Mr. CLAY. Madam Speaker, I rise today to bring attention to growing concern of abuse and corruption in the former Soviet Republic country of Kazakhstan. The recent revolution in neighboring Kyrgystan and, earlier, the conflict behind Russia and Georgia heightens concern for the region ..... a region rich in oil and gas supplies and a region which serves as a gateway for the U.S. and NATO war effort in Afghanistan. However, ongoing allegations of corruption, human rights abuses, human trafficking, religious persecution and the lack of election reform, free media and free speech seriously affect its civil society.
The world's 10th largest energy-producing country, where a large number of U.S. corporations are doing business in an effort to meet our domestic energy needs, is not only an ally of the U.S. on non-proliferation treaties; it has provided the U.S. and NATO a gateway to Afghanistan. However, increasingly I see reports indicating that Kazakhstan's governmental system lacks the basic rights of democracy: elections are neither free nor fair; what political opposition exists is manipulated, physically and economically harassed and even sometimes assassinated. Few independent media outlets exist; wide-scale corruption which has begun to affect major U.S. companies doing business in Kazakhstan is rampant; respect for human rights, religious freedom, and freedom of speech or economic liberalization is non-existent.
The United States has sought a mutually beneficial relationship with Kazakhstan and provides aid to Kazakhstan in order to enhance economic growth, democracy, security, and civil society and to attend to humanitarian needs. However, it is evident that the current U.S.-Kazakhstan relationship is compromised by Kazakhstan's record of human rights violations and lack of immediate and necessary reforms while chairing the OSCE. The U.S. Department of State has criticized President Nazarbayev's government for human rights violations. Its March 2009 report states: ''The following human rights problems were reported: severe limits on citizens' rights to change their government; military hazing that led to deaths; detainee and prisoner torture and other 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.''
The details in the report, as well as reports from observer groups, are haunting. Two notable external groups are Freedom House and the United States Department of State. The observer group, Freedom House, has labeled Kazakhstan as ''not free'' and according to its assessment, Kazakhstan has earned a 6 ranking in Political Liberties and a 5 in Civil Liberties on the Freedom House scale of 1 to 7, 7 being the worst ranking possible. Even the U.S. State Department ranks Kazakhstan as a Tier 2 Watch List, meaning that Kazakhstan is a cause for concern over human trafficking issues.
In amending the constitution to allow him unlimited reign in 2007, President Nazarbayev joined a growing list of authoritarian leaders worldwide who have extended their terms indefinitely.
I applaud the work of the Helsinki Commission under the current leadership of Senator Ben Cardin, and previously, Congressman Alcee Hastings, for their ongoing commitment to bringing these matters to light and it is my hope that we continue work to bring about a transparent democracy where human rights violations and corruption have no place.