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Title:  Kazakstan Human Rights Practices, 1995  
Author:  U.S. Department of State   
Date:  March 1996   
 
 
 
 
                                KAZAKSTAN 
 
 
Kazakstan is a constitutional republic with a strong presidency.  In 
March, following a Constitutional Court decision that found the March 
1994 parliamentary elections unconstitutional, the Parliament was 
dissolved.  Throughout most of 1995, Kazakstan had no legislature; the 
country was governed through decree by the President and Cabinet of 
Ministers.  President Nursultan Nazarbayev remained the country's 
central political figure, and his term was extended by referendum until 
the year 2000.  A new Constitution was adopted, also by referendum, that 
concentrates power in the presidency, permitting it to dominate 
legislative and judicial institutions.  International observers judged 
the conduct of the December parliamentary elections to have been an 
improvement over the March 1994 elections.  However, the powers of the 
new Parliament are more limited than those of its predecessor.  The 
Constitution does not provide adequately for some rights.  The problem 
of corruption also hindered progress toward democracy and a free-market 
economy. 
 
The Ministry of Internal Affairs supervises the criminal police, who are 
poorly paid and widely believed to be corrupt.  The Committee for 
National Security (KNB, successor to the Soviet KGB) sought to 
legitimize its role by focusing on efforts to combat terrorism, 
organized crime, and official corruption.  Attempts to build a small, 
modern army were impeded by severe financial problems, the flight of 
ethnic Russian officers, widespread draft-dodging, and the brutal hazing 
of conscripts.  There were reports of human rights abuses by members of 
the security forces, including surveillance, break-ins, and the beating 
of an opposition figure. 
 
Kazakstan is rich in natural resources, chiefly petroleum and minerals, 
but its state-dominated economy continued to decline in 1995.  Although 
the Government achieved notable success (beginning in the latter half of 
1994) in stabilizing the local currency (tenge) and slowing inflation, 
structural reforms lagged.  Both the agricultural sector, traditionally 
accounting for over a third of national employment and production, and 
large-scale industrial complexes have been slow to privatize.  The per 
capita gross domestic product was about $900.  
 
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens.  In 
its fourth year of independence, despite a number of challenges, 
Kazakstan has in place important elements of participatory democracy.  
Citizens enjoy basic rights of freedom of religion, speech and assembly.  
Nonetheless, the establishment of democratic institutions suffered a 
number of setbacks.  The legal structure, including the Constitution 
adopted in August, does not fully safeguard human rights.  The judiciary 
remains under the control of the President and the executive branch, and 
corruption is deeply rooted.  The right of citizens to change their 
Government was infringed.  Members of the security forces sometimes beat 
or otherwise abused detainees, and prison conditions were harsh and 
continued to deteriorate.  The Government generally respected freedom of 
speech and the press, although the media practiced self-censorship, and 
the Government maintained control of printing facilities and supplies.  
Freedom of assembly is sometimes restricted, and freedom of association 
and religion, while generally respected, were sometimes hindered by 
complicated registration requirements for organizations and political 
parties.  The authorities sometimes infringed citizens' right to 
privacy.  The Government practiced some positive discrimination in favor 
of ethnic Kazaks.  Domestic violence against women remained a problem.  
There was some discrimination against women and the disabled.  The 
Government tried to limit the influence of independent trade unions, 
both directly and through its support for state-sponsored unions. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1   Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
There were no reports of political killings. 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
The Constitution adopted in August states that "no one must be subject 
to torture, violence, or other treatment or punishment that is cruel or 
humiliating to human dignity."  However, there were credible reports 
that police beat or treated detainees abusively to obtain confessions.  
Training standards for police are very low, and individual law 
enforcement officials are often poorly supervised.  Even President 
Nazarbayev noted during a September speech to the Government anticrime 
task force that "in people's minds, the word 'police' is associated with 
cruelty, arbitrariness, and bribery."  Human rights monitors alleged 
that a former parliamentary deputy (and prominent human rights activist) 
was badly beaten by security forces in April during the runup to the 
presidential referendum, and again in August, after he participated in a 
demonstration against the new Constitution. 
 
Prison conditions were harsh and continued to deteriorate, due to 
diminishing resources and an increase in the number of persons 
imprisoned.  The Kazakstan-American Human Rights  
 
Bureau, an independent local human rights group, estimated that there 
were 91,000 prisoners in facilities designed for 60,000.  This 
overcrowding, combined with an inadequate prison diet and a lack of 
medical supplies and personnel, contributed to the outbreak of 
tuberculosis, hepatitis, and other diseases.  Eleven thousand prisoners 
are believed to suffer from major illnesses.  There were press reports 
about the death of several prisoners in the north of Kazakstan due to 
extreme summer heat.  Prison guards, who are poorly paid, steal food and 
medicines intended for prisoners.  Violent crime among prisoners is 
routine. 
 
Prisoners are allowed only one visit every 6 months, but additional 
visits may be granted in emergency situations.  Juveniles are kept in 
separate facilities.  The Government permits monitoring of prison 
conditions by local media and human rights groups. 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
The Government was in the process of reforming the legal system 
throughout 1995.  Much of the old Soviet legal system remained in force 
while new laws were being prepared to bring the legal system into accord 
with the Constitution adopted in August.  The law sanctions pretrial 
detention.  According to the Constitution, police may hold a detainee 
for 72 hours before bringing charges.  After 72 hours, police may 
continue to hold the detainee for 10 days with the approval of a 
prosecutor.  In practice, police routinely hold detainees, with the 
sanction of a prosecutor, for weeks or even months without bringing 
charges. 
 
There is no legal provision for bail; defendants remain in detention 
until trial.  The maximum length of pretrial detention is 1 year.  
According to the Constitution, persons detained, arrested, or accused of 
committing a crime have the right to the assistance of a defense lawyer 
from the moment of detention, arrest, or accusation--a right generally 
respected in practice.  Detainees may also appeal the legality of 
detention or arrest to the prosecutor before trial.  If defendants 
cannot afford an attorney, the Constitution stipulates that the State 
will provide one free of charge.  Although some lawyers are reluctant to 
defend clients unpopular with the Government, there were no reports of 
Government reprisals against attorneys. 
 
The Government does not employ forced exile.  
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
Government interference and pressure compromised the court system's 
independence throughout 1995--a situation codified in the new 
Constitution's creation of a judiciary under the control of the 
President and the executive branch.  At year's end, the judicial system 
was in the process of being restructured to bring it into line with 
provisions of the Constitution.  In December the President issued a 
decree, with the force of constitutional law, "On Courts and the Status 
of Judges in the Republic of Kazakstan." 
 
There are three levels in the court system:  the local level, the oblast 
(provincial) level, and the Supreme Court.  According to the 
Constitution, the President proposes to the upper house of Parliament 
(the Senate) nominees for the Supreme Court (recommended by the "Highest 
Judicial Council," a body chaired by the President, which includes the 
chairperson of the Constitutional Council, the chairperson of the 
Supreme Court, the Procurator General, the Minister of Justice, 
senators, judges and other persons appointed by the President).  The 
President appoints oblast judges (nominated by the Highest Judicial 
Council) and local level judges from a list presented by the Ministry of 
Justice, based on recommendations from the "Qualification Collegium of 
Justice," an autonomous institution made up of deputies from the lower 
house of Parliament (the Majilis), judges, public prosecutors, and 
others appointed by the President.  Judges are appointed for 10-year 
terms.  The Constitution abolished the Constitutional Court and 
established a Constitutional Council--three of its seven members, 
including the chairman, are directly appointed by the President.  The 
council rules on election and referendum challenges, interprets the 
Constitution, and determines the constitutionality of laws adopted by 
Parliament. 
 
Local courts try less serious crimes, such as petty theft and vandalism.  
Oblast courts handle more serious crimes, such as murder, grand theft, 
and organized criminal activities.  The oblast courts may also 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 is 
also a military court.  According to the December decree, specialized 
and extraordinary courts can also be created--for example, economic, 
taxation, family, juvenile, and administrative courts--which have the 
status of oblast and local courts.  The Constitution and existing law 
establish the necessary procedures for a fair trial.  Trials are public, 
with the exception of instances in which an open hearing could result in 
secrets being divulged, or when the private life or personal family 
secrets of a citizen have to be protected. 
 
According to the Constitution, defendants have the right to be present, 
the right to counsel (at public expense if needed), and the right to be 
heard in court and call witnesses for the defense.  Defendants enjoy a 
presumption of innocence, are protected from self-incrimination, and 
have the right to appeal a decision to a higher court.  According to the 
December decree, legal proceedings are to be conducted in the state 
language, Kazak, although Russian can also be used officially in the 
courts.  Proceedings can also be held in the language of the majority of 
the population in a particular area.   
 
However, the problem of corruption is evident at every stage and level 
of the judicial process.  Judges are poorly paid; the Government has not 
made a vigorous effort to root out corruption in the judiciary.  
Anecdotal evidence stemming from individual cases suggests that judges 
solicit bribes from participants in trials and rule accordingly. 
 
There was one known political prisoner.  In Petropavlosk in May, 
journalist Boris Suprynuk, a Russian citizen, was sentenced to 2 years' 
imprisonment for "insulting" a public prosecutor.  The alleged 
"insulting" and "use of bad language" occurred during a previous trial 
in which Suprynuk was sentenced to 2 years' imprisonment for inciting 
interethnic hostility, a decision later overturned by the Supreme Court.  
Suprynuk appealed the verdict and the sentence and is imprisoned in 
Kokshetau. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
The Constitution guarantees that everyone has the right to 
"confidentiality of personal deposits and savings, correspondence, 
telephone conversations, postal, telegraph, and other messages."  
Limitation of this right is allowed "only in the cases and according to 
the procedure directly established by law."  However, the KNB and 
Ministry of Internal Affairs, with the concurrence of the procuracy, can 
and do arbitrarily interfere with privacy, family, home, and 
correspondence.  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.  The KNB has the right to monitor telephone calls and mail, 
but under the law it must inform the procuracy within 24 hours 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 
which were supposedly independent.  The potential for government 
control, as well as reports of specific instances of government 
officials making suggestions about what a journalist should and should 
not cover, resulted in widespread media self-censorship. 
 
One such instance involved Karavan, the most independent newspaper in 
Kazakstan.  The Karavan Publishing Corporation owns a printing press and 
runs its own distribution network.  In March, after Karavan ran critical 
stories about the dissolution of Parliament, a Karavan-owned warehouse 
burned down, destroying 1 million dollars worth of newsprint.  The 
official investigation of the fire blamed a drunken welder, but 
Karavan's independent investigation found evidence of arson.  After the 
fire, Karavan gradually reduced its coverage of political topics. 
 
Despite occasional heavyhandedness, the press was generally permitted to 
criticize government decisions.  For example, many newspapers ran 
critical analyses of the draft Constitution during the officially-
designated "discussion period" in July.  During the run-up to the 
December parliamentary elections, the press also questioned the value of 
establishing a new Parliament with only limited powers.  Official 
corruption remained an acceptable topic for critical coverage. 
 
Most political opposition groups freely issued their own publications.  
One such paper, the Kazak nationalist Kazakhskaya Pravda, was shut down 
by the General Prosecutor's office in April under the charge of 
"inciting ethnic tension."  By September, according to the Minister of 
Press and Mass Media, the paper was allowed to resume publication.  
Several independent newspapers emerged as new voices for the opposition, 
particularly Delovaya Nedelya (Business Week) and Novoye Pokoleniye (New 
Generation). 
 
There are many radio and television companies, both public and private, 
but the Government controls all broadcasting facilities.  An association 
of independent broadcasters of Central Asia exists.  However, government 
officials and representatives of the state television corporation 
continued to call for a state-sponsored union of independent television 
stations.  In the fall, a government decision to reduce the number of 
hours of television broadcasting from Russia was criticized by human 
rights activists, especially in the majority Russian-speaking regions of 
northern Kazakstan.  The Government reversed its decision, and by the 
end of the year, much of the television broadcasting from Russia had 
been restored. 
 
The law against insulting the President and other officials remained on 
the books, and the new Constitution provides for the protection of the 
dignity of the President.  Russian journalist Boris Suprynuk was 
convicted of insulting a public prosecutor and sentenced to 2 years' 
imprisonment (see Section l.e.) in May. 
 
Several laws controlling advertising in the mass media were passed.  One 
law restricts alcohol and tobacco advertising on television, as well as 
"pornography" and "violence" during prime viewing hours.  Another law, 
whose interpretation was still in question, restricted the amount of 
advertising in newspapers to 20 percent of each issue.  The Minister of 
Justice and the Minister of Press and Mass Media interpreted this law as 
restricting paid articles, not commercial advertisements. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The Constitution provides for peaceful assembly and association, but 
there are significant restrictions.  According to a law issued by the 
President in March, organizations must apply to the local authorities 
for a permit to hold a demonstration or public meeting at least 10 days 
in advance, or the activity will be considered illegal.  In August, on 
the grounds that it was an illegal assembly, Almaty authorities broke up 
a demonstration organized to oppose adoption of a new constitution by 
referendum.  Nineteen participants were arrested and fined for 
demonstrating without a proper permit.  In most cases, local officials 
routinely issued necessary permits.  However, human rights activists 
complained that complicated procedures and the 10 day notice period have 
made it more difficult to organize public meetings.  There have been 
complaints that local authorities have insisted on approving the slogans 
on banners before allowing demonstrations to take place.  In addition, 
one human rights activist complained that local authorities agreed to 
issue a permit for a demonstration only if the activity was held in a 
remote location, far from the center of town. 
 
To participate in elections, a political party must register with the 
Government.  There were no major changes regarding the registration of 
political parties in a new electoral code issued prior to the December 
parliamentary elections.  Under current law, a party must submit a list 
of at least 3,000 members from a minimum of 11 (out of 19) oblasts.  The 
list must provide personal information about the members, including date 
and place of birth, address, and place of employment.  For many 
citizens, submitting such personal data to the Government recalls KGB 
tactics and inhibits them from joining parties.  The nationalist 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.  Under current law, members of 
unregistered parties may run for elected office as individuals but not 
as party members. 
 
Organizations or movements that conduct public activities, 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 each of at least 11 oblasts.  In addition, a registration fee 
is required, which many groups consider to be a deterrent to 
registration.  Parties established on a religious basis are prohibited 
by the Constitution.  Government decisions not to register ethnic-based 
parties have been based on the grounds that their activities could spark 
ethnic violence.  The Constitution bans "public associations"--including 
political parties--whose "goals or actions are directed at a violent 
change of the constitutional system, violation of the integrity of the 
Republic, undermining of the security of the State (and), fanning of 
social, racial, national, religious, class and tribal enmity."  
Unregistered parties and movements are, nonetheless, able to hold 
meetings and publish newspapers.  However, in October the Prosecutor 
General took steps against an unregistered ethnic Uighyr organization 
for "illegal organizational and publishing activity."  All of the major 
religious and ethnic groups in Kazakstan have independently functioning 
cultural centers. 
 
In October Nikolai Gunkin, the "chieftan" of the Semirechie (Southern 
Kazakstan) Cossacks, was detained by Almaty police.  According to the 
Government, Gunkin had been convicted of organizing two illegal 
demonstrations and was sentenced in January by a local court to 6 months 
in prison.  Gunkin reportedly fled to Russia after the sentence was 
handed down by the court.  In November Gunkin was sentenced to an 
additional 3 months in a correctional labor colony for organizing these 
unauthorized rallies.  Human rights monitors argued that the prison 
sentences were excessive for the offense of organizing illegal 
demonstrations (described by some Gunkin supporters as Orthodox prayer 
meetings).  Activists also alleged that Gunkin was taken into custody 
because he was considering registering as a candidate for a seat in the 
lower house of Parliament. 
 
The Constitution prohibits foreign political parties and foreign trade 
unions from operating in Kazakstan.  In addition, the Constitution 
prohibits the financing of political parties and trade unions by foreign 
legal entities and citizens, foreign states, or international 
organizations. 
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government 
respects this right in practice.  Various denominations worship without 
government interference.  However, the Constitution also requires that 
the appointment by foreign religious centers of the heads of religious 
associations must be carried out "in coordination with the Government," 
as must the activities of foreign religious associations.  Foreign 
missionaries, unwelcome to some Orthodox and Muslim Kazakstanis, have 
complained of occasional harassment by low-level government bureaucrats. 
 
In April the main Orthodox church in Almaty, during Soviet times a 
museum of atheism, was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church and again 
holds regular services.  The Islamic mufti and the Russian Orthodox 
archbishop have appeared together publicly to promote religious and 
ethnic harmony. 
 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
The Constitution provides for the right to emigrate and the right of 
repatriation; both are respected in practice.  Kazakstanis have the 
right to change their citizenship, but are not permitted to hold dual 
citizenship. 
 
According to the Constitution, everyone who is legally present on the 
territory of the Republic of Kazakstan has the right to move freely on 
its territory and freely choose a place of residence except in cases 
stipulated by law.  This provision formally abolishes the "propiska" 
system of residence permits, a holdover from the Soviet era.  However, 
in the absence of a law to bring legal practice into line with the 
Constitution, citizens were still required to have a "propiska" in order 
to prove legal residence and obtain city services.  Obtaining a 
"propiska" for most of the country was generally routine.  However, 
according to human rights activists, a bribery market in "propiskas" to 
live in Almaty continued to exist, because of Almaty's greater 
affluence. 
 
There were numerous reports of government efforts to restrict the 
movement of foreigners around the country. 
 
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 ethnic 
Kazaks and their families who fled Kazakstan during Stalin's time and 
wish to return.  Kazaks in this category are entitled to citizenship and 
a host of other privileges.  Anyone else, including ethnic Kazaks who 
are not considered refugees from the Stalin era of political repression, 
such as the descendants of Kazaks who moved to Mongolia during the 
previous century, must apply for permission to return. 
 
The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees 
and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees, especially 
with the resettlement in Kazakstan of ethnic Kazaks from Afghanistan now 
living as refugees in Iran.  There were no reports of forced expulsion 
of those having a valid claim to refugee status. 
 
In January 1995, Kazakstan 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 moved to the other.  These agreements 
still require ratification by both Governments. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
Although both Constitutions in force in 1995 provided for a democratic 
government, in practice the Government infringed the right of citizens 
to change their Government.  The Government operated for most of the 
year without a legislature; it extended the term of the President by 
referendum, without an open presidential election; and it promulgated a 
new Constitution, also by referendum, that concentrates power in the 
presidency, permitting it to dominate legislative and judicial 
institutions. 
 
In March, following a Constitutional Court decision that found the March 
1994 parliamentary elections unconstitutional, the Parliament was 
dissolved.  Governing by decree in the absence of a parliament, 
President Nazarbayev called a referendum in April to extend his term of 
office to the year 2000 without a contested presidential election 
(which, according to the Constitution then in force, should have been 
held in 1996).  The referendum was easily approved.  Government 
officials and institutions campaigned openly for the extension of 
President Nazarbayev's term; voting instructions showed voters only how 
to vote "yes," and officials manipulated election returns to indicate 
massive (more than 90 percent) voter turnout and a massively favorable 
(more than 93 percent) vote. 
 
The President then drew up a new constitution for approval by 
referendum.  While theoretically open to changes during a 30-day period 
of public discussion, the final draft did not reflect the suggestions of 
democracy and human rights advocates.  The new Constitution, approved 
overwhelmingly in August--again with voting turnout and results 
exaggerated by the Government--concentrates power in the presidency, 
allowing the President considerable control over the legislature, the 
judiciary, and local government. 
 
There was no legislature after Parliament was dissolved in March until 
elections took place in December for a new, bicameral legislature, which 
took office in January 1996.  The lower house (the Majilis), consisting 
of 67 members, was elected directly.  The upper house (the Senate), with 
47 members, was elected indirectly, by members of oblast and city 
parliaments, with 7 of its members appointed directly by the President.  
The election law required candidates for both houses to meet minimum age 
and education requirements, and to pay a nonrefundable fee of 30,000 
tenge, 50 times the minimum monthly wage or about $500.  The new 
election law did not require Majilis candidates to collect a certain 
number of signatures in order to be placed on the ballot.  Senate 
candidates were required to obtain signatures from 10 percent of the 
members of their local assemblies in order to be placed on the ballot.  
The Central Election Commission registered 49 candidates for the Senate 
and 285 candidates for the Majilis.  Some activists considered the 
election requirements to be a barrier to participation. 
 
A number of candidate registrations were canceled during the weeks prior 
to the elections, either at the request of candidates or for specific 
campaign violations.  One candidate, an ethnic Russian, was removed from 
the ballot after her electoral platform was judged to contain planks 
"inciting ethnic hatred." 
 
Prior to the election, the Central Election Commission accepted foreign 
technical electoral assistance, welcomed international monitors, and 
agreed to modify the election law to allow nonpartisan domestic 
observers to serve as monitors.  Observers noted that some technical 
improvements had been made since the March 1994 parliamentary elections.  
In many districts, officials and citizens made sincere and conscientious 
efforts to carry out fair and transparent elections.  Observers 
nonetheless pointed to flaws in the conduct of the December 9 election.  
Concern was expressed about possible inflation of official voter turnout 
figures; "family voting" (the practice of one individual casting 
multiple ballots on behalf of family members), which violates the law; 
and isolated problems of access for observers. 
 
Unless the Parliament can become an active, autonomous institution in 
Kazakstani politics, the elections will have formed a national 
legislature that exercises only limited meaningful power.  The 
Constitution does not empower the legislature to control the budget, 
initiate changes in the Constitution, or exercise oversight of the 
executive branch.  For instance, should the Parliament fail to pass 
within 30 days an "urgent" bill brought by the President, the President 
may issue the bill by decree.  While the President has broad powers to 
dissolve the Parliament, Parliament can only remove the President for 
disability or high treason, and only with the consent of the 
Constitutional Council, which is largely controlled by the President. 
 
The Constitution significantly constrains the independence of the 
judiciary.  The Constitutional Court has been abolished and replaced by 
a Constitutional Council.  Three of its seven members, including its 
chairman, are directly appointed by the President.  A two-thirds 
majority of the Council is required to overrule a presidential veto of 
its decisions. 
 
The governors of oblasts (the "akims") are selected by the Prime 
Minister but serve at the discretion of the President, who may also 
annul their decisions.  All male and female adult citizens have the 
right to vote.  Membership in political parties or trade unions is 
forbidden to members of the military, employees of national security and 
law enforcement organizations, and judges. 
 
There are no legal restrictions on the participation of women in 
politics, but the persistence of traditional attitudes means that few 
women hold high office or play active parts in political life.  Of 45 
Senate members, 3 are women, and of 67 Majlis members, 9 are women.  
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
Helsinki Watch/Almaty and the Kazakstan-American Human Rights 
Association are the most active of several local human rights 
organizations.  The two cooperate on human rights issues.  Although 
these groups operated largely without government interference, they were 
subject to restrictions on assembly, and limited financial means 
hampered their ability to monitor and report human rights violations.  
Some human rights observers complained that the Government monitored 
their movements and telephone calls.  During the presidential and 
constitutional referendums, local election monitors were often denied 
access to polling places.  Observers also reported some isolated 
problems with access during the December parliamentary elections. 
 
The Government tended to deny or ignore charges of specific human rights 
abuses, such as the beating of an opposition figure during the 
presidential and constitutional referendum campaigns. 
 
The Government permitted international and foreign nongovernmental 
organizations (NGO's) dealing with human rights issues to visit 
Kazakstan and meet with local human rights groups as well as government 
officials.  However, the Constitution forbids "the financing of 
political parties and trade unions by foreign legal entities and 
citizens, foreign states and international organizations."  Further, 
although a civil code introduced this year allowed the registration of 
NGO's, requirements for registration were burdensome and changed 
frequently.  As a result, few NGO's were registered, leaving them 
without legal standing.  Some government officials continued to assert 
that foreign NGO's promote instability. 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The Constitution states that "everyone is equal before law and court.  
No one may be subjected to any discrimination for reasons of origin, 
social position, occupation, property status, sex, race, nationality, 
language, attitude to religion, convictions, place of residence, or any 
other circumstances."  However, the Government has practiced positive 
discrimination in favor of ethnic Kazaks in government employment and, 
according to many citizens, in the economic privatization process. 
 
   Women 
 
According to human rights groups, there is considerable domestic 
violence against women.  Police are often reluctant to intervene in 
cases of spousal abuse, considering it to be the family's business, 
unless they believe the 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.  Law enforcement 
authorities reported 5,829 cases of rape in 1995, about 9 percent of all 
crimes reported.  The punishment for rape can range from 4 to 15 years.  
There is very little coverage of rape in the press, and it is generally 
believed that rapes often go unreported.  
 
There is no legal discrimination against women, but women are severely 
underrepresented in higher positions in state enterprises and 
overrepresented in low-paying and some menial jobs.  Women generally 
have unrestricted access to higher education. 
 
   Children 
 
The Government is committed in principle to children's rights, but, as 
in many other areas, budget stringencies and other priorities severely 
limit its effectiveness in dealing with children's issues.  Although the 
law provides for free education and medical care for children, the lack 
of government resources means that many do not receive adequate medical 
care, and educational institutes do not have the money needed to pay 
teacher salaries and obtain necessary supplies.  There is no established 
pattern of governmental or societal abuse against children.  Rural 
children normally work during harvests (see Section 6.d.). 
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
Citizens with disabilities are entitled by law to assistance from the 
State.  There is no legal discrimination against people with 
disabilities, but in practice, employers do not give them equal 
consideration.  Laws mandate the provision of accessibility to public 
buildings and commercial establishments for the disabled, but these laws 
are not enforced.  Disabled persons are a low priority for the 
Government. 
 
   National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
Kazakstan's population of about 17 million consists of approximately 44 
percent Kazaks and 36 percent Russians, with many other ethnic groups 
represented. 
 
The Government continued to discriminate in favor of ethnic Kazaks in 
government employment where ethnic Kazaks predominate, as well as in 
education, housing, and other areas.  However, the Government has 
continued to back away from its "Kazakification" campaign of the first 
year of independence.  President Nazarbayev has publicly emphasized that 
all nationalities are welcome in Kazakstan, but many non-Kazaks are 
anxious about what they perceive as expanding preferences for ethnic 
Kazaks.  Many ethnic Kazaks, however, believe affirmative action is 
needed to reverse 200 years of Russian domination. 
 
Most of the population speaks Russian; only about half of ethnic Kazaks 
speak Kazak fluently.  The Constitution adopted in August states that 
the Kazak language is the state language of the republic.  According to 
the Constitution, the Russian language is officially used on a basis 
equal with that of the Kazak language in organizations and bodies of 
local self-administration.  This slight increase in the status of the 
Russian language (from its previous status as the republic's "language 
of interethnic communication") did not satisfy some  ethnic Russian 
Kazakstanis who had hoped that Russian would be designated as a second 
state language.  An article in the first draft of the Constitution 
(which was later dropped) prohibited limiting the rights and freedoms of 
citizens on account of not knowing the state or any other language.  The 
Government is encouraging more education of children in the Kazak 
language, but has done little to provide Kazak-language education for 
adults. 
 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
The Constitution and the current Labor Code (the Ministry of Labor is 
drafting a new labor code, with input from labor) provide for basic 
workers' rights, including the right to organize and the right to 
strike.  Kazakstan joined the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 
1993, but the previous Parliament did not ratify any ILO conventions. 
 
Most workers remained members of state-sponsored trade unions  
established during the Soviet period.  Membership was obligatory.  At 
most enterprises, the state-sponsored unions continued to deduct 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 work with management to enforce 
labor discipline and to discourage workers from forming or joining 
independent unions. 
 
The law gives workers the right to join or form unions of their own 
choosing and to stop the automatic dues deductions for the state unions.  
However, enterprises often continue to withhold dues for the state-
sponsored union in spite of requests from individual workers to stop the 
deduction.  The Independent Trade Union Center of Kazakstan claims 
membership of about 500,000 out of a total work force of about 
5,600,000; however, the actual number of Independent Trade Union members 
is estimated to be closer to 70,000.  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. 
 
The law does not provide mechanisms to protect workers who join 
independent unions from threats or harassment by enterprise management 
or state-run unions.  Members of independent unions have been dismissed, 
transferred to lower paying or lower status jobs, threatened, and 
intimidated.  According to union leaders, state unions work closely with 
management to ensure that independent trade union members are the first 
fired in times of economic downturn.  In one factory, management 
allegedly fostered the creation of a "state union" to challenge an 
independent union which had organized the majority of the work force. 
 
A tripartite agreement between labor, management, and the Government was 
concluded in May, but has had little success in resolving labor 
problems.  Within a few months of signing the tripartite agreement, 
management representatives no longer attended the meetings of the 
tripartite commission. 
 
Unions and individual workers exercised their right to strike in 1995, 
primarily in an effort to recover back wages owed to workers.  Miners' 
strikes in the coal mining region of Karaganda continued throughout the 
year. 
 
Many enterprises continued to pay wages in scrip rather than in cash, a 
practice at odds with Article 3 of ILO Convention 95 on the protection 
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 
Kazakstan belong to the Independent Trade Union Center (ITUC) 
headquartered in Almaty.  The Independent Miners' Federation of 
Kazakstan, 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.  Independent 
unions were particularly concerned about a provision in the Constitution 
which forbids the financing of trade unions by foreign legal entities 
and citizens, foreign states, and international organizations. 
 
   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 and was subject to the 
State's production orders.  Although collective bargaining rights are 
not spelled out in the current 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 Kazakstan. 
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
The Constitution prohibits forced labor except "at the sentence of the 
court or in the conditions of a state of emergency or martial law."  
However, 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 harvest. 
 
   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, although child labor is routinely used in 
agricultural areas, especially during harvest season. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
The official minimum wage was set by the Government at approximately 
$5.00 (300 tenge) per month effective in October.  It is far from 
sufficient to provide a decent living for a worker and family. 
 
The legal maximum workweek is 48 hours, although most enterprises 
maintain a 40-hour workweek, with at least a 24-hour rest period.  The 
Constitution states that labor agreements will stipulate the length of 
working time, vacation days, holidays, and paid annual leave for each 
worker. 
 
Although the Constitution provides for the right to "safe and hygienic 
working conditions," 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.  Workers, including miners, have no legal right to remove 
themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued 
employment.  
 
(###)

[end of document]

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