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Letter to French Foreign Minister Kouchner on Kazakhstan's OSCE Commitments

Six months ago, at the Madrid summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Kazakhstan’s foreign minister publicly committed to several human rights reforms in Kazakhstan. We ask that you raise concern with Kazakhstan’s leadership about the lack of progress toward fulfilling these commitments.

Kazakhstan’s bid for the OSCE chairmanship was controversial because of its poor record of adherence to OSCE human rights principles, as a result of which it was unsuccessful in its chairmanship bids in 2005 and 2006. In response to concerns by participating states about this record, at last year’s OSCE Ministerial Council in Madrid, Foreign Minister Marat Tazhin pledged that Kazakhstan would take several reform steps prior to taking the OSCE chairmanship in 2010. These included amending Kazakhstan’s media law, reforming the law on elections, and liberalizing the registration requirements for political parties by the end of 2008. Kazakhstan also agreed to incorporate recommendations by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in the election legislation. Finally, he promised that Kazakhstan’s chairmanship would preserve the ODIHR and its existing mandate and refrain from supporting any future efforts to weaken this institution.

Mr. Tazhin’s pledges were unprecedented and welcome. Yet nearly six months after the Madrid conference, the government has made almost no progress towards fulfilling promises on domestic reform, and may be backtracking on its pledge to preserve ODIHR.

The attached memorandum contrasts the promises Minister Tazhin made in Madrid with the human rights situation in Kazakhstan today, and outlines specific steps the Kazakh government should be taking to fulfill these pledges. It also describes human rights problems in Kazakhstan beyond those covered by Mr. Tazhin’s pledges and outlines steps that should be taken to address them.

We ask that you ensure that the government of Kazakhstan upholds its OSCE commitments. The credibility of this government is on the line. But so too is the credibility of the OSCE.

With best regards,

Holly Cartner
Executive Director
Europe and Central Asia Division

Jean-Marie Fardeau
Paris Office Director

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