On 26-27 November 2020, the European Union and the Republic of Kazakhstan held online their 12th Human Rights Dialogue and 18th Subcommittee on Justice and Home Affairs. Discussions took place in an open and constructive atmosphere.
On 26 November, during the Human Rights Dialogue, the EU and Kazakhstan openly and frankly discussed a broad range of human rights related issues. The EU stressed that limitations on human rights to address the health crisis caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, should only be applied if they are legitimate, proportionate, limited in time, non-discriminatory and transparent.
The EU acknowledged the continuing reform process in Kazakhstan, including the establishment of a Supreme Council for Reforms, and underlined the importance of effective implementation with the active participation of civil society. The EU is looking forward to free, fair and transparent parliamentary elections scheduled to take place on 10 January 2021.
The EU congratulated Kazakhstan for ratifying the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which abolishes the death penalty in law and in practice. Both parties discussed at length prevention of torture and ill-treatment and the EU called on Kazakhstan to take further steps to conduct prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigations into all allegations of torture while acknowledging actions already taken. The EU raised individual cases of victims of torture.
The EU insisted on the need to uphold the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including not harassing or sanctioning peaceful protesters. The EU welcomed the positive development of decriminalising defamation while expressing concern in relation to increasing reports that activists, bloggers and journalists are charged of knowingly disseminating “false” information (Criminal Code Article 274), and the offenses of “insult” and “insulting a government representative” remain subject to criminal penalty (Articles 131 and 378).
Other topics discussed included legislation in relation to trade unions, violence against women and girls, freedom of religion and belief and non-discrimination as well as cooperation in multilateral fora. The EU recalled the importance to maintain openness to UN scrutiny, including by implementing recommendations of UN Special Procedures and UN Treaty Bodies, and working closely with the OSCE.
The EU raised a number of individual cases and handed over a list at the end of the Dialogue.
On 27 November, during the Subcommittee on Justice and Home Affairs, the EU welcomed President Tokayev’s recent announcement of a new stage of reforms, in particular on issues of law enforcement, the judicial system and prioritizing human rights. The EU reaffirmed its support to rule of law reforms and the importance of an independent and impartial justice system, and gave an overview of the implementation of the Central Asia Rule of Law programme, with a budget of €8 million.
The EU and Kazakhstan discussed judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters. The EU welcomed Kazakhstan’s reforms and mechanisms put in place to tackle corruption and to meet Financial Action Task Force (FATF) conditions.
The EU and Kazakhstan exchanged views on migration, asylum and border management tackling illicit drugs and the fight against human trafficking. The EU thanked Kazakhstan for its engagement with the EU funded Border Management Programme in Central Asia (BOMCA). On illicit drugs, Kazakhstan called for further strengthening of cooperation with the EU and outlined its efforts for the treatment and rehabilitation of addicts while expressing its support for the EU funded Central Asia Drug Action Programme (CADAP).
Both sides stressed the importance of international and regional cooperation in countering terrorism and the prevention of violent extremism. The EU and Kazakhstan had an exchange on Kazakhstan’s experience in dealing with Foreign Terrorist Fighters.
The EU delegation was headed by Mr Boris Iarochevitch, Head of Central Asia Division of the European External Action Service. The delegation of Kazakhstan was headed by Mr Bolat Dembaev, Deputy General Prosecutor of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The next Human Rights dialogue and Subcommittee will be held in Nur-Sultan in 2021.