09ASTANA433, KAZAKHSTAN: HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION CHAIRMAN TELLS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA433 2009-03-11 10:20 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO6365
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RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNEH RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW
RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #0433/01 0701020
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 111020Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4870
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1337
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0716
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1419
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0403
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2200
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2530
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0898
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0811
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000433 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI OSCE KDEM KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION CHAIRMAN TELLS 
AMBASSADOR HIS PRIORITIES 
 
REF:  (A) ASTANA 0431 
 (B) ASTANA 0351 
 (C) ASTANA 0067 
 
1.  (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2.  (SBU) SUMMARY:  In a cordial March 10 introductory meeting with 
the Ambassador, the Presidential Human Rights Commission (HRC) 
Chairman Saginbek Tursunov explained that his organization's primary 
role is to provide advice on and implement President Nazarbayev's 
policies related to human rights.  The HRC's current top priority is 
to prepare Kazakhstan for its 2010 OSCE chairmanship by insuring 
that its system of human rights protection is in line with 
international standards.  Tursunov noted that Kazakhstan is the only 
CIS country to have released its own baseline report on human rights 
and to have begun compiling an annual human rights report.  He 
believes that there is a general lack of understanding among the 
population on how to pursue redress for human rights violations. 
The Ambassador noted that the recent libel judgment against the 
opposition paper "Taszhargan" raised significant concerns among 
civil society and the international community, and he also 
encouraged the HRC to work towards decriminalizing libel. 
Separately, HRC Secretary Tatsemir Abishev reassured the Ambassador 
that the Commission is keeping a close eye on several high profile 
human rights cases.  END SUMMARY. 
 
COMMISSION'S ROLE WITHIN THE PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION 
 
3.  (SBU) On March 10, the Ambassador met with Presidential Human 
Rights Commission (HRC) Chairman Saginbek Tursunov and the HRC 
Secretary Tatsemir Abishev.  Tursunov told the Ambassador that the 
Commission has 21 members, which include several ministers, 
parliamentarians, and leading civil society activists.  The HRC's 
Secretariat, which consists of three full-time members, runs the 
Commission's day-to-day operations.  The HRC also has a Council of 
Experts, a sub-committee body with NGO participants, including Human 
Rights Bureau head Yevgeniy Zhovtis and Charter for Human Rights 
leader Zhemis Turmagambetova.  Tursunov explained that the HRC's 
primary role is to provide advice on President Nazarbayev's policies 
related to human rights.  A second institution -- the Ombudsman's 
office -- is charged with defending the rights of individual 
Kazakhstani citizens. 
 
LOOKING FOR GLOBAL BEST PRACTICES 
 
4.  (SBU) Tursunov said that the HRC's current top priority is to 
prepare Kazakhstan for its 2010 OSCE chairmanship and to assure that 
Kazakhstan's system of human rights protection meets international 
standards.  To this end, the HRC has studied the experiences of 
European, Asian, and Middle Eastern countries and "borrowed" the 
elements most applicable to Kazakhstan.  Tursunov emphasized to the 
Ambassador that Kazakhstan is the only CIS country to have compiled 
its own baseline report on human rights, which was released two 
years ago, and to have begun publishing its own annual human rights 
report, the first of which was released last year.  He said the 
State Department's annual Human Rights Report is "certainly useful," 
but suggested that it might benefit "from a broader range of 
opinions and sources." 
 
5.  (SBU) Tursunov said that most of the concerns heard by the HRC 
deal with what citizens perceive to be unfair decisions by the 
courts.  He clarified that the HRC does not generally get involved 
in court cases, but noted that the Commission did provide input for 
three cases that were eventually favorably reviewed by the Supreme 
Court.  There is a dearth of knowledge among the population about 
how to pursue redress for human rights violations, Tursunov 
admitted, which is why the HRC has created a digital library on its 
website that lists which government agency is best suited for 
handling various complaints. 
 
AMBASSADOR RAISES "TASZHARGAN" CASE 
 
 
ASTANA 00000433  002 OF 002 
 
 
6.  (SBU) Tursunov lamented that the years of Soviet rule "erased 
the tradition of justice and human rights" that existed in 
pre-Soviet Kazakhstan.  The Ambassador stressed that the HRC's work 
can go a long way to restoring those traditions.  He praised the 
wide range of views present in the country's print media, but noted 
that one "Soviet habit" that Kazakhstan could stand to loose is 
criminalization of libel.  The Ambassador also raised the recent &#x000
A;civil libel judgment against "Taszhargan," noting that many in civil 
society and the international community see the damage award levied 
against the paper as disproportionate and excessive (ref A). 
Tursunov was familiar with the "Taszhargan" case and said that while 
the HRC does not get involved in court cases, it does try to let the 
courts know its opinion.  "Sometimes things go wrong," he admitted. 
He agreed with the Ambassador that one way to avoid such problems is 
to decriminalize libel.  Tursunov expressed hope that he and the 
Ambassador could have regular meetings.  The Ambassador warmly 
welcomed this suggestion. 
 
HRC KEEPS AN EYE ON HIGH-PROFILE CASES 
 
7.  (SBU) HRC Secretary Abishev used the opportunity of walking the 
Ambassador to his car to reassure him that the Commission is paying 
close attention to several cases of interest to the Embassy.  He 
reminded the Ambassador that the HRC argued against the contentious 
draft religion law that the Constitutional Council recently ruled 
unconstitutional, and confided that the HRC spoke against the court 
decision -- since overturned -- sentencing Unification Church 
missionary Elizaveta Drencheva to two years in prison(ref C).  He 
said the HRC has been closely watching the recent cases of several 
physical attacks against Kazakhstani journalists (ref B). 
 
HOAGLAND

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