UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Visits Kazakhstan
Tuesday, May 1, 2007 10:51 AM

Astana, 30 April 2007
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, today concluded a visit to Astana, Kazakhstan from 29 to 30 April, as a part of her visit to Central Asia. Tomorrow she will have meetings in Almaty prior to her mission to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

In Astana, the High Commissioner met with the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Karim Massimov, the Chairman of the Constitutional Council, the Deputy Foreign Minister, the Chairman of the Human Rights Commission under the President of Kazakhstan, the Deputy Minister of Interior and the Deputy Prosecutor General. She also met with representatives of international and regional organizations, including the Head of OSCE and the Acting Resident Coordinator and Representative of UNICEF.

The High Commissioner welcomed Kazakhstan's recent ratification of two major human rights instruments, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and invited the government to consider ratifying remaining international human rights instruments, among others Optional Protocols to the ICCPR, which allows individual complaints under the instrument and commit the State to ending the use of the death penalty, the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, which provides a framework for monitoring places of detention and the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers. She welcomed the existing moratorium on death penalty and encouraged the full abolishment of capital punishment.

One of the main purposes of the High Commissioner's visit is the establishment of a Regional Office for Central Asia. She expressed the wish to work closely with the Government, civil society and international partners to address issues of concern in the area of human rights and offered the assistance of her Office in this regard.

In her various meetings, the High Commissioner stressed the importance of ensuring the required balance between the executive, legislative and judicial branches, in particular with regard to criminal law enforcement. In light of recurrent allegations that some judicial decisions appear to be politically motivated, the High Commissioner emphasized the need to strengthen the independence of the judiciary. The High Commissioner also encouraged the Government to consider the establishment of a strong and independent national human rights institution in conformity with international standards reflected in the 'Paris principles'. The existing Ombudsman institution could serve as a basis for such an institution, which would contribute to improve the protection of human rights in the country. The development of a national human rights plan is also a welcome step in this direction.

The High Commissioner encouraged the Government to ensure a democratic space and facilitate the functioning of civil society and the media. She expressed hope that any reforms in the area of media laws and the operations of non-governmental organizations would increase their freedom rather than put restrictions on their activities. In this regard, she encourages the removal of the provision on criminal libel against journalists. She stressed the importance of encouraging strong independent media and civil society sectors to further improve the situation of human rights in the country.

The visit of the High Commissioner to Central Asia also includes Kyrgyzstan (24-25 April), Tajikistan (25-29 April) and Turkmenistan (3-5 May). The High Commissioner's visit is a part of an effort to increase her Office's engagement in the region.

Published in: High Commissioner for Human Rights' Visit to Kazakhstan, Press Release, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 30 April 2007.