- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 10, 2009

If Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev believes any of what he said about “the promise of emerging democracies” (“The promise of emerging democracies,” Opinion, Tuesday), then why doesn’t he practice what he preaches?

Mr. Nazarbayev’s Kazakhstan is a fundamentally undemocratic place. It fails the first test of a democratic nation, having never held a free election. Under Mr. Nazarbayev’s continuous rule since 1989, Kazakhstan remains much as it was in Soviet times, a one-party state with a president who controls the judiciary and legislature and who rules without term limits.

Just last week, Kazakhstan’s most well-known human rights advocate, Yevgeniy Zhovtis of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, was sentenced to four years in prison after a staged trial in which numerous procedural violations were racked up right before observers from several embassies and international human rights organizations. As Mr. Zhovtis himself said before being hauled off to a prison colony, the proceedings were a “political setup” by the state.

The State Department’s 2008 Human Rights Report on Kazakhstan notes: “severe limits on citizens’ rights to change their government; military hazing that led to deaths; detainee and prisoner abuse; unhealthy prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of an independent judiciary; restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and association; pervasive corruption, especially in law enforcement and the judicial system; prohibitive political party registration requirements; restrictions on the activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); discrimination and violence against women; trafficking in persons; and societal discrimination.”

Before Kazakhstan can be considered an emerging democracy, it must emerge from 20 years of autocratic rule.



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