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Kazakhstan’s New Human Rights Amendment

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*Kazakhstan’s Human Rights Commissioner, Igor Rogov, a former justice
minister and a member of the European Commission for Democracy through Law,
says the country is adopting OECD standards*

On April 13, Kazakhstan’s president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed the
amendment to Decree 597, codifying the amendments to the June 2021
legislation - upgrading the country’s human rights provisions. The move
comes as part of wide-scale reforms the President has proposed to be
implemented across Kazakhstan's political system and civil society. Among
the key bodies emboldened by the new reforms is the country’s Commission on
Human Rights.

The chairman of Kazakhstan’s Commission on Human Rights is Igor Rogov, a
former justice minister, internationally renowned criminologist, and a
member of the European Commission for Democracy through Law. Commissioner
Rogov notes the importance of this agenda for Kazakhstan’s government,
especially after the January unrest: “In 2021, President Tokayev had signed
the Decree setting, which provides further measures in the field of human
rights. This plan includes new measures related to the liberalization of
religious legislation, the abolition of the death penalty, policies
empowering women, greater equality and access provisions for people with
disabilities, as well as significant improvements in the law enforcement
and judicial systems.”

Opening up political participation is also something Igor Rogov points to
as key to the long-term well-being of democracy in the country. The 2021
amendments eased barriers of entry for registering religious associations
and holding religious events – fundamentally meaning that such organizers
needed to only inform authorities of the events, rather than request
permission. This move was echoed in new reforms announced by President
Tokayev this year, which lowered the threshold for new political parties
from 20,000 to 5,000 members.

The reforms also saw the introduction of a ‘service model’ for the work of
the police and a phased transfer of the functions of medical support for
convicted and remand-arrested persons - from the Ministry of Internal
Affairs to the Ministry of Health. Also, there is an expansion of
conditions for the employment of convicts and their social adaptation. “As
we can see,” says Commissioner Rogov, “the protection of human rights is a
priority political agenda of Kazakhstan. The signing of the decree once
again emphasizes that the policy of our country is aimed at the purposeful
implementation of obligations to protect the rights and freedoms of all
categories of citizens in accordance with generally recognized
international standards.”

Since 2021, the Commission on Human Rights under the President of the
Republic of Kazakhstan has been closely cooperating with the Council of
Europe project “HELP” (Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals).
HELP's key audience is judges, prosecutors, and lawyers. Commissioner Rogov
concludes: “I am talking about the rights guaranteed by the Constitution
and laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the UN International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture, and other
international treaties ratified by the State. Our recommendations are aimed
at improving legislation in law enforcement and bringing it in line with
the standards of the OECD countries.”

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