The chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Congressman Christopher Smith (Republican-New Jersey), has blasted a provision of Kazakhstan's newly adopted Law on National Security at a January 25 Congressional hearing.
Signed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev on January 6, the law boosts the authority of the security services and says that persons considered to harm the country's image on the world stage can be deemed "destructive" and are subject to repercussions.
Smith compared Kazakhstan's new law to similar legislation in China, saying it could be used against dissidents "as one big, vague way to round up people and put them into [prisons] for long periods of time."
He characterized it as "a very ominous escalation -- or further sinking into the abyss of dictatorship" for Kazakhstan.
Smith also criticized the conduct of Kazakhstan's recent parliamentary elections and its investigation into December's riots in Zhanaozen, which he said have been focused on silencing the political opposition.
Written by Richard Solash in Washington