A US-based watchdog is concerned about Kazakhstan's qualifications to sit on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), ahead of a General Assembly vote November 12 that will decide which countries represent the international community on the commission for three years.
In an October 18 report, Freedom House singled out Kazakhstan -- which has energetically pursued its membership bid -- as one of seven states that the watchdog “does not recommend” for membership on the UNHRC, whose rules say that members should “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”
Kazakhstan is in the company of Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia; Gabon, Pakistan, the UAE, and Venezuela. Freedom House says all are unsuitable candidates in view of their dubious human rights records. Astana insists that upholding human rights and political freedoms are a priority, and denies any systematic violations.
Freedom House -- which rates Kazakhstan Not Free in its annual Freedom in the World report -- singled the Central Asian state out over political, media, and religious freedoms.
Kazakhstan is “is not an electoral democracy,” the watchdog said. It pointed to parliamentary elections this year “deemed illegitimate by the international community due to opposition suppression and voter fraud,” and last year’s “widely criticized” presidential election in which long-serving President Nursultan Nazarbayev won a 95.5-percent landslide amid an opposition boycott.
Freedom House also pointed to fatal unrest in Zhanaozen last year, the jailing of opposition leader Vladimir Kozlov over that violence in a “politicized process,” harassment of independent media, and the deportation of failed asylum seekers to countries where they could face torture.
Launching Kazakhstan’s UNHRC bid last year, then Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev described human rights as a “strategic priority” and said Astana had “steadfastly worked to realize basic human rights and freedoms.” He singled out the country’s National Human Rights Action Plan and Gender Equality Strategy; legal reform; and cooperation with the UN to tackle torture.
Astana has taken “extensive measures” to improve its system for upholding human rights, Ambassador-at-Large Usen Suleymen told the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) last month, which have “brought Kazakhstan closer to the EU and OSCE standards.”