Launching conference of the EU Project
“Empowering of CSOs to improve access to justice for vulnerable groups in Kazakhstan”
Astana, Wednesday 1 March 2017 10:00 a.m. – 04:30 p.m.
Address by Ambassador Traian Laurenṭiu Hristea,
Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Kazakhstan
Right Honorable Justices and Judges,
Dear Mr Chair of the Human Rights Commission under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Abishev,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very honoured to welcome you all at the launching conference of the project "Empowering of CSOs to improve access to justice for vulnerable groups in Kazakhstan", funded by the European Union.
The dialogue with Civil Society Organisations
The European Union is not only one of the main political and economic partners of Kazakhstan, but also the most important development partner of Civil Society Organisations in the country. The EU policy is designed to contribute to the development and consolidation of democracy and the rule of law, as well as respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms worldwide. In pursuing this aim in your country, a strong emphasis is put on the role of Civil Society Organisations in Kazakhstan.
Our policy focuses on supporting the enabling environment, participation and capacity of Civil Society as an actor of governance.
The dialogue with CSOs in Kazakhstan takes place on a broad range of topics and in various formats. The role of Civil Society Organisations is growing from being implementing partners to sharing more responsibility with the State, particularly, on human rights issues. Civil Society Organisations are vital partners for decision-makers, as they are best placed to know population's needs in terms of development.
The Republic of Kazakhstan has achieved certain results in reforming its criminal executive system over the past years, not least with the support of the EU, its Member States and international partners. The process of humanization of the criminal justice system in Kazakhstan has been on-going since 2010, the new Criminal, Criminal-Procedural and Criminal-Executive Codes entered into force since 2015 and today we can see that Kazakhstan resolutely takes the path towards establishing a modern, fair, effective and humane criminal justice system. It should be noted that the strategic documents relating to issues of re-socialization and probation have been adopted, among the most important events which have passed in the prison system of Kazakhstan, the following important aspects such as prison rating downgrade, issues of prevention of torture and detention conditions in correctional institutions of Kazakhstan, empowerment of civil society and willingness of the government to prefer alternatives to imprisonment can be highlighted.
Many international human rights standards were envisaged in the new codes, including the development of a probation service, establishment of a National Preventive Mechanism to prevent torture, provisions of support to vulnerable groups in detention and a ban on solitary confinement in prison for juveniles. The EU welcomes the positive changes that Kazakhstan has made in reforming the criminal justice system and promotion of human rights.
The EU project
A number of challenges remain along this path and I am confident that the EU project, which will be implemented by the Penal Reform International and being launched today, will successfully address a number of those. Broadly the project is designed to support effective implementation of justice policies in work with vulnerable groups including vulnerable prisoners, juvenile offenders and women in criminal justice system, from delivery of legal aid services to provide access to justice. In particular, the project will be engaged to work together with judicial authorities on providing access to justice for vulnerable juvenile offenders and vulnerable prisoners to ensure the protection of the rights and interests of vulnerable prisoners. Finally, the project will support CSOs to deliver key services to vulnerable groups and strengthen coordination and networking between CSOs, working in the criminal justice system.
In this way, it is expected that the project will contribute to the implementation of the comprehensive criminal justice reform programme being implemented in Kazakhstan, which recognises the role played by the CSOs in achieving the reform goals.
The success of the project will largely depend on the commitment of the multiple stakeholders that play an important role in the criminal justice system in Kazakhstan. I therefore call on all partners, state institutions and civil society organisations alike to work and cooperate constructively and openly between themselves in order to ensure the best possible return for Kazakhstan.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We hope that EU project on access to justice for vulnerable groups will certainly have a positive impact and will improve the situation of vulnerable prisoners, as this is the first project in Kazakhstan directly focusing on this category.
I would like to thank all the partners involved in project implementation and the Kazakh authorities for their dedicated commitment and wish them all success.
Thank you for your attention.