15 juillet 2009
GENEVA – “The Government and the people of Kazakhstan must be commended for the high degree of inter-ethnic and inter-religious cooperation and tolerance that is evident in the society,” said the UN Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay J. McDougall, at the end of a nine-day official visit to the country.
“Nevertheless,” the Independent Expert said on her end-of-visit statement, “a number of issues were brought to my attention as matters that require further attention and action by the Government.”
McDougall will present a comprehensive report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2010, concentrating on aspects ranging from minority representation at the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan and political participation, to minority language issues, education and religion.
In her preliminary findings, the Independent Expert welcomed the existence of the Assembly “as a valuable national symbol of the recognition of minorities and the commitment of the State to the preservation of the cultural heritage of minorities,” but points out that “it would greatly enhance the potential and legitimacy of the Assembly if members were elected by each minority group directly, and without reference to the cultural associations which are themselves not based on a principle of representativeness.”
Language issues were raised by all members of minorities approached by the Independent Expert. The government is establishing Kazakh as the State language, and while fully appreciating the legitimacy of this policy, McDougall cautioned that “sensitivity must continue to be exercised to ensure that the policy does not unduly impact upon the rights and opportunities of those communities and sectors of society that might require additional assistance, time and resources to gain proficiency in the Kazakh language.”
On the issue of religion, the Independent Expert urged the Government of Kazakhstan “to engage in a wide-ranging dialogue with ‘non-traditional’ religious groups about ways to guarantee their full rights and freedoms.”
The visit to Kazakhstan allowed the Independent Expert a unique opportunity for dialogue in relation to her mandate to promote implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic minorities.
Ms. McDougall, who visited the country at the invitation of the Government, noted with appreciation the cooperation of the authorities during the preparation and conduct of her mission. She also thanks all those who contributed information and assistance.
Ms. Gay J. McDougall, a human rights lawyer from the United States, was appointed on 29 July 2005 by the High Commissioner for Human Rights as the first holder of the position of United Nations Independent Expert on minority issues. The mandate of the Independent Expert was subsequently renewed by Human Rights Council in March 2008.
For more information on the mandate and work of the Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay J. McDougall, visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/minorities/expert/index.htm
See full statements: English and Russian