Günter Nooke, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, set out on a trip to three Central Asian states on Saturday (7 June).
Within the framework of the Central Asia Strategy launched during Germany's EU Presidency, the states of the European Union have set themselves the goal of doing more to promote the protection of human rights in these countries. Both Kyrgyzstan as well as Kazakhstan and Tajikistan have expressed their readiness to enter into regular structured human rights dialogues with the European Union. The trip is intended to underscore this process.
In Bishkek the Human Rights Commissioner will meet with Deputy Foreign Minister Beshimov, the Ombudsman of the Kyrgyz Republic and representatives of civil society. A funding agreement is to be signed with the NGO Golos Svobody (Voice of Freedom) on a project to investigate cases of torture, towards which the Federal Foreign Office is contributing 51,000 euro. Combating torture remains a challenge for Kyrgyzstan, although key steps have been taken during the last few months, for instance the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture.
The official talks in Astana will focus on Kazakhstan's OSCE Chairmanship in 2010. The assumption of the Chair by Kazakhstan is a crucial indication of the CIS states' full integration in the OSCE as equal partners.
When bidding for the Chair, the Kazakh Government expressly stated its commitment to the OSCE's Human Dimension - democracy, the rule of law and human rights - and announced reforms, especially in the sphere of electoral, party and media legislation. The German Government will continue to support and assist Kazakhstan in its efforts to carry on these reforms.
In Almaty, a funding agreement will be signed with the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law and there will be talks with representatives of civil society and opposition parties. Under the auspices of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Kazakhstan, a working group from that organization will help draw up a national prevention mechanism against torture. In view of the recent ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture by the Senate of Kazakhstan, the Federal Foreign Office funding sends an important message.
In Tajikistan, the Human Rights Commissioner will meet with Foreign Minister Zarifi, as well as representatives of opposition parties and NGOs. During a visit to Khatlon province, south of the capital Dushanbe, the Commissioner will visit OSCE and UNHCR projects on integrating refugees from Afghanistan. In Khatlon region, especially in the cotton sector, there are pressing human rights and social problems such as resettlement, forcing people to work in the cotton fields during harvest time and child labour.