- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 26, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s Jan. 14 Commentary column, “Summit needed for stagnant OSCE,” is a curious shot across the bow from the country that this month took over chairmanship of the consensus-driven, 56-member organization that brings together the United States, European countries and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union.

Given its own dismal record over the past two decades of upholding the OSCE’s founding principles in the arena of human rights, it is very doubtful that Kazakhstan will breathe new life into the organization that so many nations look to for their own aspirations for human freedom.

When Kazakhstan was selected as the 2010 chair-in-office at an OSCE meeting in Madrid in 2007, it pledged to undertake a number of reforms regarding its own human rights record. Most of those commitments remain unfulfilled. Last year, Mr. Nazarbayev’s country passed a law allowing government regulation of the Internet, a cause for serious concern to democracy and human rights advocates in Kazakhstan as well as those abroad, like Freedom House. During the past decades, OSCE monitors have cited many obstacles to free and fair elections in Kazakhstan, and the regime continues to reduce opportunities for independent political activity. Rule of law in Kazakhstan was on display last summer when the nation’s leading human rights advocate was sentenced to four years in prison in a case that international observers documented as severely flawed.

It would be nice to believe that, as Mr. Nazarbayev asserts, “The motto of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship is four T’s: trust, tradition, transparency and tolerance.” For this to be credible, however, it is important to remind Mr. Nazarbayev that actions to treat his people with dignity and uphold core human rights in his own country speak more loudly than words in foreign newspapers.

ROBERT HERMAN

Director of programs, Freedom House

Washington

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