OSCE trains human rights defenders in Kazakhstan on monitoring freedom of assembly

1 June 2009. Girodivite. ASTANA

by Emanuele G.

A four-day training course for human rights defenders in Kazakhstan on how to monitor and report on the freedom of assembly, organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), began in Astana today.

The course is part of a programme jointly implemented with the OSCE Centre in Astana and the non-governmental organization Charter for Human Rights.

The right of peaceful assembly is a cornerstone of any democratic society and ensuring respect for this right forms an important part of the commitments undertaken by the participating States of the OSCE. Kazakhstan holds the OSCE Chairmanship in 2010.

“The training course is a contribution to promoting freedom of assembly rights in Kazakhstan. It aims to establish a basis for civil society monitoring and better co-operation between civil society and government authorities,” said Lydia Grigoreva of the ODIHR’s Focal Point for Human Rights Defenders and National Human Rights Institutions.

The course focuses on skills needed to monitor and report on how freedom of assembly standards are implemented in Kazakhstan. It also looks at how human rights defenders can engage in dialogue with the authorities to strengthen the protection of these standards nationally and locally.

The course is based on the Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly developed by the ODIHR and the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. The guidelines outline international standards and illustrate key principles with examples of good practices from the OSCE region. They emphasize a state’s obligation to protect peaceful assemblies, including those that voice unpopular opinions, and suggest that organizers notify the authorities of their intention to hold an assembly rather than having to seek permission. The guidelines also argue that spontaneous assemblies should be facilitated by states as long as they are peaceful.

Following the training course, the participating human rights defenders will monitor assemblies throughout the country for a period of six months. Their observations will be compiled into a report that will be discussed with the authorities.