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U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION TO HOLD HEARING ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN KAZAKHSTAN

WASHINGTON – The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) announced today a hearing on the situation in Kazakhstan following recent violence and early parliamentary elections.

 Kazakhstan: As Stable as Its Government Claims?

Wednesday January 25, 2012

2:00 p.m.

Room 2200 Rayburn House Office Building

The hearing will examine whether the recent shooting of protesters by security forces means that Kazakhstan’s repressive government is no longer as stable as it has long claimed, and whether its poor human rights record contributes to instability.

For years the government of Kazakhstan has held up the country’s stability as one of its greatest achievements, and used that to justify its undemocratic government. Yet questions have arisen about that claim in light of recent events in Zhanaozen, western Kazakhstan. In December a long standing oil workers’ strike erupted in violence, leaving at least 16 dead. Video footage has emerged of security forces firing at fleeing protesters and beating those who had fallen. Human rights activists reported subsequent abuse of detainees in police custody. The violence in Zhanaozen rounded out a year that also saw several suicide bombings and the apparent emergence of extremist religious groups. 

In what may be further signs of the government’s sense of insecurity, last week the government of Kazakhstan held early parliamentary elections, which, according to the OSCE, did not meet fundamental principles of democratic elections. At the same time, the government is putting into place several restrictive new laws including on religion, broadcast media, and national security. 

The following witnesses are scheduled to testify:

Ambassador William Courtney (retired), former U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan and Georgia

Dr. Sean Roberts, Associate Professor and Director of the International Development Studies program, George Washington University’s Elliott School for International Affairs

Ms. Susan Corke, Director for Eurasia programs, Freedom House

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