The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal




In its third year of independence, Kazakhstan continued to 
grapple uncertainly with the task of shedding Soviet-era 
authoritarian political institutions and a centralized command 
economy.  President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in his third year of 
a 5-year term in office, remained the leading political figure 
in the country and sought to bolster his position in multiparty 
elections in March for the Supreme Soviet (legislature) and 
local councils.  The elections were seriously compromised by 
fraud and judged by international observers as not free and 
fair.  Nevertheless, the Supreme Soviet's independence as a 
separate branch of government was strengthened by some 
reformist deputies and by conservatives who showed loyalty to 
regional interests.  It rejected certain economic and social 
policies as well as some appointees put forward by the 
President.  In October, blaming top ministers for poor progress 
on economic reform, Nazarbayev replaced Cabinet members with a 
largely younger and more reformist group.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs supervises the criminal 
police, who are poorly paid and corruptible.  The Committee for 
National Security (KNB) sought to legitimize its role by 
focusing on efforts to counter terrorism, organized crime, and 
official corruption.  Efforts to build a small, modern army 
were impeded by the shortage of funds, the flight of ethnic 
Russian officers to Russia, and continued brutal hazing of 

Kazakhstan is rich in natural resources, such as oil and 
minerals, but its state-dominated economy continued to decline 
sharply in 1994, with high inflation, falling production, and a 
budget deficit of one-tenth of the gross domestic product.  
Agricultural production remained largely collectivized.  
Bureaucratic restraints, high taxes, and rampant government 
corruption hampered the small but dynamic private sector.  
Privatization, a vital necessity for economic recovery and 
growth, gained momentum, but abuses and lack of openness led to 
strong public concerns.  While general macroeconomic 
stabilization came in 1994, faster microeconomic, or 
structural, reforms are needed.

Massive fraud in the March elections effectively deprived 
citizens of the right to change their government (see Section 
3).  The Government turned over Uzbek dissidents to security 
forces of the Government of Uzbekistan (see Section 1.d.).  
Criminal police continued to beat some detainees and search 
homes without warrants, and prison conditions deteriorated 
further due to budget restrictions.  Freedom of the media is 
extensive, and the press frequently criticized the Government 
despite government control of printing facilities and 
supplies.  Freedoms of assembly and religion were generally 
respected, but the Government refused to register associations 
and political parties based on ethnic and religious criteria.  
The "propiska" system of permits for residence in the capital 
is still used to restrict internal freedom of movement.  
Although Kazakh discrimination against non-Kazakhs continued, 
such practices decreased as ethnic Slavs became more vocal.  
Domestic violence against women continued.  While seeking to 
become somewhat more independent and critical of the 
Government, state-sponsored unions continued to subject 
independent trade unions and their members to harassment and 


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial 

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Although the law prohibits these practices, there were credible 
reports that police beat and otherwise treated detainees 
abusively to obtain confessions.

Prison conditions deteriorated further in 1994 due to 
diminishing budget resources and an increase in the number of 
persons incarcerated.  According to human rights groups, in one 
Almaty prison, for example, 3,900 prisoners occupied a facility 
designed for 1,800.  The prison diet is inadequate.  Prisoners 
are allowed to receive only one visit every 6 months, but 
additional visits may be granted in emergency situations.  
Juveniles are kept in separate facilities.

According to press reports and human rights observers, 
inadequate diet and medical supplies have led to outbreaks of 
tuberculosis and dystrophy in many of Kazakhstan's prisons.  
Lice and scabies are common.  Some 40 prisoners in Karaganda 
and 35 in Atyrau reportedly died from conditions aggravated by 
malnourishment and lack of basic medical treatment.  Prison 
guards, who are poorly paid, steal food and medicines from the 
prisons, leaving little for the prisoners.  Violent crime among 
prisoners is routine.  There was an unconfirmed report of 
cannibalism in a prison in Semipalatinsk in which five 
prisoners killed and ate a cell mate.

According to the Kazakhstan-American Human Rights Bureau, there 
were 85,000 prisoners in Kazakhstan in 1994, of whom 6,000 
suffered major illnesses because of inadequate diet and 
sanitation.  About 1,150 prisoners died of those illnesses 
during the year.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Because of the slow pace of legal reform, Kazakhstan continued 
to use the Soviet legal system, with some modifications, in 
1994.  The law sanctions pretrial detention.  Prosecutors issue 
arrest warrants.  According to the Criminal Procedure Code, 
police may hold a detainee for 3 days before bringing charges.  
After 3 days, police may continue to hold the detainee with the 
approval of a prosecutor, but no longer than 10 days without 
bringing charges.  In practice, however, police routinely hold 
detainees for more than the legal 10-day limit.

The maximum length of pretrial detention is 1 year.  Pretrial 
detainees comprised about 30 percent of the total prison 
population in 1994.  Detainees are not held incommunicado.  
Defendants in criminal cases have the right to choose an 
attorney and to appeal the legality of their arrest to the 
prosecutor before trial.  If the defendant cannot afford an 
attorney, the State will provide one free of charge.  There is 
no provision for bail; defendants remain incarcerated until 
trial.  Some lawyers fear reprisals if they represent a client 
unpopular with the Government, but there were no reports of 
such reprisals in 1994.  Many lawyers, nevertheless, remain 
reluctant to defend clients of whom the Government is 

There were instances of arrest without the filing of specific 
charges. In May the Government arrested 3,000 to 4,000 people 
in what it announced was an emergency measure against crime.  
Ninety percent were eventually released without being charged.

In 1994 members of Uzbekistan's security services in two 
instances attempted to arrest Uzbek dissidents in Kazakhstan.  
The first occurred in May during a human rights conference in 
Almaty when Uzbek security agents openly sought Uzbek 
dissidents at their hotels.  The Government reacted swiftly, 
publicly announcing that the Uzbek agents had been located and 
that they had departed, and that it would guarantee the safety 
of all those attending the conference.

The second incident occurred in June when the Uzbekistan  
Government, acting under the Minsk Convention of the 
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on cooperation among 
the security services of CIS member states, requested the 
arrest of two Uzbek dissidents, Murat Dzhurayev and Dzhakhangir 
Mametov, on charges of murder.  Kazakhstani authorities 
permitted Uzbek agents to arrest Dzhurayev and another Uzbek 
dissident, Erkin Ashurov (but not Mametov), and take them to 
Uzbekistan.  Once in Uzbekistan, Uzbek authorities dropped the 
murder charges and instead charged the two with distributing 
illegal literature and conspiring to overthrow the Government 
of Uzbekistan.  In August the Uzbekistan National Security 
Service asked the Kazakhstani KNB to interrogate four 
Kazakhstani citizens whose names were found among belongings of 
the arrested dissidents.  The KNB interrogated the four but did 
not arrest or otherwise harass them.  Kazakhstani human rights 
groups and several Supreme Soviet deputies protested the 

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Government interference and pressure compromise the court 
system's independence.  During the campaign for the March 
Supreme Soviet elections, local officials in a number of areas 
around the country pressured local courts to rule against 
opposition candidates who contested the refusal of local 
election commissions to register them as candidates.  Several 
independent trade unions have claimed that local courts often 
rule against them and that they can expect a fairer hearing if 
they appeal to a higher court.

There are three levels in the court system:  the local level, 
the oblast (province) level, and the Supreme Court.  The 
President recommends nominees for the Supreme Court for Supreme 
Soviet approval.  Heads of oblasts recommend nominees for 
oblast soviet (council) approval.  Regional or city councils 
elect, at least nominally, lower level judges.  Judges are 
appointed for 10-year terms.  The Constitutional Court, 
established in 1992, interprets the Constitution, resolves 
legal conflicts between oblasts, and rules on interethnic 
problems.  The law provides for due process, including the 
right to a public trial, the right to counsel, the right to 
call witnesses for the defense, and the right to appeal a 
decision to a higher court.

Local courts try less serious crimes, such as petty theft and 
vandalism (hooliganism, in the old terminology).  Oblast-level 
courts handle more serious crimes, such as murder, grand theft, 
and organized criminal activities.  The oblast courts may 
handle cases in rural areas where no local courts are 
organized.  Judgments of the local courts may be appealed to 
the oblast-level courts, while those of the oblast courts may 
be appealed to the Supreme Court.  A special arbitration court 
handles disputes between state enterprises.

There were no known political prisoners in 1994.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The KNB and Ministry of Internal Affairs, with the concurrence 
of the Procuracy, may arbitrarily interfere with privacy, 
family, home, and correspondence, a legacy of Soviet rule.  The 
law requires criminal police, who remain part of the internal 
security structure, to obtain a search warrant from a 
prosecutor before conducting a search, but they sometimes 
search without a warrant.  There were credible reports in 1994 
that police occasionally planted evidence.

The KNB has the right to monitor telephone calls and mail, but 
under the law it must inform the Procuracy within 3 days of 
such activity.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution and the 1991 press law provide for freedom of 
the press.  The Government continued to own and control 
printing and distribution facilities and to subsidize 
periodicals, including many supposedly "independent" ones.  
However, the opposition press, while dependent on government 
control of printing supplies, was not subject to intimidation 
or harassment.  Although self-censorship continued, some print 
media increasingly criticized Supreme Soviet and presidential 
decisions, the Government's performance, and official 
corruption.  The independent newspaper, Karavan, was 
particularly successful in expanding its circulation (to about 
300,000) and sharply criticized many government policies and 
actions.  Most political opposition groups issue their own 

There are many radio and television companies, both 
governmental and private, but the Government controls 
broadcasting facilities.  In April President Nazarbayev 
restructured state television and radio into a corporation, 
which encouraged independent stations to join it in exchange 
for national broadcast time.  Fearing government control, 
leaders of independent television and radio immediately 
objected to joining the corporation.  Their opposition, in 
which some members of Parliament and even the Ministry of Press 
and Mass Media joined, was strong enough to prevent the 
corporation from gaining control over the independents.

During the parliamentary election campaign in the winter and 
early spring of 1994, the television station Telemax went off 
the air for several days when local authorities, upset by 
broadcasts critical of Almaty's mayor and other city officials, 
shut off electricity to the station.  The station owners moved 
to an undisclosed location and continued to broadcast criticism 
of the local authorities.  Later in the spring, when the 
independent television station from which Telemax had purchased 
broadcast time expanded its programming and took back the 
broadcast time, Telemax went off the air, but its affiliate 
radio stations continue to broadcast news critical of local and 
national government.

Laws insulting the President and Supreme Soviet deputies remain 
on the books, but according to government officials the 
provisions for punishment for "insulting" have been dropped.  
No one was prosecuted for "insulting" in 1994.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and 
association, but there are some significant restrictions.  
Local authorities must approve a demonstration 10 days in 
advance, or else they consider it illegal.  The court sentenced 
five organizers of a demonstration outside the Supreme Soviet 
in May to 3- to 15-day jail terms for organizing an illegal 

To participate in elections, a political party must register 
with the Government.  To register, a party must submit a list 
of at least 3,000 members from a minimum of 11 (out of 19) 
different oblasts.  The list must provide personal information 
about the members, including date and place of birth, address, 
and place of employment.  Submitting such personal data to the 
Government recalls for many Kazakhstanis old-style KGB tactics 
and inhibits them from joining parties.  The nationalist and 
pan-Turkic Alash Party and the Social Democratic Party have 
refused to register on the principle that they should not have 
to submit personal information about their members to the 
Government.  Members of unregistered parties may run for 
elected office as individuals but not as party members.

Organizations or movements that conduct public activity, hold 
public meetings, participate in conferences, or have bank 
accounts must also register with the Government.  Registration 
on the local level requires a minimum of 10 members and on the 
national level a minimum of 10 members in at least 11 oblasts.  
The Government's refusal to register religious and ethnic-based 
parties and movements is not a stated policy, although some 
officials refer to Article 55 of the Constitution, which 
prohibits public associations proclaiming or demonstrating in 
practice racist, nationalist, social, or religious intolerance 
or elitist exclusivity.  In November the Ministry of Justice 
suspended the activities of the Semirechye Cossack Society for 
paramilitary activities and promotion of ethnic intolerance.  
The Society organized a peaceful but unauthorized demonstration 
in Almaty on November 19.  Two organizers were arrested.

According to the new Civil Code adopted in December, political 
parties, trade unions, and social organizations "engaged in 
political activity" are prohibited from receiving financial 
assistance from foreign sources.

Government officials have justified decisions not to register 
ethnic-based parties and movements on the grounds that their 
activities could spark ethnic violence.  Unregistered parties 
and movements are, nonetheless, able to hold meetings and 
publish newspapers, although these groups frequently appear to 
have more difficulty obtaining printing supplies than other 

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the 
various denominations  worship without government 
interference.  However, a new Civil Code passed by the Supreme 
Soviet in December requires state authorities to approve the 
appointment of the Kazakhstan director of any religious 
organization operating in Kazakhstan.

The Islamic Mufti and the Russian Orthodox Archbishop have 
appeared together publicly to promote religious and ethnic 
harmony.  Foreign missionaries, unwelcome to some Orthodox and 
Muslim Kazakhstanis, have complained of occasional harassment 
by some low-level government bureaucrats.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides for the right to emigrate, which is 
respected in practice.

The propiska system of residence permits, a holdover from the 
Soviet era, remained in effect in 1994.  Since 1992, citing 
ecological and health reasons, the Almaty city administration 
has limited the transfer of residences in Almaty to people 
already living there.  According to human rights activists, the 
rising demand to live in Almaty (because of its greater 
relative affluence) has resulted in a bribery market for 
propiskas ranging from $1,000 to $3,000.  Obtaining a propiska 
for other parts of the country was generally routine.  There is 
considerable favoritism toward ethnic Kazakhs in the 
allocational transfer of residences.  For example, the Almaty 
city administration is more likely to give permission to sell 
or trade a residence if a Kazakh is to receive the property.

An exit visa is required for travel abroad, although refusals 
are exceptional.  There have been reports of some officials 
demanding bribes for exit visas.

The Government accords special treatment to Kazakhs and their 
families who fled Kazakhstan during Stalin's time and wish to 
return.  Kazakhs in this category are encouraged to return to 
Kazakhstan, are entitled to Kazakhstani citizenship, and may 
retain any other citizenship they may already have.  Anyone 
else, including ethnic Kazakhs who are not considered refugees 
from the Stalin era, such as the descendants of Kazakhs who 
moved to Mongolia during the previous century, must apply for 
permission to return and must renounce any other citizenship.  
Ethnic Kazakh citizens already living in Kazakhstan, as well as 
nonethnic Kazakh citizens, are not permitted to obtain another 
citizenship without losing their Kazakhstani citizenship.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

While the Constitution provides for this right, the Government 
infringed it in fraudulent March 7 elections for the Supreme 
Soviet and local councils (maslikhats).  In December 1993, the 
Supreme Soviet voted to advance the date of parliamentary and 
local elections (scheduled to be held at 5-year intervals) from 
autumn 1994 to March 7.  This left little time for the 
Government to prepare a new election law and for parties and 
candidates to prepare election campaigns.

The Government invited the Conference on Security and 
Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) and other international observers 
to monitor the elections.  The CSCE observers concluded that 
the elections did not meet international standards for free and 
fair elections for the following reasons:

     (1) the requirement that voters choose about 20 percent of 
the deputies from a list of names chosen by the President (the 
"state list");

     (2) manipulation of errors and ambiguities in the hastily 
written election law in favor of progovernment candidates;

     (3) the stuffing of ballot boxes in many locations;

     (4) denial of the right to register many opposition 

     (5) court support for the refusal of election commissions 
to register opposition candidates; appeals to the 
Constitutional and Supreme Courts were ineffective;

     (6) the abetting of election rigging by the Central 
Electoral Commission, thus compromising its integrity;

     (7) a number of polling places were "closed" to observers;

     (8) and harassment and intimidation by the authorities of 
independent media which were critical of the activities of 
local election commissions, particularly in Almaty and 

There is some irony in the fact that this fraud, presumably 
intended to ensure a more progovernment and compliant 
Parliament, was somewhat counterproductive because so many of 
those elected showed more loyalty on some issues to their 
regions (which were suffering from the economic crisis) than to 
the central Government.  For example, in June Parliament 
registered a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet's economic 
and social policies.

In October Parliament rejected President Nazarbayev's proposed 
candidate for deputy prime minister for political and social 
affairs on the grounds that he was corrupt, and then voted down 
a second candidate because he was perceived to be too young to 
occupy such a senior position.  Late in 1994, parliamentary 
opposition forced President Nazarbayev to abandon his bid to 
create a bicameral legislature, with a more malleable upper 
house.  Parliamentary opposition to the Government's policies 
comes from both genuine democratic reformers and from 
conservatives who are protecting parochial or local interests.  
On some issues they join forces.  The combined effect of this 
opposition has been to make the Parliament more independent.

The next presidential elections (also held every 5 years) are 
scheduled for 1996.  All men and women above the age of 18 have 
the right to vote.  President Nazarbayev was elected by 98 
percent of the vote in an uncontested election in 1991.

The number of seats in the Supreme Soviet is 177:  135 elected 
directly, and 42 (2 from each oblast or special administrative 
area) elected from the "state list" of candidates chosen by the 

There are four legally registered political parties:  the 
Socialist Party; the People's Congress Party (formed by poet 
and environmentalist Olzhas Suleymenov); the National 
Democratic Party (the political arm of the Kazakh nationalist 
movement Azat); and the Communist Party, reregistered in July 
1994.  The Union of People's Unity (SNEK), a registered social 
movement created by President Nazarbayev to support his 
presidency, has the largest number of deputies of any group in 
Parliament.  Only about 80 members of the Supreme Soviet are 
affiliated with a political party, movement, or social 
organization.  President Nazarbayev, although officially not a 
member of any party, has accepted the formal endorsement of the 

Unregistered opposition parties and movements include the 
Social Democrats, the Alash Party, and the conservative Kazakh 
nationalist Republican Party.  The Government has refused to 
register any party or movement whose platforms it claims will 
foment ethnic tensions.

There are no legal restrictions on women participating in 
politics and government.  Owing to prejudice and traditional 
attitudes, however, few women are professionally active in 
these fields.  Of 177 Supreme Soviet deputies, 22 are women.  
The Constitution guarantees equal political rights for all 
citizens regardless of ethnicity or sex.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The most active of several local human rights organizations are 
the Helsinki Watch Group and the Kazakhstan-American Human 
Rights Association, which operated without government 
interference.  The Helsinki Watch Group has limited 
organizational and financial means to observe, contest, and 
report human rights violations.  The Kazakhstan-American Human 
Rights Association receives assistance from the Union of 
Councils of Soviet Jews.  The two groups cooperate closely on 
human rights issues, such as the arrest of Uzbek dissidents 
(see Section l.d.).  The Kazakhstan-American Human Rights 
Association sponsored human rights conferences in Almaty in May 
and in November in which government officials and 
parliamentarians participated.

The Government permitted representatives of foreign 
nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) dealing with human rights 
and the environment to visit and meet with opposition and 
environmentalist groups as well as some government officials.  
However, Kazakhstan law currently has no provision for 
registering foreign NGO's.  In November the Government signed 
an agreement formalizing registration of U.S. NGO's.  For 
periods of time in 1994, the Government interfered with 
telephone and facsimile (fax) communications of the 
International Republican Institute, the National Democratic 
Institute, and Isar, an environmental NGO.  The new Civil Code 
prohibits organizations, including political parties and trade 
unions, from receiving financial assistance from foreign 
sources.  Some government officials assert that the work of 
foreign NGO's with Kazakhstani political and labor groups 
promotes instability.  Some human rights observers complained 
that the Government monitored their movements and telephone 

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

Article 1 of the Constitution states, "Citizens of the Republic 
of Kazakhstan are guaranteed equality of rights and freedoms, 
regardless of race; nationality; sex; language; social, 
property, and official status; social origin; place of 
residence; attitude to religion; convictions; membership in a 
public association; as well as previously incurred criminal 
punishment.  Any form of discrimination against citizens is 


There is no legal discrimination against women, but women are 
severely underrepresented in higher positions in government and 
state enterprises and overrepresented in low-paying and some 
menial jobs.  Women are disadvantaged in promotions, but they 
generally have access to higher education.

According to human rights groups, there is considerable 
domestic violence against women, and wife beating is common, 
particularly because of widespread alcohol abuse among men.  
Police are often reluctant to intervene in cases of spousal 
abuse, considering it to be the "family's business," unless 
they believe the physical abuse is life-threatening.  The 
maximum sentence for wife beating is 3 years, but few such 
cases are prosecuted.  The Government has not specifically 
addressed the problem as one requiring new policies or 
government actions.


The Government is committed in principle to children's rights, 
but, as in many other areas, the absence of a tradition of 
civil liberties, together with budget stringencies, severely 
limits its effectiveness in dealing with children's rights 
issues.  There is no established pattern of governmental or 
societal abuse against children.  There were credible reports 
of the use of child labor during harvests, particularly during 
the cotton harvest in the south (see Section 6.d.).

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Kazakhstan's population of about 17 million is about 44 percent 
Kazakhs and 36 percent Russians, with Slavs and many other 
ethnic groups represented.

The Government continued to discriminate in favor of ethnic 
Kazakhs in employment, in government and state-controlled 
enterprises, as well as in education, housing, and other 
areas.  Although some officials are Slavs, ethnic Kazakhs 
increasingly predominate in government and in higher positions 
in state enterprises.  The percentage of non-Kazakhs in the new 
Supreme Soviet increased, however, from 22 percent to 40 
percent.  President Nazarbayev has publicly emphasized that all 
nationalities are welcome in Kazakhstan, but most non-Kazakhs 
are anxious about what they perceive as expanding preferences 
for ethnic Kazakhs.  Many ethnic Kazakhs, however, believe they 
were second-class citizens under Russian domination for a 
period of 200 years and that they must take affirmative action 
to reverse this.  Under Communist rule, Soviet authorities 
repressed Kazakh and other minority languages and cultures, and 
ethnic Slavs had better opportunities for advancement.

Most of the population speaks Russian; only about half of the 
ethnic Kazakhs can speak Kazakh fluently.  The January 1993 
Constitution provides that Kazakh would be the state language, 
that Russian would be the language of interethnic 
communication, and that there would be a transition period (the 
duration of which was left undefined) for the majority of the 
population to learn Kazakh.  The Government is encouraging more 
education of children in the Kazakh language but has done 
little to provide Kazakh-language education for adults.  
Although still an important political issue, the economic 
crisis, corruption, and the demand of many ethnic Russians for 
dual Kazakhstan-Russian citizenship eclipsed the issue of 

At the end of 1994, Kazakhstan and Russia initialed agreements 
that established broad legal rights for the citizens of one 
country living on the territory of the other, and provided for 
expeditious naturalization for citizens of one country who move 
to the other.  These agreements--which remain to be 
ratified--represent a pragmatic, positive step toward 
resolution of the difficult issue of citizenship and may well 
reduce pressure for dual citizenship.

     People with Disabilities

According to the Constitution, citizens with disabilities are 
entitled to assistance from the State.  As a result of 
inflation, people relying on state disability benefits 
experienced severe economic hardship.  There is no legal 
discrimination against people with disabilities, but in 
practice employers do not give them equal consideration.  The 
Government so far has not legislated or otherwise mandated 
accessibility for the disabled.  Issues affecting the disabled 
are low priorities in the current economic crisis.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The 1993 Labor Code, along with the Constitution, provides for 
basic workers' rights, including the right to organize and the 
right to strike.  The law does not, however, provide mechanisms 
to protect workers who join independent unions from threats or 
harassment by enterprise management or from the state-run 
unions.  Kazakhstan joined the International Labor Organization 
(ILO) in 1993, but the Supreme Soviet has not yet ratified any 
ILO conventions.  Further, according to the new Civil Code, 
trade unions would be forbidden to accept financial assistance 
from foreign sources.

Most workers remained members of the system of state-sponsored 
trade unions that was established during the Communist period.  
Membership was obligatory.  At most enterprises, the 
state-sponsored unions continue to deduct automatically 
1 percent of each worker's wage as dues.  In addition, the 
government pension fund withholds 30.2 percent of each worker's 
wage, and the state unions, which have the authority to 
allocate funds for disability and sick pay, housing, and the 
use of vacation retreats, take 7.3 percent.  The state unions 
under the Communist system were, and for the most part still 
are, organs of the Government, and use their power coercively 
to enforce labor discipline and to discourage workers from 
forming or joining independent unions.

The Constitution entitles workers to join or form unions of 
their own choosing and to stop the automatic dues deductions 
for the state unions.  To obtain legal status, an independent 
union must apply for registration with the local judicial 
authority at the oblast level and with the Ministry of 
Justice.  Registration is generally lengthy, difficult, and 
expensive.  The decision to register a union appears to be 
arbitrary, with no published criteria.  Judicial authorities 
and the Ministry of Justice have the authority to cancel a 
union's registration.

Workers who have joined independent trade unions are subjected 
to various forms of harassment, including dismissal, transfer 
to lower paying or lower status jobs, threats, and 
intimidation.  State unions often take an active part in the 
harassment to inhibit challenges to their hegemony and to 
pressure new unions.

The independent unions have suffered because national laws are 
not enforced at local levels.  For example, in Tekele, after 
nearly 2 years of court battles, the Tekele mine construction 
administration is still automatically withholding dues for the 
state-sponsored union from members of the Independent Miners' 
Union of Tekele.

The Independent Trade Union Center of Kazakhstan claims 
membership of about 500,000 out of a total work force of about 

Unions have the legal right to strike, and several took place 
during 1994.

Many enterprises in 1994 continued to pay part or all wages in 
scrip rather than in cash, a practice at odds with Article 3 of 
ILO Convention 95 on the protection of wages, which prohibits 
payment of wages other than in the legal currency without the 
express consent of the workers.  Enterprise directors claimed 
that the enterprises were not being paid in cash by their 
traditional trading partners in other parts of the former 
Soviet Union, which were also experiencing cash flow 
difficulties as a result of the general economic crisis.  The 
scrip was often not accepted at stores or was accepted only at 
devalued levels.

By law, unions may freely join federations or confederations 
and affiliate with international bodies.  Most independent 
trade unions in Kazakhstan belong to the Independent Trade 
Union Center (ITUC) headquartered in Almaty.  The Independent 
Miners' Federation of Kazakhstan, along with the State Miners' 
Union of Karaganda, are members of the Miners' International 
Federation.  The unions belonging to the ITUC are not members 
of international federations but do maintain contacts with 
European and U.S. trade union federations.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

There are significant limits on the right to organize and 
bargain collectively.  Most industry remained state owned in 
1994 and was subject to the state's production orders.  
Although collective bargaining rights are not spelled out in 
the law, in some instances unions successfully negotiated 
agreements with management.  If a union's demands are not 
acceptable to management, it may present those demands to an 
arbitration commission comprised of management, union 
officials, and independent technical experts.  There is no 
legal protection against antiunion discrimination.

There are no export processing zones.  Several free economic 
zones enjoy all the privileges of export processing zones, as 
well as other tax privileges and abatements, but labor 
conditions there appear to be no different than elsewhere in 

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced labor.  In some places, however, 
compulsory labor is used.  Some persons were required to 
provide labor or the use of privately owned equipment with no, 
or very low, compensation to help gather the annual grain 

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment is 16.  A child under age 16 may 
work only with the permission of the local administration and 
the trade union in the enterprise in which the child would 
work.  Such permission is rarely granted.  Abuse of child labor 
is generally not a problem, except that child labor was 
reportedly used, especially during the cotton harvest in the 

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The official minimum wage, set by the Supreme Soviet, is about 
$3.70 (200 tenge) per month, far from sufficient for a worker 
and family to live on.  Rampant inflation made fixing and 
enforcing a minimum wage unrealistic.

The legal maximum workweek is 48 hours, although most 
enterprises maintain a 40-hour workweek, with at least a 
24-hour rest period.

Working and safety conditions in the industrial sector are 
substandard.  Safety consciousness is low.  Workers in 
factories usually do not wear protective clothing, such as 
goggles and hard hats, and work in conditions of poor 
visibility and ventilation.  Management largely ignores 
regulations concerning occupational health and safety, 
enforceable by the Ministry of Labor and the state-sponsored 
unions.  Lack of management concern and economic dislocation 
have resulted in shortages of safety equipment.  Workers, 
including miners, have no legal right to remove themselves from 
dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued 


[end of document]


Department Seal

Return to 1994 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.