Thank you Special Representative Kazykhan, Deputy Foreign Minister Rakhmetullin, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for hosting our inaugural High-Level dialogue on Human Rights.  It is an honor to be in Nur-Sultan to launch this important initiative.   

In preparing for my visit, my first to this region, I learned about your esteemed poet, Abai. One of his quotes struck me as particularly appropriate for what we launched here today – “your heart is like a mirror, if you don’t keep it clean it will reflect the world distorted.”   

For more than 30 years, the United States has kept its mirror clean and stayed true to its objective of partnering with Kazakhstan, supporting Kazakhstan’s security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.  The strength and resilience of your people and achievements since independence are worth celebrating.  Kazakhstan is a key U.S. partner globally and in the region, where we are proud to support regional cooperation and economic prosperity through the C5+1 framework.   

Having the opportunity to discuss such matters as human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, and political rights, law enforcement reforms, and security cooperation with our Kazakhstani partners shows the strength and maturity of our relationship.  We may have different perspectives, but we can always count on an open and honest discussion of these issues. 

We were deeply saddened by the loss of life during the January unrest.  How Kazakhstan responds to these events is important, which is why the United States continues to support full, free and credible investigations concerning those tragic events, including allegations of excessive use of force and torture of detainees in custody.  

The United States supports President Tokayev’s political reform agenda, including the new reforms he announced on March 16, including those to strengthen parliament, political parties, and elections to promote political competition and transparency, giving the people of Kazakhstan a greater choice and a stronger voice.  We look forward to tangible progress and full implementation of these reforms, which would significantly advance Kazakhstan’s stability and future development.   

We encourage the realization of President Tokayev’s statements on ending torture in Kazakhstan’s jails and prisons, empowering the people’s representatives in Parliament, enhancing the independence of the judiciary, and addressing the problem of domestic violence.  The United States stands ready to partner with Kazakhstan on the full implementation of these and other reforms.   

We are encouraged by Kazakhstan’s efforts to combat trafficking in persons.  We urge our Kazakhstani partners to continue building on this progress, including by amending the trafficking laws to align the definition of trafficking with international law and increasing investigations and prosecution of TIP cases. 

The United States looks forward to working with Kazakhstan during its second term on the UN Human Rights Council.  It’s more important than ever that this Council fulfills its mandate to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and that it is willing to shine a spotlight on countries and issues of concern.  We acknowledge we have work to do at home. The United States does not claim to be perfect. What we do assert is that we constantly strive for a more perfect union. Whatever our shortcomings, we stand firmly for the truth that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. We also encourage others to be forthright and to lead on reconciliation and reform. 

The United States looks forward to deepening our cooperation with Kazakhstan at the Human Rights Council; supporting efforts to ensure that the January violence is transparently investigated; supporting efforts to more fully protect, value, and integrate marginalized or minorities populations, including persons with disabilities; and improving respect for freedom of expression, right of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association; and advancing key political and legal reforms.  

Thank you again to the Kazakhstani officials who participated in this morning’s dialogue.  I am honored to be among you today and look forward to our continued cooperation on this and many other issues in the years ahead. 

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future