Kazakhstan has emerged as a regional leader in implementing large-scale democratic and political reforms, as well as initiatives in the field of the protection of human rights. These reforms are part of a comprehensive transformation towards a Just and Fair Kazakhstan.
- Direct election of district and city akims (mayors), a first in Central Asia.
- Implementation of a proportional-majoritarian model in the 2023 parliamentary elections, enhancing independent and self-nominated candidates’ participation.
- A more diverse and inclusive candidate pool in elections, leading to a multi-party Mazhilis, the lower chamber of the Kazakh Parliament.
- Increased role of the Mazhilis and local governments; curtailed presidential powers.
- Establishment of the National Council of Public Trust, later reformed as the National Kurultai, to bolster public participation in governance.
- Lowered thresholds for political party representation and registration.
- Emergence of new political parties like Respublica and Baytaq.
- Enhanced accountability through the ability to recall members of Parliament.
- Simplified political party registration and inclusion of self-nominated candidates.
- Amended laws for organizing peaceful assemblies and updated Social Code.
Human Rights Protections:
- Introduction of a Plan of Priority Measures in the Field of Human Rights covering nine key areas.
- Subsequent Plan of Measures focusing on additional challenges.
- Complete abolition of the death penalty.
- Advancement of gender equality, including increased parliamentary quotas for women and youth.
- Strengthening of human rights institutions like the Ombudsperson for Human Rights.
- Alignment with international human rights standards, including protocols on children and persons with disabilities.
- Legislative actions to combat torture and improve accountability.
- Constitutional and Judicial Reforms:
- Establishment of the Constitutional Court, which has reviewed over 30 legal norms.
- Transfer of certain functions from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to the Ministry of Health.
- Implementation of a three-tier model of pre-trial proceedings.
Media and Civil Society:
- Introduction of a new Law on Public petitions.
- Reforms in media law and efforts to create a safer digital space.
- Transformation of the National Council into the National Kurultai.
Decree and Action Plan in the field of human rights and the rule of law
On December 8, 2023, ahead of the International Human Rights Day and the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed a Decree on the approval of the Action Plan in the field of human rights and the rule of law. The document is aimed at further work of Kazakhstan on the implementation of the international obligations undertaken, strengthening human rights institutions, and developing the national system of human rights protection and democracy.
The Decree and the Action Plan symbolize Kazakhstan’s commitment to democratic reforms and human rights. It ensures the effective functioning of democratic institutions and human rights mechanisms. An important aspect of it is the mandatory cooperation of the state with UN and OSCE institutions in implementing the measures provided in the Plan.
To implement the Decree, the following actions will be undertaken:
- Adoption of seven laws, which will include measures to tighten legislation on domestic violence, enhance requirements for safe labor practices, and establish the role of regional child rights ombudspersons.
- Approval of four comprehensive government plans focused on labor safety, inclusive policy, the promotion of equal rights for men and women, and ensuring their security in Kazakhstan, in alignment with UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
- Execution of practical activities, notably training sessions involving experts from international organizations such as the UN and OSCE.
Action Plan Highlights
The Plan includes the following measures:
Strengthening Gender Equality:
- Promoting equal rights and opportunities.
- Overcoming gender-based discrimination.
- Kazakhstan as a member of the UN Human Rights Council (2022-2024), where the agenda of gender equality and the expansion of women’s rights is a priority.
Child Rights Protection:
- Legislative establishment of regional child rights ombudspersons.
- Consolidation with the Child Rights Ombudsperson.
Combating Domestic Violence:
- Cultivating a legal culture against violence.
- Toughening criminal responsibility.
- A mandatory, comprehensive psychological correction mechanism for offenders of domestic violence.
- Establishing specialized units for combating family and domestic violence within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, with maximum involvement of female staff.
Human Rights in Criminal Justice:
- Improving labor organization for convicts.
- Updating professional training and material resources.
- Developing re-socialization projects for ex-convicts.
Prevention of Torture and Cruel Treatment:
- Zero tolerance for torture. In line with the Constitution, no one can be subjected to torture, violence, other cruel or degrading human dignity treatment or punishment.
- The government should enhance the bylaws dedicated to eliminating torture and cruel treatment of prisoners. This includes measures for the effective investigation, prosecution, and punishment of such actions.
- These collective measures are aimed at effectively eradicating torture as a systemic issue, safeguarding human rights more broadly, bolstering public trust in law enforcement agencies, and garnering public support for addressing criminal justice challenges.
The Right to Freedom of Association:
- Improvement of peaceful assembly legislation.
- Regulation of interdepartmental interactions, developing methodological recommendations, and conducting seminars and training sessions in collaboration with the UN and OSCE.
Rights of Persons with Disabilities:
- Inclusive policy concept until 2030 to be adopted next year.
- Participation of disabled individuals in decision-making.
Right to Work and Occupational Safety:
- Legislative measures for occupational safety.
- Upcoming adoption of the Concept of Safe Labor until 2030.
- Study of UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Conclusion: Kazakhstan’s commitment to democratic reforms and human rights is evident through its implementation of significant legislative and judicial changes. These efforts not only enhance the country’s governance framework but also serve as a model for political modernization in the region.
Furthermore, the Action Plan signifies Kazakhstan’s steadfast commitment to advancing its human rights framework. It encompasses a wide range of initiatives, from gender equality to labor safety, demonstrating the nation’s dedication to ongoing improvement and adherence to international human rights standards. Through this plan, Kazakhstan aims to foster a more equitable, just, and democratic society.