Rights group raps Kazakh record before OSCE summit
* HRW says Astana’s rights record worsened during OSCE chair
ASTANA: Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record only worsened during the year of its chairmanship of the OSCE, a rights group said on Tuesday, a day before the Central Asian nation hosts a summit of Europe’s main democracy body. Kazakhstan became the first post-Soviet nation this year to assume the rotating chair of the 56-member Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
“The disappointing paradox is that Kazakhstan has been very active as OSCE chair but took few if any meaningful steps to improve its own human rights record,” said Rachel Denber, Europe and Central Asia director at US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW). “It could have led the OSCE by example, but instead let its human rights record stagnate,” she said.
Amid official fanfare, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has run his vast oil-rich nation for more than 20 years, will showcase his brainchild – the windswept new capital Astana – to dozens of visiting heads of state on Dec 1-2. It is the OSCE’s first summit in the 21st century after the previous one held in Istanbul in 1999. In anticipation of its OSCE chairmanship Astana had promised human rights reforms, particularly in the area of media freedoms.
But HRW said there was ‘a chilling environment for freedom of expression’ in Kazakhstan, and during the country’s chairmanship year excessively harsh penalties for civil defamation were imposed on journalists. A newspaper editor, Ramazan Yesergepov, convicted on charges of publishing classified information, is serving a three-year prison sentence. His trial was not open to the public, and he was denied a lawyer of his choice. The authorities refused to register a major opposition party, Alga!, HRW said.
They rejected appeals to open an independent probe into a car accident involving the country’s leading human rights defender, Yevgeny Zhovtis, who is now serving a four-year prison term for vehicular manslaughter, imposed after what HRW believes was an unfair trial. Kazakh authorities also maintained restrictive rules on freedom of assembly, HRW said, and during 2010 punished several activists for breaking them. Some of them had held one-person pickets. reuters