Changes Needed Before Assuming OSCE Leadership Role
(Almaty) - The Kazakh government has seven months to improve its human rights record to meet the standards of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) before it takes over the institution's chairmanship, Human Rights Watch said today.
Human Rights Watch's executive director, Kenneth Roth, is in Kazakhstan to urge its government to make lasting improvements in its human rights record, in line with the prominent role that the OSCE chairmanship entails.
Kazakhstan will assume the OSCE chairmanship in January 2010. Ensuring that participating states respect human rights is a core function of the OSCE.
"The OSCE chairmanship places the Kazakh government's human rights record under intense scrutiny," said Roth. "Ultimately it will be up to the government whether it will be judged as having lived up to its commitments or as having fallen embarrassingly short."
In a report published last month, Human Rights Watch said that Kazakhstan had made some modest human rights improvements in the past several months, but needed to do more to respect key rights, including freedom of expression, religion, and assembly.
In 2007, the OSCE agreed to give Kazakhstan the chairmanship in 2010, which will make it the first country of the Commonwealth of Independent States to lead the organization. When the OSCE made the decision, the Kazakh government pledged, among other things, to reform a number of restrictive laws pertaining to elections and the media.
"The government has been willing to discuss its human rights record with us," said Roth. "But with the clock ticking toward the OSCE chairmanship, no one appears to be taking responsibility for accelerating the necessary improvements."
In a positive move, in February 2009, Kazakhstan's Constitutional Council ruled that a proposed restrictive religion law was unconstitutional. The council found that the law did...