Posted on Feb 25, 2019
Kazakhstan is a young and multi-ethnic Central Asian country, rich in natural resources and immersed in a process of reforms and modernisation. It achieved independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, and its constitution was adopted in 1995, writes Phillipe Jeune.
Those of us who know Kazakhstan and Central Asia also know how important it is for us to accompany these countries in their transition to full democracies and free market economics.
These processes, as we know from our own experiences in Europe, are lengthy and difficult, and rely on hard work and determination by governments and by the different branches of the State and civil society working together as a whole.
Therefore, the behaviour of certain politicians within the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), who have requested the withdrawal of assistance funds for Kazakhstan, demanding further progress in the area of human rights, in which the country has made great leaps since it shook off the yolk of Soviet oppression, can perhaps at best be explained by their lack of knowledge about the processes taking place in that country.
As an upper-middle income country, Kazakhstan is no longer eligible to receive EU funding under the current 2014-2020 Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) and can only attract EU regional funding packages for Central Asia and also participate in the EU’s regional Rule of Law initiative.
In this sense it seems that this campaign requesting the withdrawal of funds to assistance programs to Kazakhstan is being supported by the Italian senator Roberto Rampi and the deputy of the Budestag and president of the Socialist Group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the German socialist and environmentalist Frank Schwabe
Specifically, a written declaration 670, signed recently by a small group of PACE members (22 members out of around 650 members) criticises the alleged use of the Kazakh judicial system to repress dissent. Whilst the country openly acknowledges the need for improvement in this area, the degree of improvement when measured against other post-Soviet states can best be described as meteoric.
For example, recently, in October 2018, the legislation of Kazakhstan on administrative procedures and justice code received praise from the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, which also commended the concept of the draft reform of the High Judicial Council, as well as the innovative and impartial system of selection of judges in the country.
Moreover, the highly ambitious national development program "100 Concrete Steps", which seeks major reforms in order to create a complete state of law, has been greeted with enthusiasm on the international stage.
Within this plan, measures were approved such as increasing the quality of requirements for the judiciary, with emphasis on strengthening accountability.
A localised police service and public councils have been set up to look at complaints from citizens about the actions of police officers. Norms providing for strengthening the protection of the rights of citizens in criminal proceedings have been introduced into legislation, setting the highest standards in Central Asia.
The rights of lawyers have been expanded, while judicial control at the pre-trial stage was strengthened. The powers and areas of responsibility of law enforcement bodies have been delineated.
Defending European principles and values, democracy, and the rule of law, not only in Europe but throughout the world are the remit of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: values which all European democrats share.
However, there appear to be nefarious personal interests at work being the scenes. The controversial human rights pseudo-NGO Open Dialog Foundation (ODF) has attracted much attention and criticism from legitimate civil society for its support for the criminal underworld.
The head of this organisation, one Lyudmyla Kozlovska, a Ukrainian citizen who also holds Russian nationality, has openly criticised the governments of both Poland and Hungary within the hallowed walls of the Bundestag, the German parliament. For this, she had received an invitation from the German deputies Andreas Nick and Frank Schwabe that allowed her to obtain a temporary entry visa in Germany, despite the fact that the Polish government had obtained an order banning her from the Schengen zone on grounds of national security.
This woman is known for serving the interests of rich Kazakhs, amongst whom is the notorious oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, whom the High Court of England and Wales has recognised as a fraudster, and who has an outstanding prison sentence awaiting him should he ever return to the UK. In Kazakhstan, he, too, is convicted for fraud in relation to siphoning off 7.5 billion dollars from BTA bank that he led and for murder for hire in relation to the murder of his predecessor at the helm of the same bank, Yerzhan Tatishev.
Lyudmyla Kozlovska also protects Kazakhstan passport holder Viktor Khrapunov, the former mayor of the metropolis of Almaty, who enjoys a life of great wealth in Switzerland and who happens to be Ablyazov’s relative via the marriage of their children. She is also often seen in Belgium in the company of Botagoz Jardemalie, who issued dubious loans whilst working alongside Ablyazov, her alleged lover, at the BTA bank, and who fled to Europe shortly before the bank filed for bankruptcy.
The reasons for Kozlovska’s constant criticism of the authorities in Kazakhstan as well as the various actions undertaken by certain members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, who may or may not be in receipt of monies from the aforementioned criminals, are clear. Kozlovska is also suspected of having links with Russian intelligence. Kozlovska's personal relationship with Ablyazov, too, is a matter of considerable speculation, the flames of which were fanned by the recent appearance on a notorious pornographic website of a video purporting to show the couple in an intimate episode in a cheap hotel room.
In the interests of democracy, and the economic development of former Soviet nations, Europe needs to understand and support the processes of transition and reforms in the young democracies of Central Asia. Kazakhstan, a country which the convicted criminal Ablyazov and those so-called human-rights activists who support him and his cohorts are discrediting, has taken a lead on the world stage, not least for the work of President Nursultan Nazarbayev in the area of peace initiatives.
This young and vibrant democracy deserves Europe's support, and politicians in Europe would be wise to look at the fuller picture and make intelligent and independent conclusions based on a wide variety of sources.
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