Events of 1993

Human Rights Developments

Kazakhstan remained relatively consistent during 1993 in its human rights practices, both those that protected human rights and those that restricted them. On January 28, it adopted a constitution enshrining many fundamental rights, and there were no substantial reports of ethnic discrimination during the year. However, the government maintained restrictions on freedom of association and continued to apply the law protecting the "honor and dignity" of the president and other government officials, in violation of the right to free speech.

Two cases of alleged violation of the "honor and dignity" law were prosecuted during 1993. The sixty-year-old scholar Karishal Asanov was charged with violating Article 170-3, parts 1 and 2, of the criminal code in August 1992, and his house was searched. He was subjected to a psychiatric examination, which found no signs of mental disturbance, and spent several months in pre-trial detention before being released for health reasons. Charges were brought in connection with his article "Don't Believe the President's Smile," a synthesis of arguments he made in a two-volume history of the Kazakh people that was critical of President Nursultan Nazarbaev. Numerous delays and reversals in court rulings dragged out the case into 1993, culminating in his conviction on May 25 and sentencing to three years of imprisonment, commuted to two years of probation. As of November, the case was on appeal.

Ruslanbek Chukurov, a doctor, also faced charges of violating the law on "honor and dignity" (Article 170-4, part 2, of the criminal code). Dr. Chukurov was first charged in 1992 when he publicly accused former Minister of Health Aliev of corruption. Conflicting decisions by two different courts have left the case unresolved.

More independent trade unions were registered during 1993, and Birlescu, the trade union movement's newspaper, reportedly was allowed back to press in August after being suspended by city authorities. Nonetheless, although Article 10 of the new Kazakhstan Constitution guaranteed the rights of public organizations, restrictive legislation continued to force parties, movements and independent trade unions to register in Kazakhstan.

The Right to Monitor

Helsinki Watch Watch received no reports of restrictions or attempted restrictions on the work of human rights monitors during 1993.

U.S. Policy

U.S. policy focused on providing humanitarian and technical assistance (the treaty granting Kazakhstan Most Favored Nation status went into effect in February) and supporting the Kazakhstan government's efforts to fulfill its promise to surrender all nuclear weapons by the year 2000.

The strong support of the Clinton administration stemmed from its assessment that Kazakhstan, according to a U.S. official in October, "is doing everything right."

The Work of Helsinki Watch

At the end of 1992, Helsinki Watch sent its first fact-finding mission to Kazakhstan since 1990, responding to allegations of violations of free speech and free association. Representatives met with human rights activists and with governmental and independent groups, and discussed their human rights concerns, such as the need to repeal the "honor and dignity" law.

In 1993 Helsinki Watch twice sent representatives to observe the ongoing trial of Karishal Asanov, and once to monitor the trial of Ruslanbek Chukurov. Both men were facing criminal charges for exercising their right to free speech.

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