Kazakhstan to Britain: Don't lecture us on human rights

ASTANA Mon Jul 1, 2013 6:49am EDT

1 of 2. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev (R) and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron attend a Kazakh-British business forum in Astana July 1, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov

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ASTANA (Reuters) - Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said on Monday nobody had the right to lecture his country after British Prime Minister David Cameron raised concerns about human rights in the former Soviet state.

In Kazakhstan on a brief visit which saw 700 million pounds ($1.06 billion) of business deals, Cameron, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with Nazarbayev, said he had discussed "at length" allegations about government repression.

Nazarbayev was stony faced, underscoring the political risks of Cameron's strategy of broadening Britain's trade links to include emerging economies, such as Kazakhstan which sits on a wealth of oil reserves.

Cameron says Britain needs to diversify such links at a time when its economy is in the doldrums. But activists have accused him of putting trade before human rights, while the countries he is trying to court bridle at criticism of their rights records.

"I discussed for instance the letter written by Human Rights Watch, and the concerns in that letter," Cameron told a news conference in the Kazakh leader's presidential palace.

"It's very important we have a frank dialogue."

In the letter, which was sent on Friday, New York-based Human Rights Watch said it was worried about credible allegations of torture, the imprisonment of government critics, and tight controls over the media and freedom of expression.

It urged Cameron to tackle Nazarbayev on the subject.

Nazarbayev, a former Communist party apparatchik who has ruled Kazakhstan for more than 20 years, responded coldly.

"Thank you very much for the recommendations, for the advice, but nobody has a right to instruct us how to live," said Nazarbayev, who turns 73 this week and enjoys the official title of "The Leader of the Nation".

While activists say the rest of Central Asia has much harsher autocratic leaders than Nazarbayev, they say his refusal to tolerate opposition or dissent shows few signs of easing.

In particular, they say they are concerned about the case of Vladimir Kozlov, a jailed opposition leader of Kazakhstan.

An outspoken critic of Nazarbayev, Kozlov was jailed for seven-and-a-half years in October for colluding with a fugitive billionaire in a failed attempt to rally oil workers to bring down the government. Kozlov denied the charges.

Nazarbayev, who was a member of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's last Politburo of the Communist party, said Westerners often viewed his country through a distorted prism.

"People from your island see the post-Soviet space as being in the middle ages whose residents ride camels and horses."

Kazakhstan needed time to develop democracy, he added.

"British parliamentary democracy is 600 years old. It won't take us that long of course. Democracy for us is not the beginning of the journey but the end of the journey. We're moving forward."

(Editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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Comments (2)
NNZZ wrote:
Cameron is the biggest hypocrite.Cameron criticized the leadership about human right issues, but Cameron didn’t have issues signed a deal of 1.6 billion. In conclusion, Cameron shouldn’t have signed the contract if he really cares about human right abuses. Learn to zip it Mr.Cameron because Cameron is a joke.

Jul 01, 2013 8:17am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Vison8 wrote:
Well done, Kazakhstan! Don’t let these hypocrites who creates wars for their own benefits and kill millions of innocents in the process, try to dictate things to you!

Jul 01, 2013 9:46am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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