Kazakhstan’s Ombudsman: Parliamentary lobbying must be healthy and legal

Elvira Azimova [Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Republic of Kazakhstan]

Before the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Kazakhstan in February, there was no comprehensive dialogue at the decision-making level and no complete analysis of the EU lawmakers’ sources of information, Elvira Azimova, Kazakhstan’s commissioner for human rights, told EURACTIV in an interview.

The human rights commissioner, who has the title of Ombudsman in Kazakhstan, is a government official appointed by the president and approved by the Senate. More about Elvira Azimova here.

She provided written answers to questions sent by EURACTIV’s Georgi Gotev.

How does Kazakhstan react to the February European Parliament resolution, which is very critical about the human rights situation?

Two months have passed since the adoption of the resolution by the European Parliament. Kazakhstan has clearly stated its position on its bias. Some expressed a different position. All opinions were voiced. It’s time to move on and come up with concrete solutions.

On the other hand, we must honestly admit that before the adoption of this document there was no comprehensive dialogue at the decision-making level, just as there was no complete analysis of the MEPs sources of information, the reliability and objectivity of which is questionable.

There should not be a tilt to one side, no one will benefit from such relations, and this is especially true of trust in European parliamentarism. This is the same as in the case of the vote at the end of 2020 in the European Parliament on the draft report ‘Fundamental Rights in the European Union’, when votes in favour or against certain amendments were divided. This proves once again that the effectiveness of the EU’s activities also depends on the other six institutions of European integration. Accordingly, promoting the values ​​of the human dimension and the rule of law also depends on one’s own examples of solving such problems in one’s own country.

Does Kazakhstan see some kind of unhealthy lobbying behind this? Who is behind this?

Parliamentary lobbying must be healthy and legal, only then are we insured against populist opinions and bias. No country deserves the role of a silent disciple hearing only moral teachings. It will not benefit anyone. We need a respectful and constructive dialogue. It is important to take the next open step – to strengthen inter-parliamentary dialogue.

In relations between Kazakhstan and the EU, the foundations of such a dialogue are laid in the Platform for EU-Central Asia Interaction, including on the Rule of Law. Moreover, the Agreement on Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation between the EU and our country directly stipulates the mechanisms of consultation, mediation, including in a trilateral format: EU – Republic of Kazakhstan – civil society, including on participation in the development of state policy. We are not talking about narrow consultations or exchanges of views with persons in conflict with the law.

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Kazakhstan is progressively realising its obligations in the field of human rights in accordance with the concept of “Hearing State” declared by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Therefore, the dialogue should be as productive as possible in terms of proposals for specific joint projects.

What is Kazakhstan doing to improve the situation with human rights and freedom of the media?

I do not know of a single country that can firmly declare that it has successfully travelled the path to a democratic model of development and the rule of law. The process of the universal periodic review at the site of the UN Human Rights Council clearly shows the continuation of this path by the developed countries.

Of course, in today’s Kazakhstani reality there are difficulties, the solution of some issues takes time due to the search for more effective tools. But the EU countries and the USA recognize the plan of political reforms, which is being promoted by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

Recently, a number of important political decisions have been made on issues that have not been resolved for a long time. For example, this is the introduction at the level of the law of an obligation to comply with the minimum threshold of a 30% quota for women and youth in parties, the ratification of the Optional Protocol on the abolition of the death penalty, the decriminalization of libel, the introduction of elective akims (mayors) in small towns and rural areas, a decrease in the threshold for passing for political parties from 7 to 5%, discussion of the law on the introduction of public control in the public administration system, reduction of quantitative requirements for the list of participants for registration of parties, adoption of a new law on peaceful assemblies, which has been in effect since 1995.

Regarding the specific names that were spelled out in the resolution of the European Parliament, I will say that this issue is currently being studied by judicial and law enforcement agencies in the plane of the law.

A number of packages of legislative changes are being discussed, including in the field of criminal law and justice, on the adoption of a separate law on the ombudsman as an independent human rights mechanism. Their adoption is expected by the end of 2021. Thus, speaking about the situation in Kazakhstan, we cannot ignore these facts. Another thing is that there are certain questions raised by representatives of civil society related to the quality of laws. They need to be promoted systematically and constructively, because this is not a one-day process.

The most important thing is that there is an attitude of the state authorities for dialogue and the adoption of concrete positive actions, and it is necessary to use it without turning it into empty debates.

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