK), a federal investigative and law enforcement agency established in 1995, was dissolved. Its functions were divided between the Interior Ministry and the KNB. The KNB continued efforts to legitimize its role by focusing on activities to combat terrorism and organized crime. Members of the security forces committed human rights abuses. Kazakhstan is rich in natural resources, chiefly petroleum and minerals. The Government has made significant progress toward a market-based economy since independence. After a 5-year decline, overall production began to increase in 1996. The Government has been successful in stabilizing the local currency (tenge), slowing inflation, and improving structural reforms. The agricultural sector, traditionally accounting for over one-third of national employment and production, has been slow to privatize. The Government successfully privatized most small- and medium-size firms, and is working to privatize large-scale industrial complexes, particularly in the oil and gas sector. However, living standards for many citizens continue to decline. According to several surveys, up to 35 percent of citizens live below the government-defined poverty line of $50 per month. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens in some areas, but serious problems remain in others. Democratic institutions are weak. The Government infringed on citizens' right to change their government. The legal structure, including the Constitution adopted in 1995, does not fully safeguard human rights. Members of the security forces often beat or otherwise abused detainees, and harsh prison conditions continued to deteriorate. There were allegations of arbitrary arrest, and prolonged detention is a problem. The judiciary remains under the control of the President and the executive branch, and corruption is deeply rooted. The Government infringed on citizens' rights to privacy. The Government generally tolerates independent media, although the media practiced self-censorship, and the Government maintained control of most printing presses and facilities. Freedom of assembly was sometimes restricted. Some organizers of unsanctioned demonstrations were arrested and fined or imprisoned. Freedom of association, while generally respected, was sometimes hindered by complicated and controversial registration requirements for organizations and political parties that restrict this right. Domestic violence against women remained a problem. There was discrimination against women, the disabled, and ethnic minorities. The Government discriminated in favor of ethnic Kazakhs. The Government tried to limit the influence of independent trade unions, both directly and through its support for state-sponsored unions, and members of independent trade unions were harassed.