Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Commend School Enrolment in Kazakhstan, Ask about Inter-Ethnic Tensions and Anti-Discrimination Legislation
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined eighth to tenth periodic report of Kazakhstan, with Committee Experts commending Kazakhstan on school enrolment in the country, and asking questions about inter-ethnic tensions and anti-discrimination legislation.
Sheikha Abdulla Ali Al-Misnad, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Kazakhstan, commended Kazakhstan on the country’s achievement of almost universal enrolment in primary and secondary education. She acknowledged that Kazakhstan had made efforts to create harmony between the various ethnic groups in the country. However, inter-ethnic tension existed. She expressed concern that this was considered a taboo subject, meaning it remained unsolved and would grow over time and then erupt into violence, as had happened before. What was the State party doing to address the role of media in stoking ethnic tensions, without jeopardising freedom of speech?
Chinsung Chung, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Kazakhstan, said there was an absence of a clear definition of what could be considered a crime of discrimination within the Criminal Code. Were there plans to define this criminal offense more clearly? What measures had been taken to effectively investigate, prosecute and combat racist hate speech and hate crimes and to punish perpetrators?
Galym Shoikin, Chairman of the Committee for the Development of Inter-Ethnic Relations, Ministry of Information and Social Development of Kazakhstan and head of the delegation, said Kazakhstan aimed to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and manifestations and to ensure the equality of every person before the law, without distinction as to race, colour or national or ethnic origin. The Constitution and current legislation of Kazakhstan protected the rights of all national minorities. Codes, laws and other national legal acts prohibited any kind of discrimination.
Mr. Shoikin said that in 2020, the Committee for the Development of Inter-Ethnic Relations was established to ensure inter-ethnic interaction and prevent discrimination against the rights of ethnic groups. Since its establishment, the Committee had developed more than 15 methodological recommendations, and conducted 23 practical seminars and trainings. In 2020, the “Police Standard” was approved, which prohibited statements and actions of a discriminatory nature from members of the police force.
On anti-discrimination legislation, the delegation said that anti-discrimination legislation had not been elaborated, but discrimination on the grounds of race and nationality was prohibited in the Constitution. Labour legislation and the Criminal Code reflected the tenets of the Constitution, but there was a need for specific anti-discrimination legislation. The Criminal Code specifically prohibited the limitation of human rights based on ethnicity through article 145. If the rights of citizens were violated, perpetrators were held criminally accountable.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Ali Al-Misnad said it was important for the Government to acknowledge the ethnic tension in the country as shifting the blame would not solve the problem or make it go away. It could only be solved through changes in policy and education on how to respect the rights of the minorities and through transparent public debates. She hoped the discussion over the past two days would result in small changes, and allow the delegation to influence the authorities in their country to make changes towards ethnic minority groups in Kazakhstan.
Mr. Shoikin thanked the Committee for the constructive dialogue regarding the implementation of the Convention in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan was a country which was moving in a steadfast manner towards changes for the good, and was ready to take all measures to eliminate racial discrimination.
The delegation of Kazakhstan consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Information and Social Development; the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection; the General Prosecutor’s Office; the Human Rights Commission; and the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of Kazakhstan after its one hundred and sixth session concludes on 29 April. Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 29 April at 4 p.m. to close its one hundred and sixth session.
Presentation of Report
GALYM SHOIKIN, Chairman of the Committee for the Development of Inter-Ethnic Relations, Ministry of Information and Social Development of Kazakhstan and head of the delegation , said that Kazakhstan aimed to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and manifestations and to ensure the equality of every person before the law, without distinction as to race, colour or national or ethnic origin. The Constitution and current legislation of Kazakhstan protected the rights of all national minorities. Codes, laws and other national legal acts prohibited any kind of discrimination.
Citizens’ human rights interests were defended by the Human Rights Ombudsman, the Human Rights Commission, the National Commission on Women's Affairs, the Family and Demographic Policy, and the Ombudsman for the Protection of the Rights of Children and Entrepreneurs. In order to effectively promote human rights and combat racial discrimination, the Act of 29 December 2021 brought the mandate of the Human Rights Ombudsman in line with the Paris Principles. The Act expanded the powers of the Commissioner to restore the violated rights of citizens, and introduced additional mechanisms for ensuring rights and freedoms. Anyone interested in obtaining information on national and international legislation in the field of human rights could use the "Adilet" website of the Ministry of Justice free of charge.
A law supporting the participation in parliament of females, youth and persons with disabilities had also been introduced. Education scholarships had been introduced for minority groups. The State was working on making data on ethnic groups more available. Data on ethnicity would be published online later this year. There was also data on the ethnic makeup of the prison population.
Electronic visa applications had been introduced. Kazakhstan was one of 103 States to have signed a Joint Statement on the Impact of COVID-19 on Migrants. In 2021, 371 refugees lived in Kazakhstan, and 6,911 people had the official status of a stateless person. Around 1,808 stateless persons had been provided with citizenship, including 110 women. In 2020, through a large-scale identification campaign, 6,000 undocumented stateless persons were registered, of which 3,400 were confirmed as citizens of Kazakhstan, and 1,600 received the official status of being stateless. Twelve channels of illegal migration had also been closed and 44 attempts to cross the border using false documents had been stopped.
In 2018, legislation on human trafficking was introduced, and victims of crimes related to human trafficking were provided with the right to receive monetary compensation. Since 2016, 35 judicial and administrative decisions had been made that referenced the Convention.
Measures were being taken to promote intercultural dialogue and respect for diversity. In 2020, the Committee for the Development of Inter-Ethnic Relations was established to ensure inter-ethnic interaction, and prevent discrimination against the rights of ethnic groups. The Institute of Applied Ethno-Political Studies was also created to provide analytical, research and expert support of the State's measures on inter-ethnic issues. Since its establishment, the Committee had developed more than 15 methodological recommendations, and conducted 23 practical seminars and trainings. In 2020, the “Police Standard” was approved, which prohibited statements and actions of a discriminatory nature from members of the police force.
On 16 March 2022, it was proposed to abolish the quota system of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan and transition to a proportional-majoritarian electoral model. This approach would significantly strengthen democratic traditions and contribute to the establishment of a new political culture based on mutual responsibility and trust.
In 2021, Kazakhstan ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty. The Constitution would be amended accordingly. A systematic approach would also be introduced in the investigation of crimes related to torture.
In May-June 2020, Kazakhstan introduced legislation allowing peaceful rallies, and the article of the Criminal Code on libel was transferred to the Administrative Code.
The Law on Mass Media was being revised to ensure effective communication between the authorities and the people, and the development of an independent and responsible media. Revisions, which would be drafted by the end of this year, would consider the needs of society and global trends.
Questions by Committee Experts
SHEIKHA ABDULLA ALI Al-MISNAD, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Kazakhstan, congratulated Kazakhstan on its participation in the Rule of Law Index, which was produced by the World Justice Project. Kazakhstan ranked 66 out of 139 States in the 2021 Index, an increase of nearly three per cent. This was a very good achievement for a new State. However, it had the lowest scores in two areas: “constraints on Government powers”, which assessed the extent to which those in Government were bound by law, and in “fundamental rights”. These areas would be discussed in the dialogue.
Ms. Ali-Misnad requested statistical information on the social and economic situation of the ethnic groups in the State party, and of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons, with reference to education, employment, health and housing. She also asked for information on the types of crimes committed aggregated by ethnicity.
Was the Convention directly applicable in the State party? What was the State party doing to ensure that the provisions of the Convention were incorporated into domestic law and applied in practice? What measures had been taken to disseminate information to the public about the prohibition of racial discrimination?
Did Kazakhstan intend to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law, including a definition of direct and indirect discrimination? What were the reasons for the absence of skin colour when referring to grounds of discrimination in legislation? When would the addition of prohibition against discrimination based on skin colour to the Labour Code be discussed?
Had the State party adopted any special measures for certain racial or ethnic groups in order to ensure their equal enjoyment of human rights?
Ms. Ali-Misnad noted that Kazakhstan planned to strengthen the Human Rights Ombudsman and bring this institution in line with the Paris Principles. How would it do this? Would the budget and staff of the Commissioner be increased? She called for information on the planned establishment of the Commissioner’s presence in the regions outside the capital. Were there any regular reports published by the Commissioner on racial discrimination? Did the Commissioner have the authority to investigate complaints concerning decisions of the President, heads of government agencies, parliament, cabinet, Constitutional Council, Prosecutor General’s Office, or courts? What was the delegation’s view on allegations that the Ombudsman’s Office and the Human Rights Commission were unable to stop human rights abuses or punish perpetrators?
Ms. Ali Al-Misnad welcomed that some training was provided to judges on the implementation of recommendations of United Nations human rights treaty bodies. Was similar training provided to members of parliament and others involved in drafting and adopting legislation in a systematic way?
The State party report noted an increase in the number of reported cases of racial discrimination. What was the reason for this increase? Ms. Ali Al-Misnad asked for the latest statistics on the number of complaints and court decisions of acts of racial discrimination. How often was assistance and legal aid requested and provided to individuals in cases of racial discrimination?
Ms. Ali Al-Misnad also addressed the tragic event involving the Dungan People that occurred in 2020. What measures had the State party implemented to repair and build trust with the Dungan community? What measures had been taken to investigate allegations of incitement to violence and of hate speech against the Dungan minority group? Why was the compensation paid to the Dungan victims significantly less than the initial estimation of the commission created for this purpose?
CHINSUNG CHUNG, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Kazakhstan, asked about the degree to which civil society organizations, including those of ethnic minorities, had been involved in the implementation of the Committee’s concluding observations?
Did the initiative to modernise the State announced in March 2022 include policies to create a more inclusive society? Ms. Chung commended that the Assembly of the People and the Committee for the Development of Inter-Ethnic Relations had been established. Were these organizations separate from the Government?
There was an absence of a clear definition of what could be considered a crime of discrimination within the Criminal Code. Were there plans to define this criminal offense more clearly? What measures had been taken to effectively investigate, prosecute and combat racist hate speech and hate crimes and to punish perpetrators?
The lengthy residence registration process for migrants hindered their access to the formal labour market and to social benefits, including in the areas of health care, housing and education. Were measures being taken to address this issue? How many undocumented migrants were there in the State?
Did Kazakhstan plan to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families? How did the State party ensure that undocumented migrant workers were able to exercise their economic, social and cultural rights? Why did female migrant workers reportedly have minimal legal protection mechanisms? What was the State doing to prevent the exploitation of child migrants?
In 2019, there were 116 victims of human trafficking, including 88 migrant workers. Thirty per cent of victims were women and 70 per cent were men. Law enforcement officers were sometimes complicit in human trafficking. What measures had the State party implemented to prevent and criminalise human trafficking?
GUN KUT, Committee Expert and Follow-Up Rapporteur, said that there was no indication in the follow-up report that special measures had been implemented to support ethnic minorities in their enjoyment of human rights.
What were concrete examples of efforts to support migrant workers? Mr. Kut called for more information on the tasks that the Human Rights Commission carried out.
Another Committee Expert asked if the 2017–2019 figures for percentages of ethnic groups provided in the report accurately reflected the current situation in Kazakhstan. What was the ethnic make-up of migrants entering the State? Did migrants from more distant States have the same access to public services as migrants from neighbouring States?
Had there been an increase of women in positions of power in the private sector? Were there language restrictions on working in the public sector and the private sector? Had the number of ethnic minorities participating in elections decreased?
One Committee Expert noted that the Human Rights Commission was attached to the Government. What measures were in place to detach it from the Government?
Human rights defenders had been victims of violence in the State. Had perpetrators been held to account? Were some human rights defenders still in detention?
Another Committee Expert said that the only speech that was prohibited was hate speech in human rights law, but the Media Act appeared to go beyond that, with the State able to prohibit and punish speech that was not hate speech. What was the delegation’s view on this?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that there were two types of national human rights institutions in Kazakhstan. One was the Human Rights Commission, an advisory body under the President that connected the State with civil society institutions and reported on the human rights situation to the Government and citizens. The Commission also prepared analytical reports on the rights of migrants in Kazakhstan. The second institution was the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, which had been separated from the State. The Ombudsman’s Office was a Constitutional body that was fully independent. The Ombudsman could receive complaints from individuals and address State bodies regarding violations of rights.
International human rights agreements were an integral part of the legislation of Kazakhstan. International treaties ratified by Kazakhstan were prioritised over national legislation. No international agreements had been repealed or revoked domestically. Norms of the Convention were applied directly by the Human Rights Commission and the Ombudsman. All bodies of the judiciary were obligated to apply international agreements, including the Convention.
Anti-discrimination legislation had not been elaborated, but discrimination on the grounds of race and nationality was prohibited in the Constitution. Labour legislation and the Criminal Code reflected the tenets of the Constitution, but there was a need for specific anti-discrimination legislation.
The Criminal Code specifically prohibited the limitation of human rights based on ethnicity through article 145. If the rights of citizens were violated, perpetrators were held criminally accountable.
The Human Rights Commission had prepared three reports on human trafficking, and support centres were established for victims of trafficking. The Government was working on preventing trafficking.
Acting on recommendations from the Human Rights Commission, the Government planned to provide social services to temporary residents free of charge.
There were many citizens of Kazakhstan who left the State and returned to their States of origin. There were support programmes both for incoming and outgoing migrants. The number of Uzbeks, Azeris, Turkish nationals and Dungans was increasing, while the number of Russians and Germans was decreasing.
The State provided training for judges and public officials in human rights and combatted hate speech with the involvement of non-governmental organizations. Training in legal assistance for victims of trafficking was also provided. The Committee on Inter-Ethnic Relations had been established, and one of its mandates was to conduct information campaigns on human rights directed at public officials working in regional areas. Another mandate was to ensure that there was no language-based discrimination and discrimination in the provision of public services.
Kazakhstan was fully compliant with international conventions regarding migration. Kazakhstan supported prohibiting illegal migration. Legislation related to foreign workers had been amended in 2017 to support migrant workers. The procedure for changing jobs had been streamlined and special job search services were provided to foreigners. A majority of foreign migrants came from Uzbekistan, and three agreements had been made with Uzbekistan to strengthen the rights of migrants from that country.
All foreign residents enjoyed the same rights as citizens, except for the right to vote. To ensure that migrant children had access to education, artificial intelligence was used to identify students that needed access to education and support was provided to those children. All social services were provided to migrant children, and special support was provided to unaccompanied children to protect their rights and ensure their access to social and education services.
In February 2020, the Dungan tragedy occurred, and this had led to mass unrest. The State had made efforts to compensate for the damages caused. Buildings had been damaged and businesses experienced significant losses. The State had provided significant support to residents of this region. Harmony and mutual understanding between the Dungan minority and other ethnic groups did exist. Over 100 million tenge had been provided in compensation, following the national compensation law.
A tragedy had also occurred in January 2022, but weapons were not used by State officials against peaceful protesters. Weapons were only used when State buildings were attacked, in accordance with anti-terrorism legislation. An investigative committee had been established to investigate the incident, and those people found to have violated the law would be held to account.
There were approximately 30,000 people in prisons, with around 25 per cent of prisoners belonging to minority ethnic groups. The most common crimes committed by these prisoners were theft, violence, rape, and transport-related violations.
The delegation said that it planned to increase the participation of non-governmental organizations in the State party reporting process.
The prosecutor’s office was responsible for training judges and law enforcement officials in international human rights conventions. Around 145 complaints of human rights abuses had been received by the Human Rights Commission.
Questions by Committee Experts
SHEIKHA ABDULLA ALI Al-MISNAD, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Kazakhstan, said that only 32 complaints related to racial discrimination had been received by the Human Rights Commission. Why was this number so low?
What was the exact date from when temporary foreign residents would be provided with social services, and what services would be provided?
CHINSUNG CHUNG, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Kazakhstan, asked the delegation to provide disaggregated data on human trafficking, and more information on the activities of the Committee for the Development of Inter-Ethnic Relations.
What measures were in place to support female migrants, who were particularly at risk?
The delegation said that only 19 criminal cases tried under article 145 of the Criminal Code had been registered over the past five years. There were issues with the implementation of this law.
Throughout the history of the independence of Kazakhstan, 12 people had been convicted under legislation prohibiting terrorism. The events of January 2022 were the first of their kind. Meetings began peacefully, but the situation escalated when a group of armed bandits attacked State buildings in what the State defined as a terrorist attack.
Migrant workers could work for periods of three months to one year. In 2014, criteria had been developed for identifying victims of trafficking. A standard for providing social services to victims of trafficking had also been developed. Around 1,500 victims of trafficking had been identified, and around 70 per cent of victims were male. The main victims of trafficking were labour migrants coming from neighbouring States, Turkey and the Philippines. Victims could live in crisis centres for up to six months, with an extension of up to 12 months possible.
State policy was aimed at protecting the rights and freedoms of all minorities in Kazakhstan. Complaints of discrimination had been investigated by the Ombudsman, and in some cases were rejected as discrimination had not occurred. This was why most complaints were not assessed by the courts.
The public service was open to all residents, with no discrimination based on ethnicity. The State carried out awareness-raising campaigns encouraging members of ethnic minorities to work for the State. Ethnic minorities often did not wish to work for the State, favouring private sector jobs. However, regions with high populations of ethnic minorities had higher percentages of them working in the public sector. Ethnic minorities were represented in parliament at a higher percentage in these regions. Organizations representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons did exist, and these organizations enjoyed the same rights as other non-governmental organizations.
Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons was prohibited in law. Gender realignment surgery was allowed. The State called on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex organizations to fully respect international conventions.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert said that the general prosecutor’s office dealt with the prosecution of judges. Who appointed judges and how were judges removed from office?
Another Committee Expert asked for more detailed information on the representation of minorities in parliament.
One Committee Expert said that there were general aggravating circumstances within legislation, but no specific legislation on racially motived hate crimes. Did the State intend to introduce this?
A Committee Expert said that the Human Rights Commission worked under the President. How could the State ensure the independence of this Commission?
SHEIKHA ABDULLA ALI Al-MISNAD, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Kazakhstan, acknowledged that Kazakhstan had made efforts to create harmony between the various ethnic groups in the country. However, inter-ethnic tension existed. She was concerned that the situation was considered a taboo subject, meaning it remained unsolved and would grow over time and then erupt in violence, as had happened before. Could the delegation comment on this assessment of the situation? What was being done to address the situation? Could the delegation share details of the State’s monitoring mechanism and examples of negative trends observed in recent years, including measures to counteract them? What was the State party doing to address the role of the media in stoking ethnic tensions, without jeopardising freedom of speech? What were the reasons for ethnic tension and conflict in the State party? What was being done to address, analyse and openly discuss these tensions? Were local authorities trained in dealing with ethnic tension and conflict? What were the inter-ethnic policies in the country? Could statistics on persons of African descent in Kazakhstan be provided, including their socio-economic situation, and information on whether they faced discrimination?
To ensure the participation of women and youth in the political system, it was indicated that 30 per cent of political candidates should be women or youth; did this also apply to ethnic minorities? What was the number of persons belonging to ethnic minorities who held decision-making positions in Kazakhstan? Ms. Ali Al-Misnad commended the State party’s achievement on school enrolment, with almost universal enrolment being achieved in primary and secondary education. Could the delegation provide statistics on school enrolment of ethnic minority children at all levels?
It was noted that the State party had a progressive multi-lingual approach to education. However, this approach marginalised the languages of ethnic minorities. What was the State doing to ensure that policies to promote languages such as Kazakh, Russian and English did not come at the cost of the languages of ethnic minorities? Could the delegation provide information on how the issue of discrimination was reflected in the school curriculum, and what strategies were employed? How could children of undocumented parents enrol in school?
According to the State, a large-scale campaign had been launched to identify stateless persons. Could updated statistics on stateless persons be provided? It was noted that following the 2017 amendment to the Constitution, individuals who had committed terrorism crimes could be deprived of their nationality. What safeguards existed in this context to prevent statelessness? Could specific examples be provided? What medical services were available for stateless persons?
What actions were being taken to eliminate statelessness?
CHINSUNG CHUNG, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Kazakhstan, asked about nationalism. The Committee had received reports that sentiments supporting Kazakh culture had increased in recent years, leading to alienation and xenophobia among ethnic minorities. There had been reports that the State party was encouraging the migration of Kazakhs to certain areas to make these areas more linguistically and culturally Kazakh. What was the delegation’s comment on this assessment? Was the State party aware of tensions between Kazak repatriates and other groups? Were measures being taken to mitigate these possible ethnic tensions?
Could the delegation explain reasons behind the decrease of Roma people in the country? It was noted that the State party maintained that racial discrimination in the country was not systemic and such acts were isolated. Was this the case for discrimination against Roma as well?
Had any progress been made to ensure that standardised asylum procedures were established? Could the delegation inform the Committee if a monitoring mechanism existed to ensure that diplomatic guarantees were adhered to? It was noted that refugees in Kazakhstan were only guaranteed a one-year temporary residency, meaning they were unable to find work in the formal sector. Were there any plans to address this issue? What provisions were in place to ensure complementary protection for those not formally recognised as refugees, but who were unable to return to their country of origin? It was noted that refugees were ineligible to apply for citizenship; were there any plans for the State party to amend this legislation? Were statistics available on application rejections for asylum seekers? How was the recent situation of Ukraine asylum seekers?
What measures were being taken to ensure that refugees belonging to ethnic minorities enjoyed the right to asylum, whatever their countries of origin? Ms. Chung noted that the report said that refugees and asylum seekers were provided with medical services by an authorised body. What was this authorised body? What were the measures taken during the pandemic to provide support to stateless persons? Reports had been received that schools did not receive refugee children; could the delegation provide an update on this?
A Committee Expert asked about how the delegation viewed the nature of racial discrimination, as it had been stated that systemic racism did not exist in Kazakhstan. How did the State party view that declaration on their part?
Another Committee Expert said it had been noted that the treaties in Kazakhstan had priority over domestic laws. Article 4 required that the State penalise four categories of misconduct. Had Kazakhstan passed laws to penalise misconduct?
A Committee Expert asked about citizenship, saying the Ombudsman had issued a report in 2019 which discussed legislation relating to citizenship. There were proposals to make amendments to legislation regarding children’s citizenship, ensuring citizenship was transferred through the mothers, among other amendments. Had any of the changes in the report been implemented?
What was the status of minority languages outside the Kazakh and Russian languages? Were there plans to ratify the conventions on statelessness? Was Kazakhstan planning to adopt an action plan on statelessness?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said the Human Rights Commission, which worked under the President, was created in 1994 following a decree by the President. The Commission had an advisory status, holding discussions and providing advice. The main functions carried out by the Commission were facilitating the actions between human rights institutions and the President and providing support on improving legislation. Upon the recommendation of the Human Rights Commission, an Ombudsman for Human Rights had been established. Since 2017, the Ombudsman was elected by the parliament, chosen among candidates sent by the President, and was an independent mechanism.
Since 2009, Kazakhstan had gender affirmation surgery available on a voluntary basis, with sign off from a psychologist required. This surgery was not a prerequisite for legally changing gender. The delegation said any form of discrimination was prohibited in Kazakhstan, and this was interpreted as prescribed in the Convention.
In accordance with Kazakhstan’s legislation, laws ratified under the international treaties were part of current law. Judges and other bodies directly applied these norms in their legal practice. Regarding the Committee’s recommendation on a separate law regarding discrimination, the Human Rights Commission supported this recommendation and Kazakhstan would be recommending that it be adopted.
The delegation said the appointment of judges was regulated by constitutional law. Requirements included being no younger than 30 years of age, having higher education, having an immaculate reputation, and needing to have worked for at least five years as a judge. Exams needed to be completed and a medical certificate needed to be provided to ensure these candidates could appropriately carry out their work. Judges needed to complete case studies, a psychological evaluation, a written essay and an interview with other judges. Upon completion of these conditions, they were provided with a recommendation. Currently, Kazakhstan had 15 judges for every 100,000 people. Over 2,600 judges considered over 1 million cases in the country every year. Kazakhstan was working on optimising the judicial system, through handing over certain functions to the general prosecutor’s office, including criminal proceedings and sentencing. The current judicial system met international standards.
The delegation spoke about the languages used in schools, saying the State strived to ensure the conditions for the studying of all languages for people living in Kazakhstan. Additional measures had been adopted to expand the access of ethnic minorities to studies in their native languages. New schools were being opened, and it was ensured that these children had textbooks in their native languages, as well as the appropriate personnel. Sunday schools had been introduced as linguistic and cultural centres and there were 174 schools of this type in the country. The State strategy was to open as many mixed-language schools as possible, to encourage all children to enjoy the opportunity to study various languages. There were more than 20 schools which focused on ethnic minority languages.
As of April 2022, there were 340 refugees recorded in Kazakhstan. Refugees in Kazakhstan had access to medical care, including vaccinations, treatment at hospitals and free medication for certain treatments. Those who sought asylum could inform the Ombudsman, when writing for a request to apply for refugee status. When an individual crossed the border, they could make a submission to the border post migration office. Those persons who did not receive the status of a refugee were provided with a time period to appeal this decision through the court system. The delegation said that 35 deputies in parliament belonged to non-Kazakh ethnic groups – this was 23 per cent of the total number of parliamentarians in Kazakhstan, while 27 per cent of parliamentarians were women. There were open competitions, in which anyone could apply for public service and could be included to work for the State. In 2021, through open competitions, women made up 44 per cent of candidates who were successful in obtaining a position.
The delegation said the situation of children returning from Libya and Syria was unique, with 749 women and children being returned in total. A special commission was responsible for overseeing these children and they had received documents as citizens of Kazakhstan, with no reference to their birthplace. There were no stateless children registered today in Kazakhstan.
The Government was seriously concerned about the phenomenon of hate speech and had registered growth in the number of factors related to hate speech. Methodological guidelines were being developed to combat hate speech in public discourse, including on issues of ethnic relations. Social networks were being monitored, with any facts of hate speech identified. If these were visible on popular social networks, letters were sent to the administrators requesting the removal or amendments of such publications. This helped to reduce the acuteness of the hate speech phenomenon.
Criminal investigations had been launched to bring compensation to the affected Dungan population. Construction materials had been distributed to the victims, as some of the victims had expressed desire to repair damage to the assets themselves. When damages and loss of these tragic offences was assessed, all damaged property was included in assessment. A special fund was created by representatives of the Dungan community, which provided financial assistance.
The delegation said that 15 studies had been presented on ethnic tensions within the country, which provided a significant amount of information. Some of the information was publicly available, or used in the publication of scientific reports. There were no issues which could not be discussed by the media, which was independent and openly raised issues. Authorities were taking measures to overcome social inequalities through combatting discrimination, during employment, among others. Serious amendments were being introduced in the Assembly of Kazakhstan, with the objective of the Assembly being reviewed. There was a new focus to identify problems of inter-ethnic relations and to identify solutions to resolve these issues. Joint activities were in place to ensure that different ethnic groups were involved together, to break down ethnic stereotypes.
Kazakhstan had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international instruments, making significant amendments to laws in Kazakhstan regarding citizenship. If parents had different citizenship, the child would be provided with Kazakhstan citizenship, if the child was born in Kazakhstan or if at least one parent had permanent residence in Kazakhstan. Regarding citizenship for children whose parents were unknown, the child would be considered a resident of Kazakhstan if they resided in Kazakhstan.
Since 1991, over 1 million Kazakhs had returned to Kazakhstan. Ethnic Kazakhs returning to the country mainly settled to the southern regions. The State provided subsidies and the opportunity for compensation for citizens who had relocated. All citizens and stateless persons who arrived in Kazakhstan had the opportunity to settle in other regions of the country and receive State support. On the topic of Ukraine, and asylum seekers from Ukraine, this issue was being considered. All asylum seekers would receive support from Kazakhstan.
Questions by Committee Experts
SHEIKHA ABDULLA ALI Al-MISNAD, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Kazakhstan, repeated the question about the procedure for children with undocumented parents to enrol in school. What was the total number of students in schools with ethnic backgrounds?
CHINSUNG CHUNG, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Kazakhstan, asked for further information about systemic racism and the Roma population. Was there tension between repatriates and other communities?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation posed a question, saying that if a child’s parents were both undocumented, how would they live and study in Kazakhstan? Regardless of the documentation of the parent, the child was permitted to attend school. Regardless of a child’s ethnicity or the status of their parents, they were entitled to receive free State-based education in Kazakhstan. There was no discrimination against children who were undocumented.
It was difficult to evaluate how long people had worked if they were arriving from outside the country. A working group had been created to reform the pension system. If people wanted to return to Kazakhstan and receive compensation, this would be provided. The delegation said that if a person was deemed stateless, they were issued documents identifying their statelessness and were then eligible for citizenship after five years.
The society of Kazakhstan was multi-ethnic, and various ethnic groups were represented. Within universities, there were more than 26,000 students belonging to other ethnic groups. Currently, the updated data on Roma was unknown. Issues of discrimination against the Roma population had not been registered. Anyone, whether they were a citizen of Kazakhstan or not, had the option to freely move around the country and this applied to the Roma. The reduction of their numbers was not something the country could have an impact on, it was a voluntary decision by the group
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked if certain media had been prosecuted in the context of hate speech in the media, and what punishments had been handed out?
Another Committee Expert thanked the delegation for the honest nature of their replies. On stateless persons, the measures taken to ensure that these people had access to social services was praised. Had Kazakhstan adopted a national plan towards statelessness? Did the State plan to ratify the two conventions on statelessness? What were the complaints that this population made?
One Committee Expert noted that the judiciary was one of the most important institutions. What were the percentage of crimes committed relating to the Convention and what kinds of crimes? This would be reflective of what was happening in the country.
A Committee Expert said there were positive changes in Kazakhstan, however, it was still necessary to grapple with the point about the responsibility to end and eliminate discrimination. The Committee had repeatedly said that the answer could not be that there were no complaints. The State was obligated to eliminate racism, by identifying structural and systemic racism, then subsequently breaking down barriers.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that a special analytical report had been prepared regarding persons who were stateless in Kazakhstan. The Government was studying recommendations made in the report and it was anticipated that the conventions on statelessness would be ratified in the near future. Over the years of independence in Kazakhstan, a full-fledged legal foundation for the judicial branch of power had been created. Today, there was a three-level system of courts in the country. The ratified treaties on human rights were part of the existing legal framework of Kazakhstan.
Since 2014, cases had been received where Roma people were victims, however, this was not done on the basis of ethnicity but for other reasons. According to the law, closing any mass media could only be carried out on the basis of a decision by the courts, under the conditions of such nature as spreading hate speech. No judicial decisions had been made relating to such acts.
SHEIKHA ABDULLA ALI Al-MISNAD, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Kazakhstan, said it was important for the Government to acknowledge the ethnic tension in the country, as shifting the blame would not solve the problem or make it go away. It could only be solved through changes in policy and education on how to respect the rights of the minorities and through transparent public debates. There should be a programme which trained children belonging to ethnic minorities on how to pass the university exam for admission. This would create a future for them and a sense of belonging and security.
Ms. Ali Al-Misnad hoped that the reforms underway were serious and not just another unfulfilled promise. She hoped the discussion over the past two days would result in small changes, and allow the delegation to influence the authorities in their country to make changes towards ethnic minority groups in Kazakhstan.
GALYM SHOIKIN, Chairman of the Committee for the Development of Inter-Ethnic Relations, Ministry of Information and Social Development of Kazakhstan and head of the delegation, thanked the Committee for the constructive dialogue regarding the implementation of the Convention in Kazakhstan. The election of Kazakhstan to the Human Rights Council last year reflected the country’s commitment to human rights. Kazakhstan was ready to provide reactions to the recommendations after the review, which would be the guidance in the implementation of these recommendations. Kazakhstan was a country which was moving in a steadfast manner towards changes for the good. Kazakhstan was ready to take all measures to eliminate racial discrimination.
VERENE ALBERTHA SHEPHERD, Committee Chair, thanked the delegation for their responses as well as everyone who had made the session successful. She wished the delegation a safe trip back to Kazakhstan.
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