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On 20-21 November in Brussels, the European Union and the Republic of Kazakhstan held their 10th Human Rights Dialogue and 16th Subcommittee on Justice and Home Affairs. Both meetings were held in a constructive and open manner, with discussions covering a wide range of issues, including those identified through extensive consultations with civil society before the meetings.
During the Human Rights Dialogue, the EU raised the protection of fundamental freedoms and the implementation of human rights-related aspects of the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) in Kazakhstan. While there have been developments regarding laws and policies vis-à-vis civil society, it remains important for Kazakhstan to continue to take steps to foster an enabling environment, including for NGOs, lawyers and journalists. In particular, the EU raised obstacles to the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly. Legislation pertaining to the freedom of religion or belief was also discussed.
The EU stressed the need for the update of the law on trade unions to be compatible with the ILO Conventions and the EU-Kazakhstan EPCA.
The EU and Kazakhstan reviewed in detail the role of national human rights institutions and of the Ombudsman. Kazakhstan's efforts to implement a zero tolerance policy on torture through new legislative provisions and specific measures were discussed. The EU stressed the importance of focusing on the rehabilitation of prisoners, bringing the perpetrators of torture to justice and ensuring independent monitoring of detention facilities.
The EU invited Kazakhstan to join the European Union and the United Nations Spotlight Initiative on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls. Kazakhstan is implementing wide-ranging measures to foster a more inclusive society for persons with disabilities.
The participants discussed cooperation in multilateral fora. Kazakhstan has played a positive, active role on the international stage in peacekeeping discussions. It is important that the Kazakh authorities remain open to UN scrutiny, and work closely with the OSCE.
A number of individual cases were raised and the European Union handed over a list at the end of the dialogue.
During the Subcommittee on Justice and Home Affairs, the European Union reaffirmed that strengthening the rule of law, including public administrative reform, anti-corruption and human rights will remain key priority sectors of European Union support in Kazakhstan. Recent political and institutional developments in Kazakhstan, including judicial reforms, the fight against corruption, migration, asylum and border management, tackling illicit drugs and the fight against human trafficking, terrorism and radicalisation, were discussed.
Kazakhstan presented its recent judicial reforms and its efforts to modernise the criminal and criminal procedure legislation. Developments in e-justice, to facilitate access to justice for all citizens, were also raised. Kazakhstan's accession to the Hague Conference on Private International Law and its strong commitment to tackling corruption and to increase transparency of public services are yielding positive results. Kazakhstan's stated intention to join the Council of Europe's Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) sends a further positive signal.The European Union raised the recently adopted Law on the Attorney and Legal Aid and recalled the importance of guaranteeing the independence of the legal profession and its role in the protection of human rights and freedoms.
Both the EU and Kazakhstan looked forward to continuing the close cooperation in the framework of the EPCA.
The EU delegation was headed by Mr Boris Iarochevitch, Head of Division of the European External Action Service Central Asia Division. The delegation of Kazakhstan was headed by Mr Murat Akhmetzhanov, Deputy Prosecutor General of the Republic of Kazakhstan.