Human rights and the issue of their observance have become the subject of the conference, which was held in the Senate on 16 December, 2013. The conference, organised by the Legislative Committee and the Human Rights, the Rule of Law and Petitions Committee, was attended by parliamentarians, lawyers, academics of Polish universities and representatives of the Open Dialogue Foundation. During the course of the conference, issues related to, inter alia, the current situation in Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan were raised.
The conference was commenced with short presentations by invited guests. Dr. Piotr Zientarski, the chairman of the Legislative Committee of the Senate, underlined that the committee which he heads, occupies a special place in the struggle for human rights. He added that he personally would ensure that the Senate continues to be a guarantee of respect for human and civil rights. In turn, prof. Marek Chmaj discussed the issues related to human dignity in the constitutions of Central and Eastern Europe as well as Central Asia. Another speaker, assistant professor Andrzej Bisztyga presented the provisions regarding the regulation of rights and freedoms of the entity in Kazakhstan’s Constitution, while human rights in the constitutions of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus were compared by assistant professor Bogumił Szmulik. The issue of human rights in Ukraine were recapitulated by Member of Parliament Marcin Święcicki.
A dead letter?
– Let’s take into account not only what is formally enshrined in the Ukrainian Constitution with regard to human rights, but what is actually happening in this area – Święcicki stated.
He stressed that during the 2012 election campaign in Ukraine, candidates were intimidated, during the parliamentary elections several constituencies noted irregularities. He added that the main Ukrainian electronic media are in the hands of the oligarchs, and the courts and public institutions are corrupted. – Generally, however, the Ukrainian democracy tends to improve – he ended.
The last speaker, Maciej Raś, Ph. D., from the Institute of International Relations of the University of Warsaw, focused on the topic of human rights in Russia. – In the Russian legislation, there are guarantees of respect for human rights similar to the European legislation, but in the last decade, a tendency to introduce less liberal solutions has been observed. Citizens are convinced that the law is an element of state power, the problem is corruption and dysfunctional judiciary – Raś stated.
On the anniversary of the Zhanaozen events
The second part of the conference was conducted in the form of a panel, moderated by journalist Jacek Żakowski. The discussion was commenced by Andrzej Wielowieyski, who emphasised that we are responsible not only for what is going on behind the Eastern border , but also in the countries of Central Asia. In his speech he also stressed that human rights are clearly violated in Kazakhstan. In turn, Bartosz Kramek from the Open Dialogue Foundation reminded the audience that the conference is taking place on a special day.
– On 16 December, 2011 , in the Kazakh city of Zhanaozen, an intervention of the police and security forces took place, resulting in the pacification of peaceful protests. According to official figures, 17 people were killed and dozens were wounded – Bartosz Kramek stated.
In the remaining part of his speech, Kramek focused on Kazakhstan. He noted that no elections in the country have been recognised by the OSCE as democratic, and the media or the opposition centres are faced with enormous oppression from the authorities.
Kazakhstan was also the subject of the speech of Yevgeniy Zhovtis, a representative of the organisation ‘Kazakhstani International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law’. – We can talk about the banning of opposition political parties in Kazakhstan, where I came from, the banning of more than 40 media outlets, pressure exerted against religious minorities, about Vladimir Kozlov, oil workers in Zhanaozen. Unfortunately, I do not see the light at the end of the tunnel and I’m afraid that this trend will continue, leading to instability. All one can hope for now is the pragmatism or unexpected developments, like in late 1980s. Now we need to do everything possible to help specific people and organisations. – Zhovtis enunciated.
Monika Strus-Wołos from the Polish Bar Council stressed, in turn, that corruption in Kazakhstan devours the system of justice, and judgments are consulted with political authorities. Igor Vinyavski, a Kazakh journalist who was subjected to oppression in his homeland, talked about the persecution of journalists and independent media outlets. Draginja Nadazdin from Amnesty International raised the issue of extradition to the Central Asian states. – The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that the extradition to these countries is tantamount to the complete negation of human rights. People, detained in Central Asia often face torture – Nadazdin summed up. Also, during the panel, Łukasz Gołota, Ph. D. from the Institute of International Relations took the floor in order to mention the issue of the nature of human rights and the role they play. The open discussion, which ended the conference in the Senate, was actively participated by representatives of the Open Dialogue Foundation: Lyudmyla Kozlovska, Zhanara Kassymbekova and Jędrzej Czerep.