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Kazakhstan: Some Rights Respected, But Serious Problems Persist

Washington, 26 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. State Department says that while Kazakhstan generally respected the human rights of its citizens in some areas, serious problems remain in others.

The assessment comes in the U.S. State Department's 1998 annual report on human rights around the world, which was released today.

According to the report, the Kazakh government infringed on the rights of its citizens to change their government, notably in its "flawed conduct" of preparations for the January 1999 presidential election. It criticized the government for using a new amendment to the presidential decree on elections to prohibit some government opponents from running in the election. It also said the government repeatedly harassed its opponents during the election campaign and appeared complicit in at least four assaults on perceived opponents.

The report says the Kazakh legal structure -- including the constitution adopted in 1995 -- does not fully safeguard human rights. Members of the security forces often beat or abused detainees, and prison conditions are harsh. Arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention is a problem, the report adds. The report notes the judiciary remains firmly under the control of the president and that corruption is deeply rooted.

The report also says that in 1998, government tolerance of the independent media markedly deteriorated, as some opposition newspapers and other media outlets were ordered to close, forced to sell to pro-government interests, or brought under pressure by regulatory authorities. The media largely practices self-censorship, the report says, and the government maintains control of most printing presses and facilities.

The report found that domestic violence against women and discrimination against women, the disabled and ethnic minorities continued. It adds that the government also limited worker rights and tried to limit the influence of independent trade unions.