HC Deb 23 April 2001 vol 367 cc122-3W
Mr. David Atkinson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his latest assessment is of the state of human rights and democracy in Kazakhstan; and what conditions are included in EU agreements to provide for progress on these matters. [158197]

Mr. Vaz

Kazakhstan's human rights record since independence is mixed. In August 1998 the Government acceded to four UN Conventions: the Convention Against Torture; the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; the Convention on the Eradication of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The Foreign Secretary pressed President Nazarbaev, during the latter's visit to Britain last November, for Kazakh accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and abolition of the death penalty.

Serious problems remain. The UK, with its EU partners, has recently issued demarches to the Kazakh Government expressing concern about proposed amendments to the Law on the Mass Media and to the Law on Religion, which threaten to restrict media and religious freedoms.

Democracy and respect for human rights underpin the EU-Kazakhstan Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA) which came into effect in July 1999. Progress towards democratisation and human rights norms is regularly discussed at high-level PCA meetings between the EU and Kazakhstan. The PCA also provides for co-operation and technical assistance to aid progress in these areas.

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