Astana is set to take over as chair of one of Europe's leading democratization groups, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), in 2010. For Astana, becoming the OSCE chair will mark the successful culmination of a multi-year campaign for recognition of the country's growing regional political and economic importance. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. But it is also focusing unwanted attention on the country's less-than-stellar rights record. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
"The question facing the Kazakhstani government today is what kind of human rights leader it is going to be," said Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based international rights group. "Is it going to lead by example, or is it going to be a leader plagued by hypocrisy?"
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.