SECURITY & COOPERATION IN EUROPE:
U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION
APPROACHING THE OSCE CHAIRMANSHIP:
SENATOR BENJAMIN CARDIN (D-MD)
REPRESENTATIVE ALCEE L. HASTINGS (D-FL)
REPRESENTATVE CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH (R-NJ)
REPRESENTATIVE ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA
FORMER PRESIDENT, OSCE,
MEMBER OF RIKSDAG
AMBASSADOR GEORGE A. KROL,
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY,
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
HIS EXCELLENCY ERLAN IDRISSOV,
AMBASSOR TO THE UNITED STATES,
REPUBLIC OF KAZKAHSTAN
DIRECTOR, KAZAKHSTAN INTERNATIONAL BUREAU FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND RULE OF LAW
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS,
GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY
TUESDAY, MAY 12, 2009
SVC 208/209 (CAPITOL VISITOR CENTER)
SENATOR BENJAMIN CARDIN (D-MD): Well, let me welcome you all to this meeting,
hearing of the Helsinki Commission. This is actually our third hearing in
regards to Kazakhstan, and we welcome particularly our special guest, Mr.
Lennmarker, who is our colleague and friend from Sweden. He is the former
president of the OSCE parliamentary assembly, and he is chair of the foreign
affairs committee in the parliament of Sweden. It’s wonderful to have you with
us. I knew he was in town, so I invited him to sit with us at the dais. He is
a great friend of the United States Helsinki Commission, a real leader, along
with Alcee Hastings, of course, who’s also a former president of the OSCE
parliamentary assembly. We have a lot of talent at the front with Chris Smith.
So I appreciate them all being here today. We welcome them.
This is, as I said, our third hearing in regards to the Kazakhstan’s efforts to
implement the commitments that they made in assuming the chair of the OSCE,
which will take place in January of 2010. It will be the first leader from a
Central Asian country to take on the chair of the OSCE and we’re all looking
forward to that.
In seeking the chair, certain reforms, promises were made. The foreign
minister at a meeting in November of 2007 in Madrid made very specific
commitments of reforms that would be implemented in Kazakhstan in preparation
to taking on the leadership responsibility within the OSCE. I’m sure my
colleagues from the commission remember the meeting we had with the president
of Kazakhstan when we were in Astana last year. We were very clear about our
concerns, and we were concerned to hear from the president the way that he said
that it would be difficult for Kazakhstan to move faster than its two giant
neighbors, if you recall, China and Russia. Which again raised, I think, a
blinking light for us as to perhaps there was concern as to the continued
progress in Kazakhstan moving on to become the chair.
So we want to continue our examination of the progress that has been made.
Kazakhstan’s record this past December, they did pass a legislative package and
I hope we’ll have a chance to talk about that package. There have been
concerns raised by the human rights activists. I must tell you there was also
concern in a speech given by the speaker of the Kazkhstan legislature, who told
the director of ODIR that certain ODIR recommendations, and I quote, “cannot be
taken into account fully due to the specifics of our country,” end quote.
I’m not exactly sure what that comment meant, and perhaps we can get further
clarification during today’s hearing.
We have a really distinguished panel before us, including our good friend, the
ambassador to the United States from Kazakhstan, who is truly a good friend,
who has been very helpful in providing information to us. Kazakhstan’s been an
ally to the United States in many issues, so we are very much looking forward
to the continued progress in the OSCE as far as the evolution of power. So
with that in mind we look forward to all of our witnesses’ testimony today.
If I can, at this point I’ll turn it over to the co-chair, Mr. Hastings.
REPRESENTATIVE ALCEE HASTINGS (D-FL): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I
commend you on holding this hearing, and as you know I’ve long been involved
with Kazakhstan and was a staunch supporter of Astana’s candidacy to chair the
OSCE. I’ll wait for Ambassador Idrisov to get himself seated there.
SEN. CARDIN: Mr. Ambassador, I just said some nice things about you, but we’ll
get you a copy of the comments.
REP. HASTINGS: I urged the U.S. government to back Kazakhstan’s bid and was
gratified when Washington joined the other capitals to make Kazakhstan the
first country from among the former Soviet states to lead the OSCE. Now, I was
never blind to the problems with Kazakhstan’s record on the democratic
infrastructure, and certainly of human rights. Over the years I’ve met with
many human rights activists, both here and in Kazakhstan to discuss these
I also, having been one of the monitors, was well aware that OSCE monitors have
yet to bless an election in Kazakhstan as free and fair. But I believe in
inclusive as a general principle and as a means of attaining goals. My
position was and is that the OSCE would be worse off if Kazakhstan’s bid was
turned down than if a Central Asian country with a less than perfect record
became chair in office. I suppose reasonable people can differ about this, but
I stand by my position, with the acknowledgement that not all of my hopes have
Nevertheless, I also believe that promises are meant to be kept. I was in
Madrid in November ’07 and listened to Foreign Minister’s Tazhin’s speech in
which he made specific pledges of reforms. In fact, Minister Tazhin was here
in Washington recently and I regret that our schedules didn’t permit us to
discuss in person any of the issues. Had we met, I would have told him that to
judge by a careful conclusion of human rights groups, the reform package
introduced late last year does not go far enough. Some drafts are like that on
the Internet, more cause for worry than rejoicing.
In only half a year Kazakhstan will take up its responsibilities as chair in
office of the OSCE. That’s a lot of time. But on the other hand, given the
requisite political will in Kazakhstan, it’s more than enough time to make the
changes that would assuage the concerns of human rights activists and the
international community, as well as justify my own faith in the rightness of
assuring that Kazakhstan would act in the best interest of the OSCE and the
best interest of its people.
Mr. Chairman, I’m equally gratified that our college, Göran Lennmarker from
Sweden, will join us. He, like you and I and Rep. Smith, my good friend from
New Jersey, the ranking member of the Helsinki Commission, have all been
involved in trying to move the ball forward, not only in Kazakhstan but in the
OSCE sphere. I personally think that we’ve taken the right step in that
direction, and I have every faith that a year-and-a-half from now we will give
accolades to Kazakhstan’s efforts as chair in office. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. CARDIN: Mr. Smith?
REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R-NJ): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for convening this very important hearing. I want to thank as well
our friend and colleague from Sweden, Mr. Lennmarker, and congratulate him on
an extraordinary service, as you’d say, as the chairman of the OSCE
parliamentary assembly. The president did a wonderful job, and thank you for
joining us today. It is a privilege to have you at the dais.
And also to welcome Ambassador George Krol, who is a fellow New Jerseyan, and
thank him as well for his service, especially as it relates to Belarus during
what was clearly a very difficult time 2003 to 2006. You did a wonderful job
there in having – like my colleagues, including our distinguished chairmen Ben
Cardin and Alcee Hastings. Belarus has always been one of those areas we’ve
all focused on energetically. It’s the last remaining dictatorship in Europe
and we’re all united in trying to send a clear message to Lukashenko that he
needs to liberalize his very repressive state of policies. And you did a
wonderful job there.
Mr. Chairman, in principal we would all like to welcome Kazakhstan’s
chairmanship to the OSCE. We all look forward to a day when Kazakhstan and
every OSCE participating state deserves the trust of chairing the organization.
Unfortunately, Kazakhstan and some in the OSCE are not there yet. While the
promotion of human rights, the rule of law, and democracy is at the core of the
OSCE’s mission, a number of OSCE participating states are tragically deficient
in these areas, and Kazakhstan sadly is one of them.
I believe that it should be obvious that states that are not remotely in
compliance with their OSCE commitments should not chair the organization. I
argued unsuccessfully that it ought to be a conditionality. Yes, Kazakhstan,
when and if they make serious reforms in the realm of human rights. Last night
prior to this hearing I re-read the Kazakhstan entry in the U.S. Department of
State’s country reports on human rights practices and it does not make for good
reading. It’s very disturbing.
Regarding Kazakhstan, the sad facts are that the Kazkh government has never
held an election that the OSCE could certify as meeting its norms, that every
single member of the national parliament belongs to President Nazarbayev’s
party. As we all know, in the last election for the lower chamber his party
got 88 percent of the vote and every single seat was ascribed to him. Some of
them would have went there anyway under the modality that they follow. Kazakh
press is not free to criticize the president or those close to him.
In order to hold the chairmanship, at the 2007 Madrid ministerial the
government of Kazakhstan promised to implement a series of reforms by 2008, and
then it failed to do so. Religious freedom remains a serious problem.
Narrowly in 2008, after the Madrid ministerial, at which Kazakhstan was awarded
the OSCE chairmanship, President Nazarbayev publicly criticized Christian
missionaries. He said that such groups should not be allowed to operate
freely, and Kazakhstan should, quote, “not become a dumping ground for various
religious movements,” close quote.
After those remarks reports of police raids and harassment of unregistered and
even some registered religious groups increased dramatically. At this point,
less than a year from the Kazakh chairmanship, I believe it’s still important
that we continue to press Kazakhstan to make meaningful reforms and those
especially that were promised at the Madrid ministerial, and that at the same
time begin looking for human rights issues where Kazakh government can exercise
The Kazakh government has shown itself open to two of the issues that I’ve
worked on for years to put on the OSCE agenda – human trafficking and the fight
against anti-Semitism. I look forward to reaching out to Kazakh officials to
discuss what might be done in these areas during their chairmanship to expand
I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for continuing the commission’s engagement
on these important issues, and again I look forward to our distinguished two
ambassadors who will be testifying.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you, Mr. Smith. Mr. Lennmarker, would you care to make a
GÖRAN LENNMARKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for inviting me to
this hearing. I must say it’s a pleasure to be here. I had the privilege of
having a hearing myself – was it two years ago or 1.5 years ago, being
president of the parliamentary assembly of the OSCE. I might also say that I
very much appreciate the full support from the members of Congress and Senate
of the United States for the OSCE in general and parliamentary assembly in
Senator Cardin, and my predecessor Alcee Hastings, certainly have made a great
job for the parliamentary assembly, as has Congressman Smith, an unrelenting
advocate against trafficking and anti-Semitism.
So I must say I’m proud to be here. I think it will be very interesting to
listen to the hearing today. Could I also say that I have also been one of
those together with Senator Cardin and Congressman Hastings that advocated we
should support Kazakhstan as chairman in office of our organization, fully
aware, as several have pointed out, of the deficiencies that are there. But I
think that is important, for the OSCE is an organization for today 56 members,
two in North America, five in Central Asia, and the rest in Europe. It is an
organization that is built on values because that is a deep European
experience. You can never achieve security without building it on values. The
dark European history points to that.
That is certainly so that our organization must see to it that we keep our
values. We can never, ever see that we have an efficient security or human
security without these values that we all share and which form the core of our
organization. I wish to say that knowing that, I think still it’s important
that Kazakhstan will be chairman in office because it shows that we are truly
an organization for the whole of the OSCE, including also countries that
certainly come from a more difficult background and history than, for example,
my own country had peace for 200 years and been a democracy for a very long
We must realize that we must also give the opportunity to countries who have a
much tougher background, much tough travel to go through. I will say for the
whole of the OSCE this is an important signal. Yes, Central Asia, Kazakhstan
are a vital part of our organization. We trust that it will do a good work as
On the other hand, we of course expect that you keep your word because that is
the basic rule in international cooperation, that if we are in the same – if we
are friends, we stick to our commitment to each other. We have the right to
criticize you, you have the right to criticize us because that is open society,
the whole idea. We make it that way. And now of course we will put Kazakhstan
in the focus, as it should be and as I know that you are fully aware of from
the Kazakh side.
Could I also say that we are proud to have a very active member from the
Kazakhstan in our organization, not only the delegation of course but also
speaker of the senate, Mr. Tokaev, who takes an active part in the
parliamentary assembly’s work, which we really appreciate very much. We look
forward to his continued engagement in that. And we certainly are hopeful that
we will in one-and-a-half year’s time say that the Kazakh chairman will be a
success of the OSCE. Now of course we focus on what will happen from now on
before the chairmanship takes place on the 1st of January next year.
Once again, Senator Cardin, Congressman Hastings, Congressman Smith, thank you
for inviting me and thank you for your commitment to the OSCE.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you very much. It really is a pleasure to have you with us
today. Our first witness will be Ambassador George Krol, from bureau of South
and Central Asian Affairs, deputy assistant secretary for South and Central
Asian affairs. Ambassador Krol is a career member of the senior Foreign
Service, rank of minister-counselor. He joined the Foreign Service in 1982 and
served as U.S. ambassador to Belarus from 2003 to 2006. He served in overseas
postings in Warsaw, New Delhi, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Minsk and has held
several domestic assignments, including as the director of the State
Department’s office of Russian affairs, and as a special assistant to the
ambassador-at-large for new independent states. It’s a pleasure to have you
AMBASSADOR GEORGE KROL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Co-Chairman, members of
the committee; Congressman Smith, my own congressman, as well as their
distinguished guest from Sweden. Thank you very much for inviting me to speak
here today. I also want to thank the committee members and all your staff for
your interest and continued engagement and leadership on U.S. policy in Central
Asia. This commission has demonstrated exemplary leadership and bipartisan
cooperation in forging a strong sustained partnership between United States and
I would say all five of the Central Asian countries that are my responsibility,
It is a pleasure to work with you and your committee, your staff, and the like
as we proceed on these very important questions and issues.
Mr. Chairman, I have a prepared text that I would respectfully ask be entered
into the record, and if you could please allow me to briefly summarize it and
leave plenty of time for questions.
SEN. CARDIN: We would appreciate that. Without objection, all of the witness’
formal testimony will be made part of the record.
AMB. KROL: Thank you, sir. The United States-Kazakhstan partnership has three
primary goals. First, we seek to advance democratic and market economic
reforms. Second, we aim to bolster Kazakhstan’s sovereignty and independence
to fight terrorism and stem narcotics trafficking, trafficking in persons, and
the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Thirdly, the U.S.-Kazakhstan
partnership seeks to foster the development of the country’s significant
While Kazakhstan has led Central Asia and is one of the leaders in Central Asia
in the development of democratic political institutions, civil society and
independent media, these institutions clearly remained very under-developed in
Kazakhstan. The presidency dominates the political system and the parliament
elected in 2007 has representation from only one political party, the
We regularly encourage the government to take concrete steps toward meeting its
own stated commitment to becoming a fully fledged democracy. Our assistance
programs promote Kazakhstan’s own efforts to develop democratic institutions,
respect for religious freedom, and the development of a vibrant civil society
and independent media.
Mr. Chairman, as for the subject of this hearing, the United States backed
Kazakhstan’s candidacy as chairman in office of the Organization for the
Security and Cooperation in Europe. But recognizing its mixed record on
political development, we asked Kazakhstan to delay its chairmanship from 2009
to 2010 so that it would have time to undertake several democratic reforms. As
has been mentioned, at the 2007 Madrid ministerial Kazakhstan publicly pledged
to pass legislation that would modernize Kazakhstan’s election and media laws
and liberalize the treatment of political parties by the end of 2008. It also
avowed importantly to support the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe’s office of human dimension and to maintain the autonomy of that office,
the office of democratic institutions and human rights.
On February 6 and 9 of this year, President Nazarbayev signed into law
amendments to the election, political parties, and media laws which were aimed
at fulfilling Kazakhstan’s Madrid ministerial pledge to undertake reforms in
these areas. This legislation does not fully meet OSCE standards, nor does it
reflect all of the recommendations suggested by the Office for Democratic
Institutions and Human Rights. Nevertheless, we believe that this, and feel
that this, legislation marks a step forward on Kazakhstan’s path toward
Furthermore and very importantly, on April 14th of this year, just last month,
the presidential human rights commission unveiled Kazakhstan’s first national
human rights action plan. This action plan for the period of 2009 to 2012 is
now before President Nazarbayev for his signature. And among other proposals
this action plan recommends further liberalization to the recently amended laws
on elections, political parties, and media. And while it wasn’t raised at the
Madrid conference of 2007, religious freedom is a core Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe commitment, and we are engaging Kazakhstan
to protect and improve respect for this important right.
In 2008 the OSCE provided a valuable critique of the restrictive amendments to
Kazakhstan’s religion law adopted by the parliament in November 2008. The
constitutional council ruled in February of this year that the restrictive
amendments violated the constitution of Kazakhstan. We believe Kazakhstan
should consult with the OSCE, should it choose to consider a new religion
In early 2009 Kazakhstan’s parliament also began considering draft legislation
that would restrict freedom of expression via the Internet. For Kazakhstan to
meet its OSCE commitments to wider and freer dissemination of information,
freedom of expression, Kazakhstani law should not restrict freedom of
expression by the people of Kazakhstan via the Internet. We expressed this
view on May 6th earlier this month at a permanent council of the OSCE in
In Vienna also, although Kazkhstan forms a part of the OSCE troika, Kazakhstan
has not yet begun to play a proactive role in debates on human dimension
issues. We look forward to Kazakhstan’s defense of these human dimension
principles when it assumes the chairmanship. We look to Kazakhstan to continue
to work toward fulfilling its Madrid ministerial pledges in cooperation with
the OSCE and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and to
bring its laws fully in line with all of the OSCE commitments.
We have asked our European partners for help and we have encouraged direct
engagement by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. As had
been mentioned by Co-chairman Hastings, Foreign Minister Tazhin was in
Washington last week for consultations, and Secretary Clinton and the foreign
minister agreed our government should stay in very close contact as Kazakhstan
prepares for its chairmanship. I can assure you that the United States will
continue to work with Kazakhstan to ensure the values and principles of this
organization are not only maintained but strengthened.
Looking forward to next year, the United States believes that a successful
Kazakhstani chairmanship of the OSCE would be one in which Kazakhstan defends
the human, economic, and political principles upon which the organization was
founded, and to which Kazakhstan has committed itself as a participating state.
The spotlight will be on Kazakhstan in 2010 to fulfill its commitments to the
organization and to itself.
Now, our broader vision is for a strong, independent and democratic Kazakhstan
that is a leader and anchor of stability in the region. We believe
Kazakhstan’s service as chairman in office for the OSCE will help serve that
broader vision. We hope that together Congress and the administration will
continue to support Kazakhstan’s efforts to advance its democratic and market
economic tendencies as our own United States partnership with Kazakhstan
continues to grow and strengthen.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I’d be happy to take your questions.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador, for your testimony. I think
you have expressed the sentiments of our commission. That is, we are very much
interested in a very successful chairmanship by Kazakhstan in 2010, and they’ve
already started in the leadership structure of OSCE. We find this to be really
an aggressive involvement of the OSCE regions in the governments. So we’re
very much anticipating this as a positive step forward.
We have a responsibility to continue to point out areas in which we think
shortcomings need to be addressed, in any OSCE state but particularly that
state which will have the chair in office. That’s the reason for our concern.
There are some positive aspects here that I see that may give us new
opportunity. There’s been a struggle in the relationship with Russia within
OSCE. I think a Kazakh chair may very well help us in trying to figure out a
strategy where we can have a better relationship now. We have very challenging
issues with Russia, including what is happening in Georgia and the future of
our mission. We have the new security arrangements that Russia has brought
forward that will be debated within OSCE and outside of OSCE, and it would be
very helpful, I think, for a stronger tie between the United States and Russia
as we go into these discussions, and perhaps the chair from Kazakh will help us
in that regard.
But I want to just concentrate first on one major concern that I have. With
the passage of the laws in December of 2008, there is a concern that has been
expressed that Kazakhstan may now believe that they’ve checked that box as far
as reform. And that that is now history, it’s done, there should be no more
discussions about it. As all of us understand, reforms are a matter of
continuous progress, that we never really totally achieve all of our
objectives, and certainly in Kazakhstan’s situation there is internationally
recognized need for further progress.
I would just like to get your observations from the meetings with the foreign
minister that took place in Washington. Do we have a commitment from
Kazakhstan to continue to work with their OSCE partners to strengthen the laws
as it relates to political participation, as it relates to religious freedom,
as it relates to the OSCE principles? And that we can expect that further
progress will be made?
AMB. KROL: Yes, Mr. Chairman. I would agree that, as I said in my testimony,
that the amendments that had been passed don’t fully meet what we would view
are the full commitments that would be raised under, as a participating member
of the OSCE, and we encourage Kazakhstan to continue to take steps. I think I
mentioned as well that the human rights commission and their action plan does
envisage further amendments and refinements under law to meet the requirements
and commitments as a participating member of the OSCE.
I can assure you that our discussion with Secretary Clinton, with Foreign
Minister Tazhin when I was in Helsinki at the last ministerial and met with
Foreign Minister Taj and Undersecretary Burns in my conversations with – we
have very open and frank conversations with my dear colleague, Ambassador
Idrisov here in Washington, that this is no box-checking exercise. This is a
step and the steps must continue. And what we have heard from our Kazakhstani
partners is they understand that and that they know, and they are committed to
moving ahead in taking further steps in their legislation in order to meet
their commitments to the entire organization.
So we will continue in our discussions and our close partnership with
Kazakhstan, both before they become chairman, as they become chairman, and
after they’re chairman, to assist and to push and to work on this particular
SEN. CARDIN: Could you be more specific as to the primary areas of concern
were additional progress needs to be made?
AMB. KROL: Well, I think in the matter of the media law, I think dealing with
the decriminalization of libel would be a very important step. And it is good
to see that this is in the action plan that Kazakhstan’s own human rights
commission has put forward there, because these libel issues have caused great
problems with independent media, including closing down the newspaper under
this and also that these – the libel law – would be retroactively applied as
far as removing that as a way of trying to put pressure on independent media.
That is a very important step, I think, in the media law.
I think lowering the threshold for political parties so that they would have –
more parties would have more of a chance of entering the parliament is another
important step. This is also in the human rights commission’s action plan, as
well as continuing on electoral reform. I mean, they have, actually, a very
ambitious program in their own action plan that I think we would welcome that
they move on and implement as much of that and even more.
SEN. CARDIN: And my last question deals with Kazakhstan’s own activities as
far as elections are concerned and the concerns that have been raised by
Russia, which are different than the priorities of the United States. Do you
see a potential conflict in regards to the election-monitoring function of OSCE
with Kazakhstan in the chair?
AMB. KROL: Again, Mr. Chairman, in our discussions with our Kazakhstani
partners, colleagues, the foreign minister and the like, we understand they are
quite aware that as a chairman of an office, that they are responsible to the
entire organization and will take into account and work closely with us and
other members – participating members of the organization – and how important
it is that the autonomy of the office of democratic institutions and human
rights is. And particularly, we have focused on ensuring that the election
monitoring will continue to be objective and that the people that are asked to
serve will be objective.
I mean, this is a critical issue of importance to the United States and other
members. And the Kazakhstani – our Kazakhstani partners recognize this and
have told us that they don’t represent the interest of any one country or even
as a chairman, they represent what would be in the interest of the entire
organization. And I think Foreign Minister Tazhin made this clear in Madrid
and we will continue to ensure that that will remain the case.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you. Congressman Hastings?
REP. HASTINGS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And Ambassador Krol, thank
you for being here today, as well as the extraordinary service that you have
rendered on our nation in the various capacities that you have served. I have
had an opportunity to be a direct beneficiary of your kindnesses and
ambassadorial responsibilities when I was with you in Belarus, and we run into
each other in other places, as well.
Trying to put a country in perspective is a very difficult thing to do, not
having lived in the country, not understanding every one of the dynamics of its
culture. And where I am going with this is, the Soviet Union broke up in 1991
and Kazakhstan, as well as four other Central Asian countries, came into their
own in what must have been a difficult environment that having had an
oppressor, for lack of a better expression, or having been controlled by an
outside force, that was anathema to the feelings and customs of the countries
that were dominated.
So now, 18 years later, we are experiencing one of those countries about to
become the chair-in-office of 56 countries, including themselves, as well as
the larger abroad country that dominated them for so many years. I like to
think that in 18 years, Kazakhstan has made some rather considerable progress,
notwithstanding all of the things that you point out correctly. But would you
not agree that in an 18-year period of time they came far afield in terms of
where they started?
AMB. KROL: Yes, sir. I think that having been someone who was in the Soviet
Union when it collapsed – I was serving then at our consulate in what was then
called Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, and covered the Baltic States at that
time when they received their – when the whole Soviet Union collapsed and all
of the independent states emerged from them. I, myself, lived through that
period and the disruption, the uncertainty and things of that nature and can
speak firsthand about how traumatic that was for people throughout the former
Soviet Union, what it was like then and going now throughout Central Asia, in
particular, into Kazakhstan that there is a big difference, a real big
difference, particularly in Kazakhstan, even making it very different from even
the rest of Central Asia.
I think that the – even with the criticism that one can have of some of the
tendencies, nevertheless, there is a more vibrant civil society. There are –
even in the parliament, the parliamentary committees are debating topics,
becoming far more interested and active in their parliamentary system, as well
as even in the media. You see there are exposés, discussions of corruption –
things that were unheard of in the Soviet period. And I think this is a
considerable progress that they have made in the opening up of society.
But I think particularly in education, where when I go into the ministries and
the businesses when I travel in Kazakhstan, you see the effects of a commitment
to exposing the young generation and educating them outside the Bolashak
program that the government has, has really created a new generation of people
that understand principles of market economics, of open political societies.
And it is very encouraging when I am there to have contact and to hear these
people that this is a generation that is being groomed for leadership there.
And I think this is why it is important for us to continue to be engaged with
this. I can see that, sir.
REP. HASTINGS: And as you well know, President Nazarbayev has initiated world
religious conferences and another to be held at some point in the future. The
reason I raise at all – the four of us at this at this dais have been actively
involved in anti-Semitism and active involved in anti-racism and Islamofascism
or anti-that kind of attitude, as well. Toward that end, do you see an
opportunity for Kazakhstan, taking into consideration their deficiencies in the
area of religion from a Western perspective, can you see an opportunity for
them to advance interreligious activity and to assist in a larger and broader
way in efforts against anti-Semitism that is rising tremendously in Europe, as
all of us are mindful?
AMB. KROL: Yes, sir. I think that particularly President Nazarbayev has
expressed his own commitment to bringing a bridge of religions – the Islamic
world with the non-Islamic world. There have been conferences that have been
sponsored in Kazakhstan on this. I think that the issue of anti-Semitism is
raised and to combat it. I had a visit from one of the chief rabbis of
Kazakhstan who expressed to me – I think he met with you all, as well up here,
too – about the progress that is being made on promoting and developing the
Jewish community in Kazakhstan, but also beyond Kazakhstan, but throughout
Central Asia, in fact, the whole area.
But we have to be vigilant in this because, as Congressman Smith has noted, the
issue of dealing with various – maybe one could call them non-traditional
denominations – is one that they have to be more open in allowing them the
freedoms. And that is why in this law that was being proposed had serious
deficiencies in this regard. And I think it was good that that constitutional
council said it was unconstitutional. And I think that is a good sign.
REP. HASTINGS: One final question, if I may, Mr. Chairman. And that is,
recently there were remarks attributed to Speaker Tokayev – and here, again,
the four of us interface with him regularly in the parliamentary assembly and
have – and I join my successor as our president in allowing that it is deeply
appreciated, the level of involvement that Kazakhstan has put forward in the
parliamentary dimension. We see it and live it with him.
That said, a statement is attributed to him to the effect of not being able to
accept ODIHR’s recommendations and that they couldn’t be implemented by the
specificity of Kazakhstan. What was the United States government’s response to
that? And in preparation for Ambassador Idrissov, I am going to press him to
please give me some better understanding of what Mr. Tokayev is talking about.
AMB. KROL: Well, sir, our feeling is that as a participating member and a
member of the OSCE, you take on all the responsibilities and all the
commitments of that. There is no first or second-class membership in the OSCE,
as you well know. And if you are a member, you take on all of the
responsibilities and commitment. And even more so if you are going to be the
chairman of the organization and the spotlight is on you to exhibit leadership
in that regard. You know, these are solemn commitments by the government as
being a member of the organization.
And the issue of specificity and things of that – I mean, many counties
mentioned this on it, too, but, you know, a commitment is a commitment if you
are a member of it. And that is our position, is that you have the
responsibilities, you have the commitments. We want to help you and work with
you as we do with any country – within the OSCE, as you know, it is a consensus
operation, too – and to do so as a constructive partner in seeing that all of
the commitments and push them – not so much as pushing them – but also to
advocate that recommendations that are made are made for a purpose and to take
REP. HASTINGS: Thank you so very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you. Mr. Smith?
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Ambassador, again, thank
you for your extraordinary service. Let me just begin on trafficking. The
2008 report, which covers reporting period for 2007, was complimentary of
Kazakhstan. It makes the point that the Kazakhstan government has made
significant progress in anti-trafficking law enforcement. The government
improved efforts to assist and protect victims during the year and that the
government conducted active, public awareness efforts. They point out there
were 16 prosecutions in ’07, 22 trafficking investigations, so it would appear
that they are taking it seriously. But the new report will be coming in in
about a month. Do you have any sense as to whether or not that progress has
been expanded, continues, or has gone in the other direction?
AMB. KROL: Congressman, as you said, the report should be coming out and I
think in advance of that, I can say that we believe that Kazakhstan continues
to take the issues seriously, continues to address it seriously through all the
areas that you had mentioned. And we will continue to work with them and press
it. As you know, it is a priority issue for the United States.
REP. SMITH: Let me just ask you – yesterday – and I think, you know, there are
lessons to be learned from what happens in other countries – we recognized and
I joined in a rather solemn ceremony. It was Human Rights Day for Vietnam, the
15th annual now. Right before Vietnam won ascension into the World Trade
Organization and got PNTR from the United States, many of us believed – and I
said it very vocally, including a trip to Vietnam. I met with 60 dissidents in
Ho Chi Minh City, Wei and Saigon. And during the course of that, there was
this sense of a sort of a sword of Damocles hanging over the human rights
community that as soon as they got the benefit, there would be a snap-back.
And there was.
I would note, parenthetically, that a group that absolutely parallels Charter
77, the great organization of which Václav Havel was a part of and Father Maly,
and this commission actually met with those members during the worst days of
Eastern European – you know, when it was the Warsaw Pact. But Bloc 8406 has a
manifesto that looks almost identical to Charter 77. And the signers of that
Bloc 8406 – a call for universally recognized human rights in Vietnam – those
signatories have been dragged into court, have gotten draconian sentences in
some cases, after they got all their benefits.
My question is, you know, hopefully – and we saw the same thing with China. We
have seen it with other countries. You know, it seems to be that, you know,
the reset is a reset in the wrong direction. Now, if Kazakhstan does make some
progress – and we are all hoping and praying and pushing for that – the concern
is what happens immediately after. And I think we have to be talking about
that now because it has happened so predictably in so many other countries
where there is a single party rule, authoritarianism. And so we don’t have
exactly what has happened in Vietnam and elsewhere. How do we make this
sustainable, so that, you know, we don’t see, like I said, a modest reform only
to be eclipsed by very significant regression?
AMB. KROL: Yes, sir. As I mentioned, this isn’t a box-checking exercise.
This requires sustained, high-level engagement and commitment by the United
States and other partners of Kazakhstan to ensure that the progress that it has
made continues. And we have gotten the assurances from President Nazarbayev
and his entire leadership that they are very conscious of this and that they
are doing this in their own interest for their country. But it is mandatory
for the partners and friends of Kazakhstan to be vigilant and to ensure that
these concerns that you have raised – we have seen, as you said, some other
examples on it, too – are not going to happen in Kazakhstan. But we have
gotten a clear sense that they are not going to do that.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Ambassador, as you know, I have introduced a Global Online
Freedom Act. It was all ready for floor consideration last year. It got
blocked. I believe it was because Google’s money and some other money
intervened, so it precluded House floor consideration. It focuses primarily on
China, Vietnam, Belarus, Kazakhstan. We know that they monitor – they being
the government – e-mail.
Can you elaborate or give some insight as to how pervasive the use of
monitoring of the Internet, whether or not, like China, there is a censoring of
words or phrases that the government finds objectionable, which is done via
Google? Or whether or not, like we saw with Yahoo, the e-mail vault of
personally identifiable information is routinely opened up to the police so
that dissidents and those who operate in opposition find themselves being spied
upon. And, you know, if you could speak to that with regards to –
AMB. KROL: Yes, sir. This is an issue of concern. I think I mentioned in my
testimony that we are quite concerned about a law on the Internet that is
currently being discussed in Kazakhstan. And we have made our position known
to Kazakhstan and to others that we would view this as restricting instead of
widening media freedom and fundamental freedoms of the people in Kazakhstan.
So this is an issue that we raise at all levels with Kazakhstan and so that
they know our feelings about the subject.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Ambassador, we also raised it – what U.S. companies are
actually involved in –
AMB. KROL: I would have to check to see which –
REP. SMITH: Could you and get back to us, if you would?
AMB. KROL: Yes, sir.
REP. SMITH: And to see whether or not – I say that because Yahoo finally
seemed to get it. And in Vietnam, they signed an agreement that puts
personally identifiable information outside of the country, so they don’t get a
replication of all of the jailings of the dissidents as we saw in Vietnam. And
hopefully, if they are operating there, they are taking similar precautionary
means. So if you could get back to us on that, I would appreciate it.
One final question, if I could, Mr. Chairman. Sarsenbayev and some of the
killings that go unresolved – cold cases, if you will – including journalists;
what has been the progress on those law-enforcement investigations or lack?
AMB. KROL: Well, we continue to make this an issue of interest to the United
States government for the reasons you know. And to get clarity on what
happened in these cases and who is taking responsibility for them is, again, an
issue on our agenda with Kazakhstan and we continue to press that.
REP. SMITH: Has there been any progress?
AMB. KROL: I have not seen, sir, that there has been any new leads or progress
unless my colleague, Mr. Ambassador Idrissov has any further information.
REP. SMITH: How many cases are there? How many reporters? I know of the one,
especially, but –
AMB. KROL: I would have to check to see how many there are. I know of one
there. I think there were also – there were a couple of members, political
individuals who had died and there have been also treatment of journalists and
things of this nature maybe that have not gone to the extent of deaths, but
also of harassments and things like that, which we monitor closely. But we can
get back to you with –
REP. SMITH: I guess my time is up. I will just say briefly that we are joined
by Eni Faleomavaega who is distinguished chairman on the Foreign Affairs
Committee and good friend and fellow human rights supporter. And we also are
joined by Matt Salmon, former member of Congress from Arizona, who served as
well with distinction. And Matt, good to see you. Thank you, sir.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you, Congressman Smith. I appreciate you pointing out that
our former colleague and colleague who are with us today. Mr. Lennmarker?
MR. LENNMARKER: Thank you, Chairman. Could I, as a European, say that our
experience in Europe has been over enormously successful, even miraculous, I
will say, transformation of many countries out of totalitarianism to democracy
to human rights. And of course, the main reason for that is that you had the
carrot policy – membership, for example, in the European Union or membership in
NATO has played an enormous role, because it helped to stabilize policies in
We understand, though, that at this moment, like Kazakhstan or Central Asia,
the carrot is not there, not as big as that. But nevertheless, this is the
process. Is it fair to say that the prospect of chairmanship in the OSCE has
encouraged and supported those forces in Kazakhstan that stands for a, shall we
say, a more democratic, more European attitude? From my point of view, has
been one of the very important reasons why we so strongly supported the Kazakh
chairmanship in office from the parliamentary assembly.
AMB. KROL: Yes, sir. I think that taking on the chairmanship, as I said, is
an honor but it also has a lot of responsibilities, and as I said, the
spotlight is on you. And Kazakhstan took this on willingly. It wanted very
much to be chairman. And, you know, we will hope it will be said that they are
committed to upholding and strengthening the principles of the organization.
And I think in that respect, this should encourage those in Kazakhstan who are
looking for greater freedoms than currently exist to ensure that this
chairmanship will put international attention on Kazakhstan in order to
encourage the developments that Kazakhstan itself and its leadership have said
that it wants for its own country – not to please anybody outside of
Kazakhstan, but to ensure that its own development – stated development to
becoming a fully fledged democracy comes about. And I think this is another
step that can move in that direction.
MR. LENNMARKER: Thank you. Could I also move to another very important area
of responsibility for a chairmanship? That is the unresolved conflict –
conflicts, those who are wrongly called frozen conflicts. Mostly, they are not
frozen at all. They have a high cost of lives and a lot of other things. But
this is very central to the OSCE. And if I go then to a particular conflict
that I think will be very sensitive – if you are a country like Kazakhstan, you
have Russia as your neighbor. And I am thinking about the conflict in Georgia.
From a parliamentary assembly side, you say that there are things there that
must be protected – for example, the right of refugees to return to South
Ossetia and Abkhazia. Innocent people have the right to go back to their
homes. And in order to go back to their homes – if you have your house burned
down, you don’t go back if you don’t have some sort of protection, which means
that you need the observers there – impartial observers – to see that you are
able to go back to your home because you have an absolute right to go back to
And a third issue – so the right for refugees to go back, the need for
observers – impartial observers to be there – and also, which I think is also a
big problem there is the militarization of Southern Caucasus. First, it had to
do it in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but hopefully we can see that that will
be solved before the end of the year. I am a bit optimist there. But I am
very afraid that you have the militarization of Southern Caucasus, not least if
you put in heavy Russian bases into Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This is a very
important task for the chairmanship to do. And I imagine for a Kazakh
chairmanship to deal with this in this geographical situation, it might be
rather sensitive. How do you see that perspective?
AMB. KROL: Sir, I see it as, yes, it is sensitive. But I think that
Kazakhstan is somehow uniquely placed to understand all of the currents in this
area because at one time, they were all part of the same country, the Soviet
Union. And with respect to Georgia, Kazakhstan has had a very good
relationship with Georgia, as it does with Russia. Kazakhstan has significant
investments in Georgia in its energy sector and the like.
So I think in some respects that Kazakhstan can play, I think, a very useful
role as chairman and as – and I think even before they had been chairman of
trying to see that there is a peaceful resolution of these issues, particularly
because they understand them so well having been a part of that whole structure
for so long. So I think that they could actually bring an understanding,
almost a common language that they understand of the parties in these very
sensitive issues throughout the region of what was the former Soviet Union.
And I think we would look forward to their being objective and working with the
international community, but also because they have a special relationship with
all of the parties in the region in those particular areas, whether you are
talking about Moldova, Nagorno-Karabakh, Georgia and elsewhere.
MR. LENNMARKER: Thank you, Ambassador. I hope you are right. And it also
shows the heavy responsibility that is there for a chairmanship. You should
also remember that the previous chairmanship has not succeeded always in
solving these problems, so we must put it in perspective. But I think we have
high hopes, exactly as you say, Mr. Ambassador, that out of that experience,
they could have a particular position in helping to solve at least some of the
unresolved conflicts. Thank you very much.
SEN. CARDIN: Mr. Ambassador, we very much appreciate your testimony today. We
found it very helpful. I think you really did express our views and helped us
focus on where we should put our attention. Thank you very much.
AMB. KROL: Thank you, sir.
SEN. CARDIN: We will next hear from Ambassador Idrissov. Let me just say to
the ambassador, he has been very generous with us. Normally we would have the
next panel just him. He is willing to allow the last two witnesses also to
join this panel, which will allow us maximum time for questioning. And I am
not surprised because the ambassador has been extremely open with us, always
available, always accommodating.
And we thank him very much for his help in understanding his country and always
being available to answer questions and for that, we very much appreciate him.
So we invite the ambassador up. He has not only been the ambassador to the
United States from Kazakhstan since 2007, he is a career diplomat and has been
the former ambassador of Kazakhstan to the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden and
Ambassador, it is a pleasure to have you with us. He will be joined by Mr.
Zhovtis, who is the – has received two degrees in engineering and law. He has
practiced law in 1982 to 1990. In 1990 to ’93, he was a member of the
Coordination Council to the Opposition Social Democratic Party in Kazakhstan,
so he will bring us a perspective from the country itself.
And we also have Dr. Eric McGlinchey, who has received his Ph.D. from Princeton
University in 2003, and has joined George Mason University as an assistant
professor of politics and government. In addition to his academic
affiliations, Professor McGlinchey is a member of the program on new approaches
to Russian security and is an advisor to Eurasia programs at the National
Bureau of Asian Research. It is a pleasure to have all three of you here. I
understand our colleague wants to testify. You wanted to make a – well, let me
hear from the three and we will be glad to hear from you anytime. Mr.
Ambassador, pleasure to hear from you.
AMBASSADOR ERLAN IDRISSOV: Thank you very much. It is my great pleasure to be
here. First of all, of course, I commend the high presidium, Chairman Cardin,
Chairman Hastings, Mr. Smith – Congressman Smith and our friend from Sweden.
Of course, I am very happy to see Chairman Faleomavaega and Congressman Salmon.
I would like to express my appreciation to my fellow panel members, Ambassador
Krol. Again, he is not just my countryman and Mr. McGlinchey, and of course,
my great thanks to the audience for their patience and interest in Kazakhstan.
At the outset, let me, first of all, say that I have my written testimony and
not only I would request that not only the written testimony, but also the two
documents, which I sent to you yesterday – the long paper on our agenda –
tentative agenda – for OSCE and our long paper on the reform process. I also
include it for the record purposes.
SEN. CARDIN: Mr. Ambassador, all of it will be included in the record.
AMB. IDRISSOV: Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, at the outset, let me first
of all express on behalf of Kazakhstan our full appreciation for the
cooperation with have with the Helsinki Commission. Please be assured that
this is felt very much in Kazakhstan and I appreciate it. As we move on our
challenging journey from communism to building a democracy, we are emboldened
by our cooperation with our colleagues and friends in the OSCE and of course,
in the Helsinki Commission.
We are proud, of course, of our achievements so far. But we recognize that
these are the early steps in the beginning. It was the foundation for greater
things to come, the foundation for advances in constitutional reform, the rule
of law, free and fair elections, empowerment of parliament, and civil liberties
to emphasize human rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of worship.
The progress has taken not throughout centuries, as was rightly mentioned by
Mr. Lennmarker, but remarkably, within a short 17 years. The example of
America, the world’s beacon of liberty, demonstrates that democracy is a
journey. For young Kazakhstan, full democracy is not the start. It is,
rather, the destination through an exciting and challenging journey. We are
proud that we have successfully embarked on that journey and we are motivated
by the milestones we have so far achieved.
To answer your remarks, Mr. Chairman, whether we are in the business of
crossing the boxes, let me assure you as Ambassador Krol said that it is not
that. Please know that from the very outset of our independence, we embarked
on a dual track of liberal political and economic development. Our former was
initially to focus on economic development, but we understand that
democracy-building and reform, or market economy-building should go
They cannot go separately. We cannot be economically successful if we are not
pursuing the political reforms and vice versa. So this is our choice, but our
formula is not that democracy is only laws and decorations. Though they are
important, but we believe that it is more change of a culture and habits
because these laws and these decorations should be practiced by people.
Therefore, we focus on that.
What we have done so far, of course, included the reform of the judicial system
and the multi-party system in Kazakhstan and eventually a multi-party
parliament with open and monitored elections. The presidential term has been
reduced from seven years to five. Media reforms provide equal coverage to all
candidates and parties. The rights of individuals are being upheld in jury
trials, often against state and local authorities. And Kazakhstan is a leader
in efforts against human trafficking.
The milestones are tangible in another area. That is religious freedom. We
are a multiethnic society, as you know. We have more than 100 ethnic groups
and religious groups in Kazakhstan and we have firm respect for all. There are
more than 4,000 religious groups, but there is only 46 denominations in
Kazakhstan. Just interesting figures for you, Mr. Chairman. There are 1,000
Protestant Christian organizations with 600 chapels, 281 Orthodox organizations
with 257 churches, 82 Roman Catholic churches, 28 synagogues and 1400 mosques.
And we have all kinds of smaller religions and missionaries. Mr. Smith quoted
Mr. President. I think it was out of text. We never forbid or prohibited
missionary activity in Kazakhstan. Missionary activity in Kazakhstan is free.
And for that reason, we have representatives of Unification Church, Jehovah’s
Witnesses, Hare Krishna, Baptist, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Mormons and many
others in Kazakhstan.
They are active in Kazakhstan and we are happy that they are with us and form
part of our coherent society. As our chief rabbi said in Kazakhstan, every
religion and faith enjoys complete freedom of expression and government support
and can well serve as an authentic model to all countries with regard to
preventing and eliminating anti-Semitism and terrorism. That was the quote
from our chief rabbi.
You gave a story of the attempted amendments to the law on religion. I can
tell you and assure you that that was through a debate – open debate within the
society and with our external outside partners, mainly OSCE’s office on
democratic institutions and human rights and other offices. Through the
debate, the parliament and the public wanted to see certain amendments to
secure the protection of rights of other groups of population. But eventually,
as I was told today, the constitution council ruled that those amendments would
compromise the core of the constitution. Therefore, the issue was postponed.
And of course, we will continue to be engaged with OSCE and other partners in
considering this issue.
Kazakhstan is known for its tolerance. Therefore, we are hosts for the World
Congress of Traditional World Religions. We will have the third session of
that Congress on the first and second of July of this year. And we hope that
the invitation the Congress have on a standing basis will be up-taken and
members of the Congress will be there as our honorary guests at that very
solemn and meaningful event.
The year 2000, as was again told today here, saw major moves in terms of
further perfecting the election legislation, the law on political parties, the
law on media, the law on local governments. And as was already said, we are
not in the box-checking business. We have taken those not as commitments to
please someone. This was our choice we should have made in early, early days
of our independence. And we will persevere on that road. Therefore, there
will be no stop in the consideration and further efforts to perfect our civil
society institution’s legal framework for that in our journey along the road of
building free society and successful liberal economy.
Of course, Mr. Chairman, we have our vision for the OSCE chairmanship. It is a
challenging task. It is an opportunity and of course, this is recognition of
our progress. And we are engaged in very active negotiations and consultations
with our partners. We are now members of Troika – OSCE Troika. We have
started activities within the OSCE Troika in January of this year. Last March,
we had meaningful consultations with EU and OSCE Troika, where we had, among
other things, discussed Balkan situation, the situation in Georgia and we will
continue to be engaged in those areas.
We want to bring our own values to the organization. Of course, we will be
focusing and working on three dimensions of OSCE. That is without any doubt.
But we want to bring certain value-added things, which we can bring. And
therefore, we are in the process of discussing those things with our partners
in OSCE, particularly in the military area – military-political dimension.
We want to focus on regional stability situation, particularly in our part of
the world. Terrorism, drug trafficking, illegal arms trade – these are the
concerns, which we want to bring focus to the organization. Afghanistan is a
common concern. So we want to see where OSCE legitimately can play an
important role on both enforcement, on training of future generations of
Afghanistan. So these are the issues where we want to use the potential and
the strengths of OSCE.
Another area could be the conflicts, but as Yuri said to Ambassador Krol in his
answer, this is a very challenging area. And we need a political will and
commitment of major players and stakeholders in those conflicts to achieve a
success. Of course, as chairman, we will put our effort, very sincere, the
strongest effort possible to make sure that this political will and commitment
On economic and environment dimension, which is very important, we want to
bring the focus of OAC on the issues of Eurasian transit corridors and
transportation systems. I think that this is an area of common importance for
all the membership of OAC. Therefore, we want to see where we can build upon
these issues. And this involves not only the pipeline; this involves major
free and unimpeded flows of traffics of goods, services, people in both
directions. Therefore, we want to use the stance of OAC to facilitate this
In the area of human dimension, which is one of the most important areas of
OAC, we, of course, want to focus on where we are strong, and this is tolerance
and intercultural dialogue. Therefore, we want to bring this experience to OAC
and we already are talking with our partners just in front of the – ahead of
the religious congress we will have in July, we are calling a roundtable on
tolerance issues where we will invite the membership of the OAC and three
representatives of the chairman in office on anti-Semitism and tolerance with
regard to Christianity and Muslims. So we are building this roundtable, but in
2010, we are contemplating on calling a major conference on anti-Semitism and
other forms of intolerance. So we are working and we are putting this on our
agenda in that area.
Of course ODIR will remain an important part of Kazakhstan. You all know and
many people in this room will attest that Kazakhstan has a very lively and a
very meaningful dialogue with ODIR and with the Office of Media Freedom, Human
– National Minorities and all important institutions. Chairman Hastings, to
answer your question about Mr. Tokayev’s remark, I exactly know the context
when it was said and why it was said and how it was said. It was said two
weeks ago in Almaty, in Astana, when Mr. Tokayev was meeting director general
of ODIR and it was not a reference to the commitments of Kazakhstan within – as
a member of OAC. We never questioned our commitments. We will stick to our
commitments and we will declare that.
What he said was a reference to the recommendations of ODIR with regard to
particular legislation. For example, legislation on elections or political
parties, he said that one cannot think of Kazakhstan or any other country
member of OAC to take 100 percent of ODIR recommendations. It is a matter of
Therefore, he compared this – he said, if you take 100 percent of ODIR
recommendations on a particular law, these recommendations will stop being
recommendations. They will become Communist Party instructions. And we have
lived through this period in the past in the Soviet days. Therefore, we want
to go as far away as possible from that period. But we are in a meaningful
debate and discussion with ODIR and if you read the details, which I provided
in my briefs on reform process, you will see that many of ODIR recommendations
have been taken on the election law, not 100 percent, but many.
Many have been taken on the political parties law. For example, a big issue
was the election of the one-party parliament in Kazakhstan in August of 2007.
Please be assured that this was a major drawback for the government, too,
because we expected a meaningful competition during the election. And seven
parties have been participating in the election. But only one party,
unfortunately, has taken all the seats. We cannot vie for the opposition
parties to be successful with their voters. It is there job to do and the
government sees its role as to facilitate the environment and make the
environment conducive for that. Therefore, by law, we have now ruled out the
possibility of one-party parliament in the future.
In the amendments to the political party, which were enacted this February, it
is by law prohibited that there should be a one-party parliament. At least
there will be a two-party parliament. Even if a certain party does not go
through a threshold, prescribed threshold, then the second party in the run,
even if they didn’t get the threshold barrier, get over the threshold, will be
able to get a certain number of mandates in the parliament. In other words, we
ruled out the future of Kazakhstan with one-party parliament. And that is
enacted in our legislation and this is a principal position of the government.
Mr. Chairman, let me close by saying the Kazakhstan chairmanship comes in a
very challenging and very important year. This will be the year of the 35th
anniversary of the Helsinki Act. This will be the year of the 20th anniversary
of the Charter of Paris for a New Europe. And this will be the year of the
65th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Therefore, we fully
understand the responsibility which lies before us and we would like to aspire
that all the challenges, particularly in the context of these days, will be on
the table for us to discuss with our partners. We aspire that in the year
2010, we will have a meaningful major summit of the leadership of OAC. We all
know that OAC summits have not taken place over the last nine years.
Therefore, we think that it is high time with the arrival of new leaders and
important member states of the OAC, we hope that there will be an understanding
and support for a major OAC summit to discuss the challenges the organization
have and more importantly to identify the way forward for the organization.
Mr. Chairman, we will – as the chair, we will strive to continue that effort,
making OAC a more strong, a more viable organization for its members. And we
will always remember that, as I said in my opening remarks, we take democracy
not as a destination for Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is a young country. We rather
take democracy as the start, through a very important and meaningful journey.
And democracy, full democracy, full-fledged democracy is our destination. We
are not a full-fledged democracy yet. We appreciate that fully. We are a
fledgling democracy. Therefore, this important distinction should be properly
understood. We have a Kazakh saying, Mr. Chairman, “A road of 10,000 steps is
covered by making the first step.” So please be assured that Kazakhstan and
the United States are on the same road. We are not hesitating on this road on
democracy and market reform building. The only difference between us and you
is that you are making your 237th step and we are making our 17th step. That’s
the only difference. Thank you very much.
SEN. CARDIN: Mr. Ambassador, we always appreciate your candor and your
testimony. Mr. Zhoutis.
YEVGENY ZHOUTIS: Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the U.S. Congress, and
the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, first of all I want to
thank you for the opportunity to speak here. A year-and-a-half ago, in October
2007, I already had a chance to testify here about the challenges of democratic
development, the rule of law and human rights implementation in my country. It
was before OAC member states have made their decision regarding Kazakhstan
chairmanship in this organization.
At that time, what was already mentioned here, many of the human rights
organizations both inside the country and internationally expressed their
concern regarding the fact that this decision has been guided basically by
geopolitical, economical, and energy considerations, rather than with the
considerations based on the standards of OAC in human rights area and primarily
in the area of political rights and civil freedoms and the country with the
luck, certain luck of record, will chair the OAC.
Back in those days, many people believed – and I myself as well and my
presentation here a year-and-a-half, I was one of those who supported this
decision in spite of all these considerations – that Kazakhstan chairmanship in
OAC would encourage democratic process in our country, would give a chance to
bring legislation and practice closer to international standards in the area of
democracy, human rights, which has been, among other things, confirmed by the
Minister of Foreign Affairs Tazhin, who pledged in 2007 in Madrid
liberalization of religious station pertaining to elections, political parties
and mass media.
Mention should be made that the decision on chairmanship of Kazakhstan in OAC
was made regardless the amendments to the constitution and the election
legislation endorsed in 2007, which enhanced the authoritarian nature of the
current political regime. I am leaving with you the review of those amendments
which we did and presented to the public.
And notwithstanding parliamentary elections that took place the same year, as a
result of which not a single representative of political opposition had been
elected to the parliament, regardless the fact that four is minimum.
Opposition political parties with formal total number of not less than 250,000
members participated in that elections. The current parliament and the local
representative power bodies consist almost by 100 percent of the
representatives of the only one party, Nur Otan, which by information mode but
its functioning methods and propaganda scope reminds more and more the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
It is fair to say that since this time the decision on chairmanship of
Kazakhstan in OAC has been made, the authorities undertook a number of steps
which could be viewed as positive. I want to mention that to be objective as
possible. First, this is the ratification of the optional protocol to ICCPR,
which allows Kazakhstani people to address U.N. Committee on Human Rights with
individual complaints. Second, ratification of the optional protocol to the
Convention Against Torture, in line with which Kazakhstan has to create an
independent system of visas of all the custody places in the space of the
current year. And this work is going on rather actively with the participation
of Kazakhstan ombudsman and we should acknowledge that.
Thirdly, there is the statements made by the authorities regarding Articles 21
to 22 of the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which allows the citizens of
Kazakhstan to address the U.N. Committee against Torture with individual
complaints. And finally, while listing positive things, measures should be
made of improved openness of state power structure, their preparedness to
constructive cooperation with nongovernmental organization, setting up a number
of advisory bodies, working groups, public councils, public chamber under the
parliament, within the framework of which a more intensive dialogue is going on
between the power bodies and civil society. However, this is all as far as
positive things are concerned and unfortunately the rest of the talk should be
about serious concerns and negative trends.
In the middle of last year, a group of leading nongovernmental human rights
organizations of Kazakhstan set up a coalition named Kazakhstan OAC 2010, which
monitors the implementation of commitments of Kazakhstan within the OAC
framework, including promising pledges made by Mr. Tazhin. The coalition has
published a number of reviews. The latest ones are on display near this hall.
The coalition has published a number of reviews, but at the end of the last
year, amendments and additions were made into the legislation related to
elections, political parties, and mass media, which were, from our point of
view, of ornamental making up nature, not changing anything in reality.
And if amendments into the media-related legislation at least have not changed
anything to worse, amendments into the legislation pertaining to political
parties create additional obstacles for the formation of political parties,
having introduced a two-staged procedure for political party registration.
First, its organizational committee should be registered and then the political
party itself, according to this new legislation. By the way, when speaking
here in 2007, I gave as an example a lengthy registration of an oppositional
party, Alga. In a year-and-a-half, this party is still not registered.
Amendments introduced into election legislation have not taken in account any
of the five principal and essential proposals made by the oppositional
political parties, human rights organizations, and provided by ODIR. In the
course of the local elections and representative power bodies held in Almaty,
spring of the current year, all the principal candidates from opposition have
not been even registered as candidates on the absurdly farfetched and wanton
At the end of the last year, the parliament endorsed amendments into the law
and religion that run counter to basic OAC standards, regardless of the fact
that these amendments have been recognized as unconstitutional by the
constitutional council, their main ideas have been implemented. In the course
of the entire last and the beginning of the current year, members of the
national security bodies, law enforcement bodies, practiced raids in relation
to the gatherings of small religious communities including Protestant,
Catholics, Unification Church, Baptists, and others and others and others,
those held even in private houses, interfering in the freedom of religion.
Many foreign missionaries in the last couple of years, more than 350
missionaries were evicted from the country on the basis of arbitrary
interpreted and anti-democratic procedures of their accreditation. Ms.
Drenicheva, a citizen of Russia and the preacher of the Unification Church,
spent several months in custody. She has been accused of – on the basis of
unbiased expertise of kindling hostility on the basis of belonging to human
race. I am citing the sentence. And was sentenced to imprisonment because
later changed for fine. At this, the court has not taken in account five other
expert examinations, including those made by leading American religion
specialists, Professor J. Gordon Melton and Professor James T. Richardson,
which completely disproved the conclusion of the Kazakhstani expert.
At the beginning of the current year, an independent newspaper, Tasjargan, was
fined for the sum of $20,000 U.S. dollars, for the publication of critical
article, with regard to one of the parliamentary deputies. The court of appeal
jurisdiction considered the appeal of the newspaper and increased the sum up to
$200,000, which in reality resulted in the closure of the given opposition
The editor-in-chief of independent newspaper Ama-Ata Info (?), Ramazan
Esergepov, is in custody since the beginning of this year. He is accused of
disclosure of state secrets, which is expressed in publication of internal
letter of one of the regional national security field offices. In fact, this
letter does not contain any secrets, apart from the information that the
national security bodies interfered, from my point of view, illegally, into the
court and prosecutor’s office activity under one specific criminal case.
Criminal process is being finalized in Almaty under the accusation of three
oppositional leaders and public figures in concealment of crime. That is in
signing letters in 2005 and 2007 in support of Kazakhstani citizens that have
applied for refugee status in Ukraine. A number of these citizens are accused
of committing crimes in Kazakhstan. However, in full compliance with the
legislation and international practice, in Ukraine they have been recognized as
political refugees on the territory of Ukraine.
But in Kazakhstan, these public figures that have expressed their opinion in
writing, with regard to political nature of prosecution of these people and
there are doubts as to fair judicial process concerning these people in
Kazakhstan. These leaders of opposition are facing the threat of two years’
imprisonment for would-be concealment of crime.
The draft law on Internet that is currently in discussion in the parliament
could be mentioned here as well because –
SEN. CARDIN: I have to ask you to try to complete.
MR. ZHOUTIS: Yeah, I am finishing. It will practically put Kazakhstan
Internet segment under total control of the powers, which is pretty much
similar to censorship. I should mention also the right to peaceful assembly
that most of the opposition political parties, human rights groups, could not –
their applications are usually rejected by the authorities.
Due to this shortage of time, I limited myself only to a number of problems in
specific cases. It is less than half a year left until the time when
Kazakhstan will take over the OAC chairmanship. And now all the countries that
have made this decision to a certain degree are responsible for the
democratization processes, the rule of law and human rights implementation.
And I do hope that the bearers of this responsibility will make it possible to
positively influence the improvement of the current situation. Thank you.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you very much. Let me point out – it’s a good time for me
to point out – that all of our witnesses’ testimonies and all the material used
at today’s commission hearings will be put on our Web site, which is
www.csce.gov, so we will make it all available, including your entire
statement. Dr. McGlinchey?
ERIC MCGLINCHEY: Mr. Chairman, members of the commission, guests of the
commission, fellow panelists and members of the audience, I thank you for the
opportunity to appear before you today. I too ask that this be submitted for
the record and, in place of a full statement, let me just present some brief
observations from this statement.
I’d like to present six points. One is simply a methodological point that a
social scientist might have for studying a country like Kazakhstan. And the
other are causal points, three reasons for why we might expect reform – or
actually three reasons why we might not expect reform in Kazakhstan, despite
Foreign Minister Tazhin’s pledges to reform, and two potential reasons for why
we could expect reform.
Let me just briefly outline the methodological concern that I, as a social
scientist and someone who looks at Kazakhstan, has with many analyses of
Kazakhstan. And that is if we look at Kazakhstan since 1991, there has been –
if we are to be frank – no political variation. We have a continuity of
authoritarian rule. As a result, I could present just about any explanation
for this continuity of authoritarian rule. I could say it’s based on
tribalism, as many Kazakhs will say. I could say it’s based on the clan
structures. I could say it’s based on culture, the Kazakhs simply don’t have an
affinity towards democracy. And there would be no way for you to assess these
What I would like to do today is provide an alternative approach. And that is
to look at what the broader social science literature says about political
change and see what insights this literature holds for Kazakhstan. And I
should be frank, the insights aren’t particularly encouraging. There are five
theories that I would point your attention to. One is modernization theory.
The second one is what we call survival theory. The third is what we would
call a winning coalition theory. The fourth is the resource curse theory. And
the fifth is the power of international organizations.
I’m just going to provide a brief sketch, a brief, brief logic of each of
these. I think the modernization logic is familiar to most of you. It is the
logic that continues to define most of USAID programs in Kazakhstan. Despite
the fact that USAID continues to hew to this logic, the social science
literature, to be perfectly honest, has moved beyond this logic. This logic
holds that with modernization, with economic development, countries tend to
become democratic. The empiric – empirics from comparative studies just don’t
support this fact.
Rather, what we’re discovering is an alternative economic logic, which we call
the survival theory. And that is countries that are more economically
developed tend not to transition whatsoever. That is if you’re a rich
authoritarian country, you tend to remain a rich authoritarian country. If
you’re a rich democratic country, you tend to remain a rich democratic country.
Kazakhstan, if you look at the GNI per capita relative to the other Central
Asian countries, is a rich authoritarian country. And the logic behind this
would seem to indicate that Kazakhstan will remain a rich authoritarian
country. I think one can understand this logic if you make reference to what’s
going on Kyrgyzstan, which is a poor authoritarian country and, at times, one
could arguably say, a poor democratic country. Kazakhs may look to the south
and see the chaos, both political and economic, and say, we don’t want any of
that. And Nazarbayev, to an extent, has some legitimacy as an autocrat, based
on the economic deliverables he’s provided. So those are theories one and two.
The winning coalition is what I would liken to the mafia theory. And that is a
mafia leader, who rules through only a few hitmen and can select from a large
body of potential hitman, tends to enjoy the loyalty of those hitmen. That is,
a hitman would be very unlikely to defect from the current leader because the
possibility of him being in a winning coalition, that is being a hitman, under
some new leader is very low. There’s a large body of people that these leaders
can draw from. This is certainly the case in Kazakhstan. I would not
characterize the elites in Kazakhstan as hitmen. This is where the theory is
derived from, but, you know, it’s certainly applicable to the Kazakh case. And
I think a lot of the ruling elites in Kazakhstan know that if they were to
support some alternative challenger to Nazarbayev, the likelihood that they
would find themselves in power under some future leader is very limited. So
this tends to engender a lot of loyalty among the current elite, which would be
an argument for authoritarian continuity.
This gets me to the fifth causality, which is the resource causality. The
winning coalition, or what I would like to call the hitman theory, is dependent
on the actual leader having something to give to the political elites. If
there is nothing to give to these political elites, there’s no reason why these
political elites should remain loyal. This is the case of Kyrgyzstan, the
Kyrgyz leader has nothing to give to the political elites and the political
elites regularly throw their support behind some kind of challenger. In
Kazakhstan, with the vast amount of oil revenue, there is a lot to give. And I
think this only reinforces the authoritarianism logic.
The theories that I’ve outlined so far tend to point to some kind of negative
conclusion. And I don’t want to conclude simply on a negative note. And let
me present this last theory, and that is the role of international
organizations. And it’s actually the story of the Helsinki Commission. In
1975, no one anticipated that the Helsinki Accords would actually lead to some
kind of substantive political change in the former Soviet Union. In fact, if
you look at The New York Times article on the year anniversary of the Helsinki
Accords, the conclusion was that, quote, “only a fatuous optimist would expect
the Helsinki commitments result in some kind of substantive political reform in
the Soviet Union.”
Now we know with the benefit of hindsight that actually the Helsinki Accords
did result in substantive political reform. And the reason for this is
activists, social activists, seized on this international agreement as a
framework for opposing authoritarianism.
To the extent that social activists in Kazakhstan can seize on something like
the Madrid commitments as a way to hold the Kazakh political elites to the
fire, as justification for their opposition, as a message that Kazakhstan is
not living up to these commitments, I do think there is a glimmer of hope,
albeit a small glimmer of hope, that we could see positive liberalization in
Kazakhstan in the future. Thank you very much.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you for your observations and your testimony. I found it
very helpful. Mr. Ambassador, let me again thank you for your presentation. I
very much appreciated your commitment to all three baskets within OSCE, because
the chair-in-office clearly is going to need to be, from a very broad point of
view, the priorities within all three baskets. This commission has worked on
all three baskets and under the leadership of Chairman Smith, we started our
efforts to fight all forms of discrimination, including anti-Semitism, and
we’re proud of the work that we did. Then under Chairman Hastings, our
commission continued that emphasis, supporting the work of ODIR and supporting
the three representatives to the chair-in-office.
And under my chairmanship, it continues to be the highest priorities. I do
observe that Rabbi Andy Baker is in the room, whose our – the chair special
representative for anti-Semitism. We have now, I think, reached that point
where we can benefit from the prior work that’s been done and having a strong
support for ODIR and the special representatives allow us to go to our member
states and implement programs that can have major impact to fight all forms of
discrimination. So I guess – more of an observation, but also a question, I
hope you will take back to the foreign minister our strong desire to see this
continued, that we think that you – that Kazakhstan could be in a very strong
position to help us implement strategies in all OSCE states, using the
resources within ODIR and the special representatives to implement best
practices and to have accountability so that we can show that we’re not only
talking about this issue, but we are actually implementing a strategy to rid
ourselves of these problems.
AMB. IDRISSOV: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is a very valid observation and
I can tell you that we work very closely with ODIR and Office for National
Minorities and other important offices. I had a meeting with Rabbi Baker two
weeks ago. We talked about the anti-Semitism issue. I met with Senator
Voinovich; he is also a strong supporter of anti-Semitism and other forms of
intolerance. So this is on our agenda, very firmly, because of our conviction
and our practice. Therefore, we want to take this conviction and practice to
the entire space of OAC and we are now thinking practically what we can do. So
far, we have two specific ideas. One, to have a roundtable in June in
Kazakhstan on intolerance issues, and another one in 2010, have a major OAC
conference on anti-Semitism and other forms of tolerance. So through that, we
want to bring both the conviction and practice on the ground in the entire OAC
space. Thank you.
SEN. CARDIN: I just point out it will require leadership from the chair to
make the resources available and bring the necessary consensus and it will
require that to be a high priority. I just hope that will continue from what
you have said.
AMB. IDRISSOV: For your information – thank you, Mr. Chairman. For your
information, we are taking up the administrative and budgetary committee issues
in the fall. This is the more challenging area. We all know that the budget
of OAC, one of the more, I hate to say, controversial issues, but a challenge,
one of the challenges of OAC, therefore, we wanted to use our know-how to start
to look into the budgetary issues well in advance to make sure we have enough
resources to cover the planned activity within the three baskets of OAC.
SEN. CARDIN: And I take you for what you have said today, your commitment that
reforms are a continuing process and that you understand that further progress
needs to be made and I hope that you will take advantage of the resources that
are available within the OAC community to help in regards to the development of
laws that will strengthen your commitment to the OSCE principles. I just
wanted to just follow up with one of the observations of our ambassador and
that was that from the position of the chair-in-office, it’s no longer what’s
in Kazakhstan’s best interest. It’s what’s in the best interest of OSCE and
election monitoring has been one of the key functions and proud legacies of
And I just really want to underscore the importance of the chair-in-office to
the integrity of that process and just urge you to take that message back and
work with all the member states to make sure that OSCE continues this extremely
important function. We welcomed a delegation to the United States to observe
our elections and it’s important that they have the access and support of the
MR. IDRISSOV: Thank you. This is also a very valid point, Mr. Chairman. If
you go into the retrospective with our relationship with ODIR, you will see
that this is a longstanding relationship and actually it’s an evolving
relationship. We have a really lively and very active dialogue through the
office of OAC in Kazakhstan and through our presence in Warsaw and in Vienna,
of course. And I can assure you that our central electoral commission
functionaries, they are on friendly terms with the ODIHR office, and this is an
area where we want to persevere. We understand that election is an important
part of democracy. So far, we think that no one can boast of ideal election;
any country has its shortcomings. We have our own shortcomings and we are
quite aware of them.
We work on them, together with ODIHR, and as chairman-in-office, we understand
that our function will be to enhance the election-monitoring mandate and
capacity of ODIHR, and we will be working together with other partners. There
are a number of ideas on the table, so we will try to be an honest broker in
considering these issues, not of course to undermine the core mandate of ODIHR
in election monitoring.
SEN. CARDIN: If I could ask our other two witnesses if you, very briefly,
could give me a priority as to where you would like to see more progress made
in Kazakhstan as it relates to OSCE commitments. Could you just perhaps give
us where you think the highest priorities should be placed? Mr. Zhovtis?
MR. ZHOVTIS: I think that these priorities already were highlighted here.
First of all, of course, it’s political rights and human freedoms, the basics.
First of all, of course, elections. And it’s not only practices; it’s the
question of laws, legislation as such. I’ve already mentioned about these five
principal proposals which were made by the Kazakhstan opposition political
parties, NGOs, human rights organizations. They are very simple. Number one
is the access to the voters lists.
SEN. CARDIN: Let me just point out, they passed a law, as the ambassador
pointed out, that will guarantee at least two parties. From my point of view,
that’s not the end of the reforms that are needed, and I think the ambassador
is shaking his head there. Could you be more specific as to what you – what is
preventing, in your view, full implementation of OSCE principles as it relates
to competitive parties?
MR. ZHOVTIS: Exactly. Number one, access to the voters list, the right to
look at whether the lists were not falsified and so on. Number two,
composition of electoral commissions of all levels. All the electoral
commissions should include political opposition. It should consist of all
political parties. We have only now less than 10 political parties, really, or
nine. They should be included.
Third, access to the media for the oppositional political parties during the
inter-electoral period – not during the electoral campaigning but during the
electoral period – if they will have the access to the national-wide mass media
and now opposition has no access to the national-wide media at all. Thirdly,
it is mandatory Kazakhstan should improve the commitment of the OSCE is that
nongovernmental opposition group has the right to observe, because in
Kazakhstan legislation they have no such right. These principles are very
simple things which should be done. Then we could expect that there will be
not only two parties in the parliament.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you. Dr. McGlinchey?
MR. MCGLINCHEY: Mr. Chairman, thank you for your very important question. My
answer is brief and simple, and that is a functioning judiciary. I think
absent a functioning judiciary on all levels, formal changes in law and
practices of institutions will be meaningless. It’s only when the judiciary
can actually adjudicate violations in their free and balanced way that we’ll
actually see change in Kazakhstan.
SEN. CARDIN: And that is a challenge, and that’s where I think perhaps some of
the member states can help in regards to Kazakhstan. I appreciate that
observation. Congressman Hastings?
REP. HASTINGS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I’ll be very brief. Mr.
Zhovtis, I don’t take exception to the number of things that you mentioned, but
when you speak of access to the voter list, I guess there are several ways of
looking at that, and if you’re talking parties not having access in order to be
able to campaign through the voter list, then I don’t know the real answer.
But one thing that I did observe as a lead observer to one of our Kazakhstan
elections was something that I’ve not seen anywhere else in the world, and
certainly not in my community, and that is that the registered voters in a
specific precinct are posted two weeks in advance of the election with persons
available if a person wishes to quarrel about why their name is not there or
the name is incorrect or something. I haven’t seen that. I wish like hell we
had that in Florida. (Laughter.) So I can make that, you know, observation.
And as far as machinery itself is concerned, Kazakhstan has made greater
progress than most places in the United States in the utilization of the
machinery. Now, I don’t know whether the machinery is rigged or not. That
isn’t my place to make that determination. And I feel very strongly about some
of the machinery in the United States of America. But at the very same time,
they are further along in that regard, and I just point it out as an
observation, not so much for a response.
Ambassador, I’d like for you to carry a message to Minister Tazhin for me.
There is an ongoing, raging debate in Vienna regarding whether or not the
parliamentary assembly is an institution within the framework of OSCE. I can
say to you, I would say to the Greek chair now and any other chair, for as long
as I’m a member of the Parliamentary Assembly, if someone takes the view that
all of the extraordinary work that we do in the Parliamentary Assembly is to be
cast aside because of nuances or personal attitudes, then I will be a bee in
Minister Tazhin’s bonnet. And I just want that to be made clear. I am
personally tired of the discussion about the role of the Parliamentary
Assembly, and I know that’s not your responsibility, but I ask you, please
carry that message to him from me. Thank you.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you very much. Mr. Smith?
REP. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Ambassador, again, thank you for
being here and thank you for working with us. And I appreciate the testimonies
of our two other witnesses. When President Nazarbayev said that Kazakhstan
should not become a dumping ground for various religious movements, you
commented a moment ago that you thought that was out of context. Are you
saying that the words themselves or – I mean, what did he mean by that,
especially in light of Mr. Zhovtis’ statement that some 300 missionaries have
I remember, and I would ask you a very specific question and ask you – if you
can get back; I’m sure you don’t have it with you now – but in May of 2008, two
directors of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Theodore Jaracz and John Kikot were deported
from Kazakhstan. The city prosecutor was ordered to make an examination of the
matter and informed the Office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kazakhstan of his
findings, and as far as we know that still hasn’t been forthcoming. So there
seems to be a lack of transparency. But when somebody makes a statement like
that, I mean, words do matter, with all due respect, and it sends – given the
most recent past, it sends chills and could chill the free exercise of religion
dramatically. How is it out of context?
AMB. IDRISSOV: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Briefly, first of all, I
thank my co-panelists for their valid points. Just to let you know that our
authorities’ central election commission, when observing the perfection of the
election legislation, does not take onboard only ODIHR recommendations. It
works with the entire community, both inside Kazakhstan and outside Kazakhstan.
Therefore, for example, we know that the human progress with the Freedom House,
and in 29 amendments to the election law, which we enacted early this year,
many of them were from the Human Rights Bureau and Freedom House. So, as I
said, not all the recommendations were taken, but a great many of them have
been taken and we continue our dialogue. As far as the judiciary is concerned,
this is a major challenge, and I think that Kazakhstan is making a sincere
effort to improve the judiciary. It’s a long way before we have a fully
functioning and independent judiciary, but this is our goal and our aspiration.
Mr. Chairman – Congressman Smith, to your question, yes, the words of – the
quote you made for President Nazarbayev was taken out of context. We never
mean and he never meant to prohibit any entry for missionaries into Kazakhstan,
and what he meant is that there were threats to Kazakhstan, particularly from
the south, to infiltrate certain wild and fundamentalist ideas. So this was a
remark in that context. But generally, as I say, by law and by practice, no
missionary activity is prohibited in Kazakhstan. The cases you referred to and
Mr. Zhovtis referred to were individual cases.
I met with the Jehovah’s Witnesses leadership here and we discussed the
situation broadly, and Jehovah’s witnesses have been in Kazakhstan for a
hundred years. They’re quite successful. I can tell you, they told me that in
the United States the Jehovah’s Witnesses were imprisoned for not going to
military, for refusing to go into military, until ’60s. In Korea – South Korea
– this is still the practice. Jehovah’s Witnesses are being imprisoned for not
going into military.
And we have now a very pleasant dialogue with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Those two
cases were not deportation. Those two cases were the improper registration of
their activities. The law requires very simple registration. It’s not
registration; just giving your name, your address, your telephone and country
details. That’s it.
Certain groups refuse to do that, and that makes the local law enforcement
bodies to stick to the law. These are individual cases – as in this country,
should be left to the court. With the case with Drenicheva, there was one
situation, then the court of a different instance considered the case and ruled
that the previous court was wrong.
So these are the individual cases. Therefore, we have to be very accurate in
generalizing these points. Therefore, Kazakhstan is a religious
freedom-supporting country. We practice that in our reality. When we have
certain difficulties in individual cases, we hope that the court provides the
best decision through a debate and fair consideration of the cases.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Ambassador, earlier I mentioned – and it’s been mentioned
several times since during this hearing, about the 2007 elections were found
not to be free and fair. There were excessive requirements for registration,
10-year residency and party membership, lack of opposition on election
commissions, and access to the media by the opposition.
My question is you talked about the February legislation, and as Chairman
Cardin said, you know, we don’t necessarily say there ought to be a guaranteed
outcome for a two-party system. Given the ability to have access to the media,
to have a completely transparent process, that will take care of itself. And
I’m wondering, does the opposition, pursuant to the new law, have access to the
election commissions a well? Does it have access to the media? Are there
guarantees so that their voice will be heard by the people of Kazakhstan?
AMB. IDRISSOV: Actually, if you look at the report of OSCE of the 2007
parliamentary elections, you will see that the OSCE mission has recognized the
improved access to media by all participants of the election process. The last
amendments into the law on media on election of political parties has further
improved the situation, and it is being recognized.
Many of the, as I said, recommendation of our partners, both from within
Kazakhstan and outside, they have been taken on board, both on access to
political opposition parties, to the media, et cetera. Even, there is funding.
Now it is mandated that money is provided from the budget to ensure the equal
access to different participants of the elections, whether it is pro-government
or opposition or whatever.
On political parties, the issues of registration, their numbers which will
allow them to go and register, these issues have been all addressed. I don’t
want to take your time and go into these details, but the issues of media
access, issues of making the registration more simple and transparent, making
the composition of the electoral commissions open to all parties, these issues
have been addressed.
And now the authority of the Central Commission has been decentralized and many
authorities lie with the local commissions, and the local commissions are under
the aegis of the – not under the aegis but they work in cooperation with the
local elected boards, the maslikhats. Therefore, the membership of the local
electoral commissions are being done through the maslikhats, which are elected
So, all these issues are being addressed. Those areas which still create
concern among different partners, they are still debated through a meaningful
and friendly dialogue. So, the road, as Mr. Chairman said, the road is not
closed. These amendments to the legislation is not the end of the story. We
are an evolving society. Therefore, our laws will be further perfected and
evolve with the life itself.
REP. SMITH: Did you want to comment, either of – no?
MR. ZHOVTIS: Very briefly. First of all, none of the amendments to the
election law which were adopted in the beginning of this year addressed all
these issues. None of them – not media access, not composition of commissions.
None of the amendments addressed these issues. The question is that electoral
commissions are formed by the local maslikhats, and local maslikhats consist of
100 percent of Nur Otan. That is, we could expect what will be the composition
of the electoral commissions. And the question of the composition of electoral
commissions is a crucial one.
On the access to media, there is not any guarantees in the law, and what the
OSCE is talking about is pre-electoral campaigning. Yes, during the
pre-electoral campaigning there was certain access to the national-wide mass
media, according to electoral law, but we are talking about the whole
And one small comment on the religious law: Not only religious law should be
improved; the practice should be improved, because out of these 350
missionaries which were expelled from the country during the last three years,
there were practically no those who came from the South. These were mainly the
people, the protestant groups: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists and so on.
And this is what raised serious concerns. It was not individual cases. It is
a certain kind of trend, the trend how the police, migration police and
Committee on Security, together with the prosecutor service, are dealing with
the issue. And this should be improved, seriously, because the Religious
Freedom report very clearly stated that.
REP. SMITH: I have some questions for the record because time does not permit
it, but let me ask one final question, and it’s a very serious question to you,
Mr. Ambassador, and I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of my time working
on these issues and I would like your answer. Does the government of
Kazakhstan monitor the e-mails, and is there any censorship of nonviolent
political content and nonviolent religious content? My understanding is – and
Mr. Zhovtis mentioned this a moment ago – that there is a new law being
contemplated, a draft law on the Internet. He says it will put the Internet
totally under the control of the powers.
We’ve seen this happen in China. I was in China – as a matter of fact, I did
not make the Parliamentary Assembly last year because we got delayed in China,
another member of Congress and I, who were raising human rights issues, and we
missed our plane. But China has made it an art form – an art form that is
being copied by many other countries, as to how to control the dissidents by
piercing the e-mails, finding out who they’re talking to, what the content is.
And, with respect, what is Kazakhstan doing vis-à-vis the Internet?
AMB. IDRISSOV: Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, respecting your time and
with my full respect to Mr. Zhovtis, of course – I have my response to him, but
I will tell you that his intervention was not entirely accurate, but I will
leave it there. To your question, Congressman, there is no censorship in
Kazakhstan. As far as the Internet law is concerned, it is true that it is
being considered in the parliament, but there are more speculations than truth
about this process. What we tried to find is to find the proper balance. We
fully respect and are committed to the freedom of expression and we are fully
committed and respect the freedom of access to a different source of
But, as in other countries, we are strongly against the use of the media for
spread of hatred and other things. So we are trying to find a balance.
Therefore, no one is going to close and monitor and inspect 100 percent, put
under the government control. This is not the question. This is rather a
speculation. We tried to find a balance in the law; the law is still debated
and different parts are participating. And, by the way, this hearing will be
part of this debate because all ideas will not be ignored. We hear what we are
being told, but we are driven by our own rationale and we of course take into
account the experience of the entire –
REP. SMITH: With respect, Mr. Ambassador, my questioning also goes to the
heart of there is a legitimate criminal law enforcement role to be played with
regards to intersecting and monitoring e-mails. Criminality obviously has no
protection. There is no oasis there. But when it comes to the opposition, are
there any – does your government, in any way, monitor what the opposition is
doing using the tools of law enforcement and applying it to the opposition?
AMB. IDRISSOV: No, I don’t think that this is correct assessment of the
REP. SMITH: It’s a question.
AMB. IDRISSOV: No. My answer to this question, no. Very short.
REP. SMITH: Okay, thank you.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you. Congressman Faleomavaega, it’s nice to have you with
us. We thank you very much and we welcome your comments, if you would like to
make some comments. You have been very patient.
DELEGATE ENI FALEOMAVAEGA (D-AMERICAN SAMOA): Mr. Chairman, first my
apologies. I’ve had the first-class tour of the new visitors’ Capitol, where I
have been given the roundabout, and so my apologies for being here a little
late. I do have a statement I want to submit to be made part of the record, if
SEN. CARDIN: Without objection.
DEL. FALEOMAVAEGA: And in the essence of time, I’ve taken great interest in
some of the comments and the statements that were made earlier by our speakers.
I certainly want to offer my personal welcome to His Excellency Ambassador
Idrissov, representing the Republic of Kazakhstan.
I do want to mention that there was a – they mentioned earlier concerning that
if Kazakhstan does receive the chairmanship, if the chairmanship of Kazakhstan
will have any impact in terms of the influence that Russia would have – and I
think the usage of the Georgia crisis as an example that was raised here, my
understanding is that Russia sought the support of the Central Asian countries
and unanimously they rejected it.
And I think the logic that went with it – and correct me if I’m wrong on that,
Mr. Ambassador – was that they might be next if this kind of consent or
consensus is given to Russia or to any other country, an attack in a free
world. Am I correct, Mr. Ambassador, that’s what happened? Does President
Nazarbayev have any influence on the basis of why the Central Asian countries
rejected that effort made by Russia when the crisis in Georgia occurred?
AMB. IDRISSOV: Well, it was just on a simple reason: We are strongly against
violence. We are strongly against all forms of violence. But if you go
further to that, there are a number of aspects of this story and this decision
was taken during the Shanghai Group meeting, and the Shanghai Group, in
meeting, did not approve what has happened in Georgia.
So we were part of that process. And, as I said, the reasoning for that was
very simple: We are strongly against any forms of violence and we are strongly
against undermining the integrity of any nation state. That will be the
philosophical reason, if you like.
DEL. FALEOMAVAEGA: Mr. Chairman, I have a couple of observations, listening to
our colleagues in earlier statements concerning whether or not Kazakhstan
should serve as chair of this important organization. And I think my good
friend from Florida seems to have the same sense of perspective about here we
have a country that has come out of communism for 17 years to achieve all of
the principles of democracy and all that we have discussed in the whole
dialogue that we have taken.
It took us 150 years to recognize the rights of black Americans. By our own
Constitution we recognized a human being as three-fifths of a person. And it
seems that overnight we’re expecting Kazakhstan to come up to the standards
that it has taken us over 200 years to achieve. And I might want to ask also –
our two experts here on the situation have given what levels of democracy that
56 countries that make up this commission, are they of the same level in terms
of – what form of democracy are we comparing all these other countries with?
The United States? Our election process; that nine people have to decide who
should be the next president?
I’m just curious – Dr. McGlinchey mentioned something about that Kazakhstan is
somewhat of a mafia-oriented state. This is his theory, and I respect Dr.
McGlinchey’s theory about the country being a mafia state. Mr. Chairman, I’ve
been to Kazakhstan. I’m probably the first member of Congress who went to
ground zero, where the Soviet Union exploded its first atom bomb, and to this
day that place is still radiated with radioactive – I say this because of my
own personal experience, Mr. Chairman.
I’ve been to the Marshall Islands where we conducted 67 of our nuclear
explosions. To this day – if you talk about human rights violations, the
Marshallese people, to this day we still have not given proper medication and
treatment on what we did. And I suspect that the people in Kazakhstan, 1.5
millions Kazakhs were exposed to nuclear radiation on account of the Soviet
Union exploding over 500 nuclear bombs.
So when we talk about human rights, I want to put it in proper perspective, and
whether or not the people of Kazakhstan have had some very, very serious
problems to contend with in becoming a communist country and, overnight, trying
to develop a democracy. I kind of like to think that democracy is an evolving
process and an experiment. I don’t see it as a perfect form of government
overnight because even in our own democracy we’re still evolving. We’re still
trying to figure out what it means, human rights. Let’s talk about renditions.
Let’s talk about Guantanamo. So I give that perspective, Mr. Chairman.
I went to visit a synagogue that was just completed in this construction in
Kazakhstan, very impressive in the fact that as far as anti-Semitism is
concerned, I certainly did not get any education whatsoever that there was
religious intolerance as far as the government is concerned in its practice and
its efforts to make sure that the people in that country do tolerate, do allow
people from all different religious persuasions to worship as they may. And
with that, Mr. Chairman, I just wanted to know – I do want to ask Ambassador
Idrissov if he has any response to Dr. McGlinchey’s observations about these
three theories that your form of government is somewhat of a mafia-related
state. Can you respond to that?
SEN. CARDIN: In all fairness to Dr. McGlinchey, I don’t think – he was using
an analogy in history but was very clear not to defame Kazakhstan. So I just
want to make sure the record is clear on that point.
AMB. IDRISSOV: So my response will be also very short. I, too, could add a
theory. We have our own reason and strategy for development. Therefore we
base it on our history and our understanding of things. And I once again want
to assure this commission that our part for future growth is a dual track of
liberal, economic and political development, and we are not going to hesitate
on this road.
DEL. FALEOMAVAEGA: With that, Mr. Chairman, thank you so much.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you. Thank you for the observations.
MR. LENNMARKER: Thank you. And we emphasize that development to human rights
and democracy is a journey. None of us can go within one day or one year. One
of the important parts in that journey is to have a constructive opposition. I
usually say I’m in the government party myself, but of course every governing
party does its mistakes, and we need a viable, constructive opposition to help
My question to you, Mr. Ambassador, is there any mechanism now that you have to
include or to listen to the opposition voices in your country, knowing that you
now have a one-party parliament. But nevertheless, you can find mechanisms to
include and to listen to a constructive opposition. Do we have such a
AMB. IDRISSOV: Yes. Thank you very much for your question, and please be
assured that we fully understand that constructive opposition is an important
element to our evolving growth. In fact, I do not want people to take the
situation as if in Kazakhstan is a complete vacuum and no one exists. The fact
that we sit with Mr. Zhovtis on this panel is a testimony that we have a
growing society and we develop a culture of having as meaningful and civilized
Opposition have their own parties and their circulation is counted in millions.
The new amendments have further provided ways to help the opposition to grow
from itself. The fact is that the government cannot grow the opposition by
itself. It would be ridiculous, of course, but we understand our role to make
the environment conducive to that. It is for the public and for the opposition
parties to grow and mature. We try to understand – to remove the unnecessary
obstacles from the way. Maybe there are some obstacles so far here in the
And the culture is different. We understand that. And, by the way, please try
to understand that opposition people do not come from another country. They
are not from the moon. They are from the same society. They have the same
shortcomings; they have the same cultural barriers in building their own
understanding of things in Kazakhstan. We are one society. We are one country.
Therefore, I think that eventually we will have a strong opposition. And I
personally, for example, respect what Mr. Zhovtis is doing in the opposition
blogs, so to say. We have important members in our society who are very good
speakers for their causes, for their interests and for their ideas, and I think
that we have a multiplicity of forums where we involve different groups to
engage with each other.
For example, a discussion on the legislation on election. I think all the
groups are part of that discussion. This is a form of involvement and
engagement and helping the political parties to mature – not only opposition
parties but other parties. Eventually I personally believe it will be good for
Kazakhstan with the small population to come, along with two or three strong
parties. We don’t have to have dozens of parties in Kazakhstan for a
population of 16 million people. They have to be more solid, they have to be
more representative real of the people. This process is in the making.
I personally believe that our opposition parties are weak because we don’t have
strong leaders there. And as a member of the society I can comment – I can
comment, and I wish to see the growth of strong leaders from any quarters in
Kazakhstan. This will make our society more viable. And please believe me
that the government does not see as its task to suppress everything. We are
trying to find the best way for our growth. We are in search of that growth.
We are evolving. We are – as I said, we are in a very challenging journey, and
everyone is part of this journey, both Mr. Zhovtis and myself and the
government and other representatives in our society.
Therefore, we do not want to kind of do the job of our growth in a moment only
as the job of the government. It’s our collective effort of the entire society
in Kazakhstan, and I think that we have to observe the very important aspect of
growth of Kazakhstan though the generation change. Therefore, the government
of Kazakhstan is investing a lot of money in ensuring the best possible
education for the young generation. The major changes in Kazakhstan, I am
personally convinced, will come through generation changes, and this is yet to
be seen. Thank you.
MR. LENNMARKER: Could I just have a last question, and that is you have made a
priority of having a summit, and you exemplified it in your written statement
with the – what is that, the security – European Security Treaty. There are
some principles that are very important. One is to base security on values,
human rights and democracy, which I think is a cornerstone of European
security, the wider European security.
The other is a respect for small countries. Small and big countries have the
same rights. There is no right of deciding or influence for a bigger country.
The third, which I think is important for Kazakhstan, is the right for
landlocked countries to have access to the wider world, not be discriminated
against. And that’s extremely important for you and your neighbors in Central
Asia and the Caspian area. What is now your positions on these three very
AMB. IDRISSOV: Well, as far as the last point is concerned, Kazakhstan is the
largest land-locked country in the world. So of course we are deeply taking
these issues into the heart. Therefore I said that in the economic and
environmental basket, we are trying to concentrate on the transit potential of
Eurasia space. So we want to use the potential of OSCE to encourage dialogue
and practical achievements in this area.
The summit idea and the overall security is of course a very challenging task.
We understand the difficulties of different ideas which are being aired. So
it’s a long discussion, of course, and the big nations didn’t come yet to a
common understanding of the situation. Therefore, it’s not for me within two
minutes to cover this aspect. But we – as chairman, we see our role as to
facilitate this dialogue. We identified the important partners, important
place in this process. Through talking to them we identified that they also
have concerns about Euro-Atlantic security or European security.
There are different ideas on both. There is President Medvedev’s idea. Mr.
Sarkozy – President Sarkozy has also voiced his support for that. And we see
the rationale and we fully support what he said, that any efforts on building
or restructuring the European security should be based on the OSCE platform, on
the three baskets.
Therefore, we are supporters of the three-basket approach and indivisibility of
the security. There should be no divisions within the organization. Therefore
it is a matter of key players and all the membership to sit down and agree on
what areas they can enhance their understanding of security and maybe redrawing
certain rules and habits and culture within that.
Therefore, a summit is very useful for that because for 10 years we never had a
meaningful dialogue at the top level within OSCE membership. Yes, we
understood that there was no agenda for that. We hope that in 2010, with so
many landmark evens, we will have a good reason and a very valid agenda for the
top leaders to come and discuss the future of the organization, and through
that the future of our security in that entire Eurasia space. Thank you.
SEN. CARDIN: Well, thank you. The record will stay open. Mr. Zhovtis, you
may want to comment on the Internet that Mr. Smith was interested in. I’m
going to ask you to do that, if you could, for the record because we really
have run out of time here today. So to complete it – I know it’s in your
statement. If you want to add to it, it will be very helpful to us and we’d
MR. ZHOVTIS: I will give you only one example and it will explain everything.
If you will come to Astana and not far from the building of the government, you
will come into the Hotel Ambassador, where usually the foreigners are staying.
And then you switch on Internet. You could enter any site you want. If you go
out, I could count you at least 10 Web sites which you never could open because
these sites are blocked. And this is very easy to explain how it works.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you. I want to thank all of our witnesses, and
particularly the ambassador, for your time. You’ve spent a lot of time with us
this morning. We appreciate that. Kazakhstan will be the chair in office come
January of 2010.
I think all of us are looking forward to this as being a very positive
development within the OSCE framework, giving us opportunities for advancement,
but we also look at it as an opportunity to advance the adherence to OSCE
principles in all the OSCE states with the chairs state being a model for how
development can move forward.
And I think today’s hearing has helped us in trying to focus on that, and I
assure you that we’ll continue to have interest in our commission and work with
the interested parties in a very constructive way. Again, thank you all very
much for your participation, and with that the hearing will stand adjourned.
(ENDED AT 12:10 P.M.)