Kazakhstan

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Persistent violations
  • Domestic violence, particularly affecting women and children[1]
  • High rate of teenage pregnancy and inadequate adolescent health education[2]
  • Corporal punishment[3]
  • Trafficking of children[4]
  • Discrimination in access to services, particularly education[5]
  • Child labour[6]
  • Lack of a formal juvenile justice system and ill-treatment of children in the justice system[7]
  • Ineffective child rights monitoring mechanisms[8]
  • Discrimination against children born out of wedlock[9]
  • Stigmatisation of children affected by HIV and AIDS[10]
  • Lack of human rights education[11]
  • Inadequate alternative care provision[12]

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Footnotes
  1. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Human Rights Committee, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Universal Periodic Review
  2. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Human Rights Committee, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
  3. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Human Rights Committee, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture
  4. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Human Rights Committee, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Universal Periodic Review
  5. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Universal Periodic Review
  6. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Human Rights Committee, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Universal Periodic Review
  7. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee against Torture, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Universal Periodic Review
  8. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  9. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  10. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  11. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  12. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review



Introduction

The world’s largest landlocked country, Kazakhstan borders Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Kazakhstan, under President Nursultan Nazarbayev since its independence from the Soviet Union, remains a largely repressive and authoritarian regime with only very limited political opposition permitted and with elections that fall far short of international standards. In addition to severe restrictions on civil society and media freedom, Kazakhstan is also notable for its failure to prevent the use of torture, limits to freedom of assembly, inhumane penal system, poor record on economic, social and cultural rights, the prevalence of child labour, high levels of corruption and problems around child trafficking.

Geography

Kazakhstan is geographically the second largest of the former Soviet Republics, after Russia. Located in central Asia, the country borders, Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and has a coastline on the Caspian Sea. The capital city is Astana.

Population and language

Kazakhstan has a diverse population of 16.2 million people predominantly of Kazakh, Russian, Uzbek, Ukrainian, Uighur, German and Tartar origins, though there are a large number of other ethnic minority communities. Kazakh and Russian are both official languages.[1]

Religion was largely suppressed during the country's membership of the USSR, but the majority religion of Islam, of which 65 per cent of the population adhere, has shown a resurgence since independence. Kazakhstan also has a substantial minority of Russian Orthodox Christians which makes up around 30% of the population.[2]

History and politics

The Kazakh Republic was formed as an autonomous republic of the Russian Federations in 1920 and subsequently became a Republic of the Soviet Union in 1936, which it remained until the break up of the USSR in 1991. Upon gaining independence Nursultan Nazarbayev, formerly of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, was elected the first President of the newly formed Kazakhstan, a position that he continues to hold. National politics provides for an elected legislature, though it has been dominated by the President's party, which has at times held all of the seats in the elected lower house. In 2010, President Nazarbayev was designated life-long “Leader of the Nation”, a position which will protect him from investigation and prosecution for life, and grant him significant political powers should he vacate the Presidency.

In the most recent parliamentary elections of 2012, three parties entered the Parliament. The Presiedent's party, Nur Otan, secured 83 seats compared to Ak Zhoi's eight seats and the Communist People's Party's seven. OSCE election observers noted reforms aimed at increasing pluralism in the Parliament, but found that these attempts were undermined by the barring of political parties. The OSCE also found serious indications of "ballot box stuffing".[3]

Economy

Kazakhstan holds the largest stake of oil in the Caspian sea, amounting to around 2.7 percent of the world's oil reserves, a holding that has fuelled economic growth. The industry has developed rapidly, and as commercial production is predicted to begin in Kashagan by 2012/13,[4] continued growth seems likely. The 2008/9 economic crisis hit the Kazakh economy hard, and caused GDP growth to fall to 1.2 per cent in 2009. Banks in particular suffered from the crisis, but following the State's purchase of shares in the worst hit banks, and a comprehensive restructuring process the economy turned around sharply. By 2011, GDP had rebounded to 7.5 per cent.[5] Kazakhstan is also rich in a number of rare minerals and is the world's largest producer of uranium.[6]

Media and civil society

Reporters Without Borders rated Kazakhstan 154 out of 179 in its 2011/12 Press Freedom Index, a ranking which reflects the serious limits on media freedom within the country.[7] The presidential elections of 2011 led to a crackdown on online media in the country, in which a large number of websites were temporarily blocked. This censorship is part of a larger trend in the country which saw court ordered bans of 20 websites deemed “extremist”, including the popular blogging sites, LiveJournal and LiveInternet. In 2010, Google closed down its local website over a dispute with the Kazakh government which put pressure on the company to relocate its servers to the country, a move which would make it easier for the State to exercise control over access to online content. Traditional media including television channels and print journalists also face substantial censorship and harassment. Newspaper editor Ramazan Esergepov was released in January 2012 having served a complete three-year prison term for an article that accused the national security service of complicity with the business sector.[8]

Civil society also faces serious barriers in its operations. 2011 saw industrial action in the country, particularly among oil workers over pay and working conditions, though the the strikes were declared illegal and hundreds of workers were fired for their involvement. Union lawyer, Natalia Sokolova was also sentenced to six years imprisonment for “inciting social discord” for her role in the strikes. Though this sentence was later reduced, Ms. Sokolova remains subject to a suspended sentence and limits on her civic activities.[9]

Human rights and children's rights

Beyond concerns over media and civil society freedom, reports a number of other serious human rights violations have arisen in relation to Kazakhstan. The Human Rights Committee has been critical of the State's limited progress in preventing and punishing torture in the penal system.[10] NGOs had reported on improvements under the Ministry of Justice's tenure in charge of the prison system, but the return of the administration of that system to the Ministry of Interior has led to concerns over the body's poor record in the area.[11] UN human rights mechanisms have reported on a wide range of human rights violations in the country specifically affecting children, including child labour in the cotton and tobacco industries, the lack of a formal juvenile justice system, and trafficking of children.[12]

  1. Constitution of Kazakhstan, article 7
  2. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, "Kazakhstan Country Profile" 14 March 2011
  3. Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, "Republic of Kazakhstan, Early Parliamentary Elections, 15 January 2012"
  4. See Reuters, "Total wants first oil from Kashagan before year-end-CEO" 29 May 2012
  5. World Bank Data, "GDP Growth per annum"
  6. CNN, "Kazakhstan hopes uranium oil adn gas will fuel its future" 18 July 2012
  7. Reporters Without Borders, "Press Freedom Index 2011/12"
  8. Reporters Without Borders, "World Report: Kazakhstan" November 2011
  9. Human Rights Watch, "Kazakhstan: Lawyer freed, but rights restricted" 15 March 2012
  10. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights COmmittee, on Kazakhstan's initial report, July 2011 (CCPR/C/KLAZ/CO/1)
  11. Amnesty International "World Report 2012: The State of the World's human rights"
  12. CRIN, "Kazakhstan: Persistent violations of children's rights" 27 July 2012

Sources:


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