Kazakhstan must implement its Human Rights obligations
-Kazakhstan, the current chair of the OSCE, does not fully abide with OSCE human rights standards, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Oslo Center say in a mutual statement made in Astana, Kazakhstan today.
tual statement made in Astana, Kazakhstan today. The statement follows a new round of talks with foreign minister Saudabayev. - In spite of making interreligious dialogue a priority for its chairmanship, the oil- and energy rich country where Norway’s petroleum sector is involved, is not fully implementing its obligations to respect freedom of religion or belief.
The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee on 11 May 2010 presented a draft report on freedom of religion or belief to foreign minister Kanat Saudabayev in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana. Norway opened a new embassy in Astana recently, and the talks took place just three months after Crown Prince Haakon’s visit to the country. Norwegian energy companies are eager to secure a share of the energy recourses in Kazakhstan.
“We wanted to engage in a dialogue with the government before finalizing and publishing the report”, Bondevik explained. “We invited Kazakhstan’s authorities to report on measures they have taken to improve respect of freedom of religion or belief.”
The organizations put three recommendations on the table, urging authorities to:
* end unfriendly rhetoric against religious communities
* stop punishing peaceful unregistered religious activities
* drop requirements for religious groups to register
Kazakhstan is the first Central Asian and former Soviet republic to chair the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (the OSCE), an important security organization including 56 Central Asian, European and North American states.
Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized the human rights situation in the country. “In spite of having ratified key human rights conventions and promised reforms to strengthen respect for human rights, the OSCE chair is still weak on implementation”, Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said. “Kazakhstan needs more robust domestic human rights institutions in order to streamline its policies and develop practices respecting human rights.”
Concerns were raised on censorship of religious literature, punishments and bans on unregistered religious activities as well as the spreading of slander and disinformation about religious groups. The delegation said the government would profit enormously in terms of trust and international standing if living up to international standards on freedom of religion or belief.
The report on freedom of religion or belief in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan is based on extensive research, conducted by Forum 18 News Service. It’s part of a project, which also includes The Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Norwegian Mission to the East as partners. The project aims at documenting violations and establishing a dialogue on how to improve respect for freedom of religion or belief in the two Central Asian countries. The report will be launched in Astana during the 29-30 June 2010 Conference on Tolerance, and will be followed-up by further activities.
After conducting a second round of talks with Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister, Deputies of the Parliament, the Committee on Religious Affairs, and the Ombudsman, the Oslo Center and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee is determined to continue the dialogue. The first round of talks was held 7-8 December 2010.
The Norwegian mission to the East