Tony Blair's multi-million-pound deal to boost 'good governance' in Kazakhstan has resulted in civil rights and freedom of the Press getting worse, it was claimed yesterday. The former prime minister was accused of helping to preside over heavy reversals in human rights as he advised the Kazakh regime led by dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev. The two-year contract has come to an end but could still be renewed.
Hugh Williamson, of Human Rights Watch, said Mr Blair's main achievement had been 'positive spin' for the oil-rich regime.
He added: 'Blair says human rights issues are critical to his work but he has downplayed new limits on basic freedoms and widespread concerns on the rule of law and torture, in favour of focusing on economic and geopolitical achievements.
'From what we know, he has been indifferent to those suffering abuses and has given a veneer of respectability to the authorities during a severe crackdown on human rights. Rights campaigners take issue with this positive spin.' There had been curbs on peaceful public assembly and religious freedoms, the human rights group warned.
There had also been the prosecution of journalists who dared to 'insult' officials, and torture in detention was common.
Amirzhan Kosanov, the embattled Kazakh opposition leader, said there had been a 'deterioration in the human rights and political freedoms situation'. He added: 'Unfortunately, over the two years that Tony Blair has been a consultant, we haven't seen any changes for the better or signals of movement towards democratisation.'
Oksana Makushina, a former deputy editor of a now closed-down newspaper in the country, said: 'If Mr Blair was advising Nazarbayev on something, it definitely wasn't freedom of speech.'
David Cameron raised the human rights situation with the president on his visit to the country in July.
In December 2011, 15 civilians were killed when police fired on protesters. Opposition politicians were blamed and the party of alleged ringleader Vladimir Kozlov was closed down, along with newspapers and media outlets.
Mr Blair recently added Mongolia and Albania to the list of nations whose leadership he advises, and is said to be in talks with Burma, Peru and Vietnam.
His office insisted that the work he carried out helped Kazakhstan move in the right direction. Tony Blair Associates said the former premier's work 'focuses on social and economic reform and is entirely in line with that of the international community'.
A spokesman said: 'Of course the country faces challenges but that is precisely why we should engage and support its efforts to reform.'
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