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A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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Despite Krishna Persecution, Kazakhstan Wins OSCE Chairmanship
By ISKCON Communications Staff   |  Dec 08, 2007

Madrid – In a decision condemned by human rights activists, journalists, and Kazakhstan’s opposition party, the Republic of Kazakhstan was awarded the 2010 chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) at the group’s meeting of the Council of Ministers, on December 1. Kazakhstan is the first former Soviet republic to chair the OSCE, which is a human rights and defense watchdog.


The ongoing persecution of a Hare Krishna community in Almaty – which the OSCE Advisory Council had earlier said “raises serious issues regarding the enjoyment of the freedom of religion and belief by members of the Hare Krishna community in Kazakhstan” – is one of several incidents that leads human rights activists to conclude that the nation is especially unfit to assume the chairmanship.


Human Rights Watch issued a strongly-worded statement, candidly stating that “Kazakhstan should not have been named chair-in-office” and suggesting that “Kazakhstan’s chairmanship risks undermining the integrity of the OSCE’s human rights principles.”


“Entrusting in Kazakhstan the leadership to uphold the organization’s human rights commitments is a singularly bad idea,” Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said in the statement. “The Kazakh government has had two years to show that it’s genuinely committed to OSCE human rights principles”¦ it has shown no signs of fundamental change. Now the leverage is gone.”


That loss of leverage worries the small community of Krishna devotees in Almaty, whose future is uncertain. A series of contested court rulings awarded ownership of the 116-acre Krishna community to the government. In a Congressional Hearing to examine Kazakhstan’s human rights record, U.S. Representative Christopher Smith called the confiscation of the Krishna farm a “compelling issue” and likened it to a “holdover from the Nazi era [and] the Communist era.”


Despite these concerns, Kazakhstan – backed strongly by Russia – was able to muscle its way into the chairmanship.


According to a Reuters story, Kazakhstan’s opposition, the Nagyz Ak-Zhol party, was outraged at the decision and accused the OSCE of “putting oil before democracy.”


“The OSCE decision on Kazakhstan’s 2010 chairmanship… is an opportunistic, diplomatic compromise defined by energy politics and a deepening crisis of geopolitical interests,” the Nagyz Ak-Zhol party said in a statement.


The Krishna devotees in Almaty, who have appealed to a number of international bodies including the OSCE, may have no choice but to agree.


“To allow Kazakhstan, a nation that experts agree has serious human rights problems, to oversee the world’s largest regional security organization charged with the task of protecting human rights, is patently ridiculous,” opined Hare Krishna spokesperson and attorney Vyenkata Bhatta Dasa, who helped to author ISKCON’s report on the persecution. “It is like asking the fox to guard the henhouse.”