The constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan concentrates power in the presidency and the government system is effectively dominated by the president and his ruling party. The April 2015 presidential election, in which the President received 97.5 percent of the vote, was marked by irregularities and lacked genuine political competition. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
During 2015, the most significant human rights problems were limits on citizens’ ability to change the government through the right to vote in free and fair elections; restrictions on freedoms of expression, press, assembly, religion, and association, particularly through the increased use of the law prohibiting “inciting social, national, clan, racial, or religious discord”; and lack of an independent judiciary and due process, especially in dealing with pervasive corruption and abuses by law enforcement and judicial officials. New criminal and administrative codes that entered into effect January 1, as well as a new trade union law, further limit freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion.
Other reported abuses included arbitrary or unlawful killings; military hazing that led to deaths; detainee and prisoner torture and other abuse; harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; infringements on citizens’ privacy rights; prohibitive political party registration requirements; restrictions on the activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); violence and discrimination against women; abuse of children; sex and labor trafficking; discrimination against persons with disabilities; societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; discrimination against those with HIV/AIDS; and child labor.
The government prosecuted officials who committed abuses, especially in high-profile corruption cases; nevertheless, corruption remained widespread, and impunity existed for those in positions of authority as well as for those connected to government or law enforcement officials.