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HRW Urges Kazakhstan To Improve Rights Before Heading OSCE

The case of Yevgeny Zhovtis was singled out as a violation of legal rights.

The case of Yevgeny Zhovtis was singled out as a violation of legal rights.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the international community to demand that the Kazakh government improve the country’s human rights situation before it leads the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in January, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

The statement by the New-York based rights group on November 25 came ahead of an OSCE foreign ministers’ meeting in Athens, the last meeting of the OSCE before Kazakhstan assumes the OSCE chair.

HRW said that Kazakhstan needs to bring its human rights record in line with OSCE standards, and it criticized Kazakh authorities for tightening state control over media and prosecuting human rights activists.

HRW also criticized Kazakhstan’s handling of the case of Yevgeny Zhovtis, the director of the nongovernmental Kazakh Bureau for Human Rights.

Zhovtis was sentenced in September to four years in jail for his role in a deadly traffic accident. HRW said that the investigation and trial leading up to Zhovtis's conviction were marred by serious procedural flaws that denied him the right to present a defense and gave rise to concerns that the case was politically motivated.

Kazakhstan successfully secured the OSCE chairmanship in late 2007 after promising to reform media laws and election regulations, and to simplify the registration process for political parties.