Human rights in Kazakhstan and all over the world
Information newsletter of Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law

Received via e-mail, 30 June 2000


¹8 (May 13 – June 3, 2000)




A massive clampdown on the political opposition in Kazakhstan

Majority of leaders of Kazakhstan opposition believes that lately the state security agencies have been much more active in their “work” with opposition. Security services collect any information that may be either used against opposition in court or to discredit opposition leaders in public eye. Phones are tapped, the “objects” are constantly under surveillance and this became an everyday factor constituting the environment in which opposition exists in Kazakhstan.

Well-known opposition activist Professor Masanov gives an anecdotal example of how two huge beautiful trees in front of his apartment-house were sawed off because evidently they prevented KNB from effectively hearing through the apartment. This year the same fate awaited the tree across the street that hindered surveying what happened inside.

Recently authorities took special measures to control Internet; Government had adopted a special regulation that permits special services to read through the electronic mail.

Apart from simply collecting the information about dissidents, security agents are working on discrediting them. For example, they “dug up” facts compromising the well-known jurist, former activist of the Republican People’s Party Vitaly Voronov, forcing him to give up the opposition activity. Trying to discredit the leader of the Orleu movement Seidahmet Kyttukadam they filmed him in sauna. The attempt to slander professor Masanov came with mysterious appearance of fake interview where he allegedly blackens the Kazakh people. The interview was laid out on one of the anonymous web-sites and it was aimed at rising the anti-opposition sentiments among Kazakhs. Another opposition activist Petr Svoik all of a sudden became a focus of intense interest of tax police.

At the same time even more severe measures such as threats, beatings and assaults are used. Many opposition leaders have received threatening phone calls, walls and windows of their houses were painted with hate slogans. Vladimir Chernyshev was beaten up three times, Petr Svoik once. Physical assaults are more often used against the members of Republican People’s Party. Kosanov, Nikitenko, Bondartsev, Grishin – all of these opposition activists were severely beaten by the unknown persons, which the police never found.

25 of May director of the “Eurasia” Information-Analysis Center Igor Poberezhski was stabbed when leaving his Moscow apartment. “Eurasia“ is well known for its opposition publications and nobody doubts that the attempt at its director is the reaction to the activity of the center. It is interesting that the attempt came in the wake of the infamous speech by the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbaev where he called on the active actions against “those who blacken and slander actions of authorities”. There seems to be a certain connection between this speech and the latest clampdown on opposition by special services and corresponding state structures.

Another independent newspaper is closed down in Kazakhstan

On 25 of May the doors of the “Nachn’om s ponedelnika” (Let’s begin from Monday) newspaper office were sprung open when court officers and policemen started taking out all of the newspaper’s property in the office. This way they were trying to execute the decision of court that ruled that newspaper is guilty of defamation of Union of judges. At the same time the latest printed issue of the newspaper has also been arrested. Thus the newspaper left without computers, technical equipment, furniture and the last issue has actually ceased to exist. “Nahcn’om s ponedelnika” was known for its sincere and unbiased stand. It frequently published articles on corruption and it wasn’t afraid of opposition publications.

Formally, the actions of court officers are legal, there is a court decision and it has to be carried out. However, the whole story of the newspaper fighting off endless battles in court has long acquired a political meaning to it. It is known, that judges in Kazakhstan forget the very meaning of the word “objectivity” whenever politics is concerned. Appointed by the President, judges always take the side of those people that are loyal to authorities and against anyone who dares to criticize their actions. Public believes that “Nachn’om s ponedelnika” is closed first of all because it has published articles criticizing the Almaty akim (mayor) Khrapunov. Lawsuits against the newspaper are just a “formal” way to “deal” with refractory paper.

After “Nachn’om s ponedelnika” was shut down, there is only one independent newspaper - SolDat daring to criticize the authorities left in Kazakhstan.

Provocation aimed at slandering well-known political scientist Masanov

Well-known political scientist Nurbulat Masanov is once again in the center of public attention. Last week one of the anonymous web-sites have laid out an interview that Masanov allegedly gave to the journalist of ITAR-TASS news agency Igor Cherepanov. This interview contains pronouncements that insult Kazakh people, their history and language. Later the audio tape of this interview mysteriously appeared in the offices of several newspapers and TV newsrooms. Masanov denied ever giving such an interview and Igor Cherepanov confirmed that he never spoke with Masanov on any issue similar to what is said in the interview. It came out that the whole interview is fake, and it was published in order to slander Professor Masanov who is thought to be one of the main authors of the opposition ideology. On the other hand these unknown black PR specialists have tried to provoke indignation of Kazakhs, particularly of the nationalist and patriotic organizations, in order to strain the relations between the national-patriots and democratic opposition. This shows that authors of this fake interview could be found among those interested in splitting the opposition and discrediting its leaders.

Statement of the International Foundation in Defense of Freedom of Expression “Adil Soz’

The International Foundation in Defense of Freedom of Expression “Adil Soz’ is concerned with the facts of media publications based on the information from the “yellow” web-sites that openly violate the Constitution and Criminal code of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The most recent facts are publications in the “Karavan” and “Kazakhskaya Pravda” newspapers that cite some text presented as an interview of the political scientist Nurbulat Masanov to the ITAR-TASS journalist Igor Cherepanov.

Masanov, Cherepanov and the Collegium of ITAR-TASS unequivocally state that no such interview ever existed and never could have existed. This slandering text contains phrases and pronouncements that insult to the national dignity of Kazakhs and are directed at fueling tensions between the nationalities and discrediting people that allegedly took part in this so-called interview. Probably, one of the strategic goals of this provocation is to persuade public of the necessity to censor Internet.

The International Foundation in Defense of Freedom of Expression “Adil Soz’ hopes that law-enforcement agencies of the Republic of Kazakhstan will investigate this case and take necessary measures against those who put this slandering information in the Internet. At the same time the Foundation deems necessary to remind staff of the media means that Internet, being a global information net is not a legal subject of the Republic of Kazakhstan. In other words, saying that information was taken from this or that site does not mean that the newspaper is not responsible for the authenticity of the information it publishes.

Tamara Kaleeva, President of the International Foundation in Defense of Freedom of Expression “Adil Soz’, 25 of May 2000.

Kazakh authorities use new repressive instruments

On 19 of April President Nazarbaev in his address to the top law-enforcement officials have called on them to be more active in combating “slanderers” of Kazakhstan’s realities. By “slanderers” he meant first of all journalists who write critical articles.

This address was well understood and in two weeks public witnessed the appearance of the document “Of modifications of legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan in what concerns combating crime”. This document changed the 172 Art. of the Criminal Code headed “Of illegal receipt and divulging of state secrets”. According to this article “collecting any information that constitutes a state secret by the ways of theft, bribery, threat..., interception of communications, illegal penetration into computer nets or by any other illegal methods” is a crime.

First of all the sphere of application of this law is much wider now with all the categories of state secrets covered by this article. Now, any he state owned agency (hospital, horse-breeding farm) can pronounce its information to be secret and if the newspaper published it the journalist could face criminal charges.

Secondly, receipt of secret information itself makes journalist a criminal.

Thirdly, e used in this law expression “illegal methods” gives officials an opportunity to charge any journalist. For instance, if journalist was denied the official information, conducts a journalist investigation and receives information from their sources, it would mean these very “illegal methods’. And, God forbid him filming with a secret camera.

The law of other countries also provides for responsibility for divulging state secrets, but at the same time it contains an important notion: there are no charges pressed if the information is useful for the society. Kazakhstan’s legislation provides for nothing of the sort.

And forth, journalist’s work of collecting and disseminating information on activity of officials is regarded as a crime. Looks like legislative organs do not see the difference between journalist, which informs citizens of activity of state organs and terrorists, thieves and rapists.

Persecution of opposition leaders

On 24 of May 2000 Rashid Nugmanov, a well-known Kazakh film director, who made the cult 80-ies movie “Igla” (“Needle, the”) starring youth icon Victor Tsoi, has been detained in the Almaty airport.

Nugmanov for a long time has been one of the most active members of the oppostion Republican People's party.

After his Moscow-Almaty flight landed in Almaty airport Nugmanov has been detained at customs control and held in the closed area fdor two hours. His baggage was searched and a tax police officer has asked him to proceed to his office for interrogation. When Nugmanov refused to answer any questions without his lawyer present, they have given him a written order for interrogation in the Almaty Department of tax police committee for the next morning.

The same day, when Rashid’s plane was about to land in the Almaty airport, tax police came to the office of his brother Murat Nugmanov a well-known movie and video producer. His office was searched, all of the documents confiscated and Murat Nugmanov received an order to come to the tax police office the following morning.

Rashid Nugmanov believes that all of this is connected to his political activity. The director is married to a French citizen and permanently resides in France. He does not have any commercial business in Kazakhstan and he believes, that the only way authorities could have pressured him would be by pressuring his brother.

At this point vast majority of the political activists of the Forum of democratic forces has been compromised. The leader of “Orleu” social-democratic movement Seidahmet Kuttykadam has been secretly filmed in sauna with his wife.

His Forum collaborate Amirzhan Kosanov was blackmailed and threatened., For instance, he has received a mourning band and a telegram signed by a name of his late sister. the text of the telegram said, “I am waiting for you”.

The leader of the Republican People’s party Akezhan Kazhegeldin faces six separate criminal and administrative charges. As a result the Forum is virtually powerless. Rashid Nugmanov has been one of the few “untouched” activists. However, authorities found a way to get him.

Tax police says that politics has nothing to do with this case and it is only a routine check-up of organizations that were headed by Murat Nugmanov.

An unknown in Moscow has stabbed the director of Eurasia Information and Analysis Center. What is the meaning of this attack?

25 of May director of the “Eurasia” Information-Analysis Center Igor Poberezhski was stabbed when leaving his Moscow apartment. An unknown Asian person has stabbed Pobverzhski with a knife when the latter was getting in his car.

From 1998 up to this time Igor Poberezhski has been a press secretary for the Kazakhstan's Republican People's party (RPPK) leader Akezhan Kazhegeldin. Poberezhski had nothing to do with business or any activity in any way connected to criminal structures.

His colleagues believe that this attempt is connected to the ongoing campaign of political repression undertaken by the President Nazarbaev against the democratic opposition of Kazakhstan. Less than a month ago two of the ex-heads of Akezhan Kazhegeldin's security service lieutenant colonel Afanasenko and mayor Ibraev have been convicted on the basis of fake charges of “gun possession”. In the summer of the last year during the election campaign two of the RPPK activists have died of mysterious “sudden diseases”. Unknown persons have attacked another two of the Party's members Amirzhan Kosanov and Elena Nikitenko.

The attempt at Igor Poberezhski should be viewed as another link in the chain of similar events designed for “combating” the opposition.

Political scientist Victor Shelgunov gives his view ion the events answering the questions by correspondent Vladimir Loginov.

Q: What is your comment to the recent attempt at Igor Poberezhski?

A: From my point of view it is very obvious, and I don't think Moscow police will ever find the criminal.

Q: What is the purpose of this attempt?

A: Well, first of all, it is to block the activity of the Center, the popular Eurasia-Internet web-site. The precedent is that this web-site dedicated mainly to regional developments became as popular as the leading Russian political sites. The region itself does not look that “hot”, but we do give a lot of exclusive information, analysis, and great news. The English version of the site is read in US, Europe. The site became an important international source of information on the region. Kazkhstan's authorities, evidently, do not like it. They prefer preserving the old myths of "“step-by-step democratization, oasis of stability and investment magnet”. In April, President Nazarbaev has ordered the security services of the country to “deal with slanderers”. And how can they deal with us??? The site is Russian. They can't close it, Kazakhstan's tax police can do nothing. The easiest way is the physical removal of its leaders.

Q: Usually in this cases different types of threats come first…

A: Well, as far as I know we never received any threats. phone calls in many cases are just a game – they could be traced, recorded, the victim will start feeling nervous, might ask police to protect him/her. In any case, the object of threats will receive some publicity and publicity in itself means protection to some extent. those who organized attempt at Poberezhski needed a fast result. they don’t have time to play games, they need to report the work done. There is an opinion, that this attempt is not the last one.

Q: How does Igor feel now?

A: He’s out of danger. I guess there was no order to kill him – it was just to scare him bad. Otherwise, the whole operation would have been carried out differently.

Pensioners of Kazakhstan are protecting their right of peaceful assembly

As we have already reported, tired of deterioration of the social and economic conditions of their lives pensioners continue to conduct mass meetings. The “Pokolenie” movement that conducts unsanctioned meetings in virtually all of the cities of the country unites them. The principle of conduct of mass manifestations envisaged by the Kazakhstan’s legislation requires written consent of authorities before any action is conducted. this provision violates the Constitution. Practice shows that to receive official permission for a mass meeting is virtually impossible. Officials find thousands of reasons to deny permission of grant the permission to conduct a manifestation in some deserted place at the outskirts of the city. Pensioners have long lost hope to receive permission, thus they try to enjoy their constitutional rights without the official approval. Their principal demands include higher pensions, lower commodity payments and return of the money lost during devaluation.

Activists of the movement are persecuted, they are charged with administrative violations and put in jail.

the leader of the movement Irina Savostina has faced administrative charges eight times, once she was jailed for several days. Three times criminal proceedings were brought up against her. the leader of the Karaganda branch of “Pokolenie” Klavdia Svintsova has been charged five times with organization of unsanctioned meetings. Leader of the Ust-Kamenogorsk branch Nikolai Kornienko – 7 times.

Commercial organization is also trying to protect its rights through a mass meeting

At the end of the last month the staff of the “Delo” company has conducted a mass meeting in Astana. People tried to protest the “arbitrariness” of the Astana city court and to raise public awareness in respect to poor performance of the judicial system, Ministry of justice, Prosecutor’s office and Astana municipal structures.

The staff of the company first tried to receive permission to conduct a mass meeting in November last year. Different officials refused them around ten times all citing the same poorly justified reasons. It took five months and an appeal to the Administration of the President to receive that permission.

The community-based Council on Ethics and Information Disputes has conducted its first session.
(on the basis of information from the Electronic Bulletin of Internews Network-Kazakhstan N 15 (66))

The group of Kazakhstan citizens has launched a Public Council on Ethics and Information Disputes. the main purposes of the Council if to settle disputes between the journalists and those who consider themselves to be victims of some publications.

Journalists were allowed to witness the first sessions of the Council that took place in April.

The president of the Almaty Committee for rights of journalists Sholpan Sarmurzina stated that being a community - based organization the Council will discuss complaints lodged about press publications and appeals of journalists in need of protection of their rights and act as a sort of arbitration tribunal”.

It is far from clear, what side the Council is on. It seems like it already proclaimed itself to be a “servant of two masters”. Considering that rights of journalists are violated mainly by authorities the thesis of “impartiality” seems to be a declaration and nothing more. of the Council (with pressure applied or without it) will take the official side, then it makes no sense – officials have many means to pressure the press as it is.

The list of candidatures for membership in the council includes representatives of Almaty Union of judges, procurator’s office, and department of public information of the Almaty department of Ministry of Interiors. “We will educate them about the media. Some newspapers have their printed issues arrested now, and these people will help us to learn what is going on,” – said Mrs. Sarmurzina. She complained, that international organizations “did not help though that they receive grants”, and it remained unclear what prevented her organization from getting grants and what did the Committee she is heading do in order to protect the rights of journalists. The “Atameken” Almaty Committee on rights of journalists exists since 1998.

Mrs. Sarmurzina talked about how Kazakhstan's journalists need the Code of ethics and that “opposition newspaper see everything in black color and don't see any bright shades”.

Unfortunately, it remained unclear what do the initiators of the Committee want: is it a Code of ethics, trade union of journalists or what exactly do they keep in mind. The only results of the first sessions were declarations that “mass media have to observe the principles of freedom of press, the current legislation, professional ethics and journalist integrity”.

The press-conference made an impression that probably we have witnessed a start of the authority inspired actions demonstrating “reaction” to the recent address of the president Nazarbaev where he criticized independent press and proposed to form the “media monitoring system” within the specialized agency.

New facts of torture during investigation and interrogation.

Kazakhstan International Bureau on human Rights and Rule of Law continues to receive information on facts of tortures of prisoners during investigation and interrogation.

Recently the lawyer of the Bureau has received the letter from Irina Cherkasova where she describes everything she had to go through during the so-called investigation of the murder case in 1998.

We intentionally disregard the question is she guilty or not. It is not in our powers to prove her guilty or not guilty. In this case what interests us are the “investigation methods” that police used in order to receive the confession. Irina tells that in the Shymkent regional department of Ministry of Interiors she was severely tortured. Tortures included sharp blows on the head that left her unconscious, threats to throw her out of the window. Then she was beaten on the head with a plastic bottle filled with water, when she fell down investigators lifted her up by her hair. then she was beaten up again by fists, keys, and books – anything the tortures had at the moment. There were around twelve people “interrogating” Irina. They took her clothes off and inserted a stick in her genitals. She still refused to confess, and then one of the interrogators brought some piece of equipment under the direct current. She lost her consciousness again and when she regained it she felt that her mouth was filling with blood and she smelled the urine – to wake her up policemen urinated on her.

Interrogation went on and at 10 PM she confessed. She spent the night handcuffed to the radiator. With this tortures were not over. Irina Cherkasova was then beaten up by the rubber truncheons, they didn’t let her sleep for three days and raped her. For the time that passed since her arrest before the trial, Irina lost 405 of her eyesight, suffered constant headaches, and started stammering. During the trial she denied her confession, but the court, nevertheless ruled her guilty, as Irina said, on the basis of testimony of the real murder.

On 11 of January 2000 a 17-year old Ivan Prokopenko was arrested in Aktubinsk for allegedly stealing several wooden poles with total price of $250. He was put in the investigation isolation prison where he died on 1st of March. His relatives learned of his death only three days later. All the time from 11 of January up to 3 of March none of Ivan’s relatives knew his whereabouts. the reason of death of the physically fit teenager remains a mystery. The doctor of the prison explained it by high blood pressure. the death certificate reads “unknown” in the reason of death column. The doctor who studied the body found the closed brain trauma, Ivan’s parents saw traces of tortures such as burns and cuts.

A year ago in Atyrau an innocent young man who could not stand tortures of investigators, committed suicide. He was 21. In the letter to his parents he told of tortures he had suffered. his parents brought this letter to prosecutor’s office and the case received a lot of public attention. Policemen could not avoid the responsibility and three of them were sentenced to imprisonment. This is another evidence that tortures are so widespread that even law-enforcement agencies themselves are forced to admit it.

The rating of Kazakhstani politicians and public figures according to the results of expert polls in March 2000

The Sociological service of the Central Asian agency of political research has conducted a poll among experts in order to define rating of the most influential politicians and public figures in Kazakhstan.

Officials, scientists, public figures, well-known journalists had to evaluate the degree of influence on the political situation (on the ten-point scale) and the quality of this influence. The preliminary list included 81 people.

The results of the rating


influence (10-point scale)

quality of influence (positive/negative)

  1. Nazarbaev N.A.



  • Aliev R. M.
  • 6,68


  • Mashkevich À. À.
  • 6,20


  • Tokaev Ê. Ê.
  • 6,08


  • Kulibaev Ò.À.
  • 6,00


  • Nazarbaeva D.N.
  • 5,96


  • Tazhin Ì.Ì.
  • 5,90


  • Kalmurzaev S.S.
  • 5,59


  • Nazarbaeva S.À.
  • 5,12


  • Kakimzhanov Z.H.
  • 4,82


  • Tasmagambetov I.
  • 4,68


  • Burkitbaev S.Ì.
  • 4,54


  • Abdildin S.À.
  • 4,54


  • Saudabaev K.B.
  • 4,47


  • Subhanberdin N.S.
  • 4,44


  • Marchenko G.À.
  • 4,35


  • Nurkadilov Z.Ê.
  • 4,23


  • Akhmetov D.Ê.
  • 4,17


  • Shodiev F.
  • 4,13


  • Abykaev N.À.
  • 4,13


  • Balgimbaev N.U.
  • 4,12


  • Sarsenbaev A.S.
  • 4,00


  • Kazhegeldin À.Ì.
  • 3,96


  • Mukaev À.À.
  • 3,95


  • Suleimenov Ê.Sh.
  • 3,91


  • Mansurov Ò.À.
  • 3,91


  • Pavlov À. S.
  • 3,70


  • Khitrin Yu.À.
  • 3,68


  • Utemuratov B.D.
  • 3,67


  • Khrapunov V.V.
  • 3,64


  • Kasymov G.V.
  • 3,62


  • Utembaev Ye.À.
  • 3,59


  • Narikbaev Ì.N.
  • 3,53


  • Zhakiyanov G.B.
  • 3,50


  • Kusherbaev Ê.Ye.
  • 3,48


  • Baimenov À.Ì.
  • 3,41


  • Kapparov N.D.
  • 3,41


  • Dosmuhambetov T.M.
  • 3,36


  • Savostina I.À.
  • 3,25


  • Idrisov Ye.À.
  • 3,24


  • Tokpakbaev S.B.
  • 3,24


  • Abdykarimov Î.
  • 3,20


  • Saparbaev B.Ì.
  • 3,15


  • Tuyakbai Zh.À.
  • 3,10


  • Muhamedzhanov B.À.
  • 3,10


  • Radostovets N.V.
  • 3,09


  • Masanov N.E.
  • 2,95


  • Mynabaev S.Ì.
  • 2,95


  • Shkolnik V.S.
  • 2,95


  • Dzhaksybekov À.R.
  • 2,89


    The incumbent President is the undisputed leader with majority of experts evaluating his influence as the most high and strong.

    The head of the ALMATY KNB Rahat Aliev, the director of the Eurasian bank group Mashkevich, Prime Minister Tokaev and “Kazakhoil” president Kulibaev, also received high points. the influence of these people is crucial for Kazakhstan's politics. It is not a secret that the structures represented by these people are very significant.

    The wife and daughter of the President are also among first ten influential politicians (9th and 6th place correspondingly). their influence is rather positive.

    Top officials such as Marat Tazhin and Satybai Kalmurzaev take 7th and 8th places both providing a positive influence.

    10th and 11th places were given to the young civil servants that rise many hopes – Minister of the state revenues Zeinulla Kakimzhanov and akim of the Atyrau region Imangali Tasmagambetov.

    Minister of transport and communications Serik Burkitbaev (12th) is more influential than head of the President’s office Saudabaev (14th) and Chairman of the National bank Grigori Marchenko (16th) who losses one place to Kazkommertsbank’s president Suhanberdin but provides a more positive influence than the latter.

    The deputy head of the Eurasian bank group Shodiev, vice-minister of foreign affairs Abykaev and “Kazakhoil” president Balgimbaev and minister of culture, information and public accord Sarsenbaev are almost equally influential. However, their influence (except Balgimbaev’s is negative.

    Interestingly enough Member of Majilis, leader of the Communist party Abdildin (13th)made it into the top twenty list. Opposition leader ex Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin was listed 23rd and his influence is almost negative.

    Majority of the listed persons are officials, however, there are some public figures who made the list, among them leader of the pensioners movement Irina Savostina, member of Majilis Gani Kasymov, political scientist Nurbolat Masanov.

    These are people with active civil position that experts are very much influenced by.

    Among the rest rather influential are the Kazakhstan ambassador to Russia Tair Mansurov (26th), first vice-prime minister Pavlov (27th), General Prosecutor Khitrin (28th).

    The lower part of the rating table is taken by the Minister of foreign affairs Idrisov (40th), heads of Parliamentary chambers - Abdykarimov (42nd) and Tuyakbai (44th), minister of labor and social security Radostovets (46th), Minister of industry, trade and energy Shkolnik (49th). the last on the list if the akim of a new capital Dzhaksybekov.

    An interview with the senior prison official of the country

    The OSCE together with Ministry of Interiors of Kazakhstan and KIBHR have organized in Shymkent a seminar for the prison officials in the region. The seminar was dedicated to the prospects for penitentiary reform in Kazakhstan and human rights in the context of international norms and standards. Reforming penitentiary system is a problematic issue not only for Kazakhstan but also for many other countries in the world.

    Participants of the seminar and journalists were really impressed by the speech of the Chairman of the Committee on Criminal-executive System of the Ministry of Interiors, Petr Posmakov.

    The top prison official of the country gave an interview to the journalist Tatiana Koretskaya:

    Q: Mr. Posmakov, what is your vision of the results of this seminar?

    A: Actually, this recent seminar is the third one out of five planned within the project “Training program for Kazakhstan penitentiary service” carried out in accordance with the Memorandum of Mutual Understanding signed by the Republic of Kazakhstan and ODIHR/OSCE. The purpose of this seminar is to assist reforms of the criminal-executive system using the experience of developed OSCE member-states as an example and improving the training in human rights field for prison officials. Before actually starting a project we have visited colonies in Astana, Pavlodar, Shymkent and despite the fact that we face many problems today international experts gave a positive evaluation to the reforms in the Kazakhstan’s criminal-executive system.

    Q: So why do we need to reform our penitentiary system?

    A: This among other questions was discussed last year at the International conference in London. 120 participants from 50 countries of the world have come to a unanimous conclusion that prison services all over the world are in crisis conditions. Participants of the conference stated that prisons are of no use to the society as they break up families and provide no compensation to victims. In many countries majority of convicted prisoners are those who could not afford a decent legal assistance. In some countries up to 50% of all prisoners were convicted in connection with non-violent drugs-related crimes. All over the world prison is an isolated institution that is often simply forgotten by society. Real conditions of prison detention are often inhumane and far from the standards defined by United Nations. Human rights violations such as overcrowding, low sanitary standards, insufficient nutrition and medical assistance, highly contagious infectious diseases and high mortality rate are widespread in many countries. This is the reality of the today’s penitentiary systems and our problems bear little difference. Thus, we can no and moreover, we have no right not to plan and implement practical decisions aimed at reforming the criminal-executive system of the Republic.

    Q: What is Kazakhstan’s penitentiary system today?

    A: For today criminal-executive system of the country includes 47 colonies of the general and high security regimes, 23 settlement-colonies, 3 colonies for minors, 1 prison and 17 isolation investigation prisons.

    Q: How big the prison population is?

    A: The total number is around 80 thousands of people. According to the international statistics Kazakhstan is number three in the world by the number of convicted prisoners for every 100 thousands people. Only Russia and United States are “ahead” of us. Colonies hold about 62 thousands of convicted prisoners, among them there are 2,600 women and about 1,000 minors. Another 17 thousands of people are detained in the investigation isolation prisons. Apart from this, the registers of criminal-executive inspections list more than 13,000 of convicted citizens that were sentenced to alternative measures of punishment.

    Q: What are the crimes that prisoners are convicted for?

    A: 13.7.% - murders, 7.9 % - premeditated grave assault. Majority – 34.4% - is imprisoned for theft. Comparing with a last few years there are more people who have been sentenced to imprisonment for violent crimes. This numbers went from 52.2% to 63.1%. The reason for this is the decriminalization of the Criminal Code.

    Q: And what if we look at the sentences?

    A: Majority of convicted prisoners – 39.8% are sentenced anywhere from 5 to 10 years; 29.9% - from 3 to 5 years; 18.7% - from one year to three years; 8.8% - from 10 to 15; up to 20 years - 0.6%; up to one year 1 year – 2.2%.

    Q: What is the age of prisoners?

    A: The highest percentage (31.2%) of prisoners are from 20 to 25 years old, 26.4 % account for persons from 30 to 40, and a little less than 25 % are people from 25 tî 30 years old. The equal number of 1.1 % are young people from 14 to 18 and from 18 to 10. I’d like to add that 40 % of prisoners are first-time convicts.

    Q: You have given the numbers for prison population, and how many prison officials do we have?

    A: there are about 10,000 people working in the penitentiary system. 6,900 have the specialized education. this way for every prison official there are 10 prisoners. In such countries as England or Poland there are 3 prisoners for every member of staff.

    Q: Only several years ago ever fifth prisoner was infected with TB, what is the statistics now?

    A: At the moment there are around 10,000 of prisoners infected with active form of tuberculosis. there are 8 specialized hospitals for 9,000 places each. the rest of them are kept in the colonies in the isolated areas. on the initiative of the vice-minister of Interiors Vlasov we have trained our medical staff according to WHO/DOTS program, worked out the system of nutrition for the tuberculosis patients. As a result mortality rates went down three times and the numbers of infected prisoners are 4,000 people less than the last year. However, now we have a new problem. Since 1996 the number of prisoners infected with HIV/AIDS is constantly rising.

    Q: Last year when I visited United States I learnt that Americans are constantly building new prisons. What about us?

    A: We have another system of executing punishment. there is only one prison, although investigation isolation prisons could also be put in this category. there are 17 of those in our prison service and majority is based in the old buildings far from any sanitary norms.

    The basis of the criminal-executive system is correctional colonies. Due to historical trends majority of colonies are located in the northern part of the Republic, as a result there is a lack of institutions in southern and central regions. There are not enough colonies for women and minors. Women from all over the state serve their sentences in only two colonies in Almaty and Karaganda, and minors in Almaty, Aktobe and North-Kazakhstan regions. We are planning to build new modern isolation investigation prisons in Almaty and Karaganda.

    According to you what are the main ways to reform the penitentiary system?

    A: Practice shows that being isolated from society prisoner loses many social connections and considering this decrease of prison population is one of the principal tasks for us. in order to achieve it a correction of the criminal policy is needed, including implementing new articles of the Criminal-executive code concerning alternatives to imprisonment and providing for shorter sentences for minor offences. Application of arrest as measure of restriction should be limited.

    To my mind, the first and most important task for us is putting our administration of punishment system in correspondence with UN Minimal Standard Rules on Treatment of Prisoners. reforming criminal-executive system is an objective necessity and the depth of the reforms shows the level of democratization of the society. Reforms have been launched, but this process has no end. It’s not like having a plan, implementing it and getting done with it. We are in the beginning and we have a long way to go, many problems to solve. One of them is a change of moral and psychological climate, humanization of relations in the prison service. This problem is not easy to solve, however, it is a whole separate issue.

    Received via e-mail, 30 June 2000