WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 646, April 17, 2011 TAJIK PRISON STAFF CONVICTED OVER JAILBREAK Top security officials as well as rank-and-file guards should be made accountable for systemic failures, experts say. By Irina Melnikova
KYRGYZSTAN'S FADED REVOLUTION Reforms mean political system should be working better, but those in charge have not stepped up to challenges. By Dina Tokbaeva CURBING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN CENTRAL ASIA Video report from IWPR meeting on major challenge facing societies in five states. By Shahodat Saibnazarova KAZAKSTAN: CONCERNS OVER ADOLESCENT SUICIDES Calls for more help for troubled teenagers come after suicide issue hits national headlines. By Mirlan Telebarisov KAZAK LEADER STILL MAKING THE RUNNING Despite more promises of democracy and pluralism, President Nazarbaevs landslide victory gives him complete control about how the country is to be run. By Almaz Rysaliev **** NEW ************************************************************************************ LATEST PROJECT REVIEWS: http://iwpr.net/make-an-impact/project-reviews VACANCIES: http://iwpr.net/what-we-do/vacancies **** IWPR RESOURCES ****************************************************************** CENTRAL ASIA PROGRAMME HOME: http://www.iwpr.net/programme/central-asia CENTRAL ASIA RADIO: http://iwpr.net/programme/central-asia/central-asia-radio NEWS BRIEFING CENTRAL ASIA: http://iwpr.net/programme/news-briefing-central-asia CENTRAL ASIA HUMAN RIGHTS: http://iwpr.net/programme/central-asia-human-rights-reporting-project STORY BEHIND THE STORY: http://iwpr.net/report-news/the-story-behind-the-story BECOME A FAN OF IWPR ON FACEBOOK http://facebook.com/InstituteforWarandPeaceReporting FOLLOW US ON TWITTER http://twitter.com/iwpr **** http://iwpr.net/ ********************************************************** DONATE TO IWPR: http://iwpr.net/donate **** http://iwpr.net/ ********************************************************** TAJIK PRISON STAFF CONVICTED OVER JAILBREAK Top security officials as well as rank-and-file guards should be made accountable for systemic failures, experts say. By Irina Melnikova A deputy prison governor and three warders have been convicted of negligence that led to a mass escape from a high-security detention facility in Tajikistan last year. Analysts say more senior officials should have been charged as well, as the jailbreak showed up lax procedures at prisons. The case relates to the escape of 25 detainees from the detention unit of Tajikistans State Committee for National Security in the capital Dushanbe late on August 22 last year. Inmates overpowered their guards, killing three of them, and made off in what seemed to be a planned escape. Obtaining a set of keys, they freed other prisoners, seized weapons, changed into military uniforms that they found, and headed for the main gates, where there were vehicles waiting for them. (See Mass Jailbreak Causes Ripples in Tajikistan.) After a trial held behind closed doors, the detention centres deputy head, Saidullo Berdyev, was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years, a prison warder received the same sentence, and two others got five and two years. The verdicts were announced on Tajik state TV on April 4. Most of the group that escaped were among 46 individuals who had received lengthy sentences for terrorism, drug trafficking, and seeking the violent overthrow of the government. They had been arrested after a July 2009 security operation in which government forces moved into the Tavildara valley in eastern Tajikistan to crush armed groups operating there. The authorities claimed those detained had links to Islamist groups including the outlawed Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which launched raids in Central Asia in 1999 and 2000, and which in more recent years has been allied with the Taleban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Twelve of the escapees have been captured since August, and nine of them are currently standing trial in Dushanbe. Three others were killed by security forces, and the remaining ten are still at large. The escape led to a further round of violence in Tavildara, as security forces mounted a manhunt to track down the convicts and met with serious resistance, including an ambush on a military convoy in September that left 25 soldiers dead. (For more on this incident, see Tajik Authorities Struggle to Quell Militants.) Following the jailbreak, the head of the GKNB and three of his deputies resigned, and the detention centres head was reassigned to another job. But many believe these resignations and the trial that has just ended will do little to address fundamental problems with prison security. An anonymous source in one of Tajikistans law-enforcement agencies, who was privy to the investigation into the case, told IWPR that the documentation revealed a culture of negligence and impunity from top to bottom. Security procedures were so lax, he said, that until the incident happened, GKNB staff could turn up at the detention centre any time they liked, as if it was their own home. Staff members vehicles were not checked, and on the day of the escape, the security detail was reduced and a getaway car was allowed to park without its owner being challenged. External oversight was also lacking. The prosecution service, for example, conducted monthly checks but failed to spot any problems. The poor procedures were exploited by inmates led by a former Guantanamo detainee, IWPRs source said. This man, serving a 25-year sentence for murder imposed in 2007 when he was returned to Tajikistan, had been moved from an ordinary prison to this special facility so that he could pass on intelligence to security officers, the source said. He was not under guard and was able to move about freely within the facility, he added. The source said those with ultimate responsibility for security at the prison should also have gone on trial, since although those convicted were responsible for their actions, they had been allowed to get away with it by their superiors. Other commentators agreed with this view, including Dushanbe lawyer Shuhrat Qudratov, who said that those convicted in the case had been made scapegoats for wider failings. Political independent expert Parviz Mullojonov believes the GKNB should hold an exhaustive inquiry into the reasons why the escape was allowed to happen. Without this, he warns, similar incidents could occur again. Irina Melnikova is a pseudonym for a journalist in Tajikistan. This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign Ministry of Norway. KYRGYZSTAN'S FADED REVOLUTION Reforms mean political system should be working better, but those in charge have not stepped up to challenges. By Dina Tokbaeva A year after the revolution that toppled President Kurmanbek Bakiev, progress towards a fairer political system has been decidedly mixed, while the hoped-for economic upturn has not been forthcoming, commentators say. Political analysts interviewed by IWPR hailed last years constitutional reform that produced a system in which parliament, not a strong presidency, dominates. The multi-party legislature is a major shift away from the more authoritarian systems that are a feature of other Central Asian states. Other than that, though, commentators expressed disappointment that the political forces that replaced Bakiev had failed to implement effective government, preferring instead to focus on promoting their own positions and interests. Analysts also criticised the governments failure to restore stability, manage crises and plan for the future. This is a major concern given that the dire economic situation could, unchecked, lead to more unrest, especially in southern areas where the pace of rebuilding after serious ethnic violence last summer has been slow. Anti-government protests on April 6-7 last year forced Bakiev from office, and left at least 70 people dead as police fired into crowds of demonstrators. The instability continued in the months that followed, culminating in June in several days of all-out violence between ethnic Kyrgyz in and around Osh and Jalalabad, in which more than 400 people were killed and some 400,000 were forced from their homes by attacks, arson and looting. Political analyst Tamerlan Ibraimov sees the major achievement of the year as the dismantling of an authoritarian presidential system, and the emergence of a pluralist parliament, which was elected in October as a product of the constitutional referendum held in June. Now, he says, There isnt a lone figure, or a narrow group around him, who take the decisions. There are several groups that wield substantial influence, and they are all in parliament. Ibraimov said it had become more difficult for incumbent administrations to use the entire apparatus of the state to bolster support and steamroll their way through elections. The [post-Bakiev] authorities were unable to apply substantial administrative pressure, as theyd only just come to power and hadnt consolidated their position, and also because there were so many different parties, he said. But this upsurge in formal political activity was not matched by the mood of the electorate, which remained largely apathetic, Ibraimov said. As a result, he claimed, some parties had reverted to seeking support elsewhere from the underworld. This led to a reappearance of well-tried tactics of bribery and intimidation in the election campaign. Criminal groups have well-developed networks across the country. They exercise real power, especially in the provinces, he added. Some commentators say that while last years regime change offered a historic opportunity to break with the past and build a democracy, what happened in practice was that power remained within elite groups, and was simply transferred from one to another. Zainidin Kurmanov, who served as speaker of parliament towards the end of Bakievs rule, said political developments since April 2010 amounted to a change in form but not substance. All that had happened, he said, was a realignment of forces, one nomenklatura group replacing the other. The 2005 revolution, in which Bakiev replaced long-term president Askar Akaev, and last years change of power resulted in a continual influx into government of individuals who often lacked any experience in public administration. Those who entered politics were either people who wanted to protect their business interests, or who... had failed to be successful in other areas, he said. Kurmanov argues that what is lacking is a clear vision from government of how Kyrgyzstan is to be extricated from crisis and put on the right track towards development. Political analyst Nur Omarov agreed that there was no strategic vision at the top. The government appeared unable to guess what might happen beyond one or two months ahead, he said. Economist Azamat Akeleev said the position was getting worse due to a combination of unfocused policies and continuing doubts about Kyrgyzstans stability. In a recent public lecture at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Akeleev noted that foreign direct investment last year showed a 33 per cent fall on 2009. He listed the many obstacles to recovery, including the nationalisation of assets linked to the Bakiev family and the revoking of licences in the mineral extracting sector; and businesses coming under pressure from organised crime. In addition, he noted that neighbouring states had been reluctant to fully reopen their borders to trade with Kyrgyzstan because of persistent concerns about stability. In the case of Uzbekistan, cross-border trade has been hampered by the tensions created by last years violence in southern Kyrgyzstan. Toktobubu Dyikanbaeva, director of Kyrgyzstans Institute of Economics, said that with a presidential election due later this year, the authorities would be under pressure to increase spending. But doing so would force an unpleasant choice, she told the Expert KG news agency. The budget deficit would either have to be covered by increasing the tax take, which would likely curb growth further; or else with foreign loans, increasing the already substantial external debt burden. Media freedom in Kyrgyzstan was one of the few areas about which the analysts interviewed for this report were reasonably upbeat. They said there was no visible pressure on private media outlets, which used to be common under previous administrations. The state television and radio company, used as mouthpiece for the Bakiev and Akaev administrations, has now been transformed into a public service broadcaster. Dina Tokbaeva is IWPR regional editor for Central Asia. Additional reporting by Pavel Dyatlenko of the Polis-Asia think-tank and Nina Muzaffarova, an IWPR intern in Bishkek. This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign Ministry of Norway. CURBING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN CENTRAL ASIA Video report from IWPR meeting on major challenge facing societies in five states. By Shahodat Saibnazarova An IWPR round-table debate on violence against women provided a unique opportunity for policymakers and practitioners to swap ideas on tackling this complex and sensitive issue. The March 29-30 event in the Tajik capital Dushanbe brought womens rights activists together with representatives of governments, courts and police forces to discuss what is working and what isnt in Central Asian countries. Domestic violence is all too often seen as a private matter in which the state should not intervene, but participants agreed that it needed to be brought out into the light through awareness-raising, tougher legislation and practical solutions. For more information on the meeting, see this IWPR report. The video report was produced by Shahodat Saibnazarova, IWPRs radio editor in Tajikistan. This IWPR round-table funded is under two projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. KAZAKSTAN: CONCERNS OVER ADOLESCENT SUICIDES Calls for more help for troubled teenagers come after suicide issue hits national headlines. By Mirlan Telebarisov Rising public concern over the incidence of suicide among young people in Kazakstan has prompted the government to take action. The current focus on adolescent suicides stems from a high-profile case last October, when two teenagers in a village in the Almaty region hanged themselves. A special commission sent by the Kazak interior ministry discovered what the parents already suspected that the pair had been victimised by a teenage gang extorting money. The case prompted the education ministry to call a meeting the following month in Taldykorgan, the administrative centre of Almaty region, at which officials discussed adolescent crime and suicide with teachers. Deputy education minister Mahmetgali Sarybekovs revelation at the meeting that 340 cases of actual and attempted suicide had been recorded in January-October 2010 led to a public outcry, with calls to take action on the bullying that is one of the factors driving young people to take their own lives. In January, member of parliament Jarasbay Suleymenov formally requested the government to take action on what statistics indicate is a major problem. The time has come to understand that conferences, meetings and events held once a year or once a month to prevent suicide among children wont help solve this problem, he said. Official statistics show that 237 deaths of children and adolescents were recorded last year, and 260 the year before. Most were aged between 12 and 19. Kazakstan has the highest incidence of suicides recorded among girls aged 15 to 19, and the second highest for boys, after Russia, according to the most recent report from the United Nations childrens agency UNICEF, covering Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The figures are 18 and 31, respectively, per 100,000 people. Slovakia had the lowest rate for girls, at just over one per 100,000, and Armenia the lowest for boys in this age group, at under one per 100,000. Published last year, the report cites figures from 2008. Another UNICEF report from 2009 says there was a 23 per cent increase in the number of suicides among young people between 1999 and 2008. Raisa Sher, who heads the education ministrys child protection committee, said public attention turned to the issue because of media coverage of the two cases in October, and the disclosure of official statistics on suicide. The problem of teenage suicide in Kazakstan existed before, but it simply wasnt discussed, she said. Sher said bullying in schools was one of the factors that led to suicide, but she also argued that wider societal changes the loss of values, falling standards of social behaviour, and the exposure of minors to violent images on TV played a part. Natalya Raspopova, who heads a department dealing with suicide at Kazakstans National Centre for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Narcology, says a complex range of factors can lead young people to take their own lives bullying, family problems and relationships. Until recently, the problem was ignored by the government and by non-government organisations, she said. Educationalists say children can be overwhelmed by such problems if they do not get support from parents, teachers and peers. Alexander Katkov, deputy chairman of the League of Professional Psychotherapists in Almaty, said they may become anxious and demoralised and come to believe there is only one way. Aynash survived a suicide attempt last year, when she was 19 and became depressed while attending teacher training college in Semey in northerneastern Kazakstan. She drove a knife into her abdomen after worrying over what she felt was her long list of failings, and found she was unable to speak to anyone who could offer emotional support. I did it on a sudden impulse, when I couldnt bear things any more, she said. None of my family members and friends understood me. After adolescent suicide hit the headlines, Kazakstans government took action with a three-year programme that will look at the causes of stress and potentially suicidal behaviour among young people. Testing will be conducted to identify high-risk groups, and teachers will be given special training in how to support vulnerable children. In addition, the current national health programme includes plans to train up specialised school psychologists. Helplines, 168 childrens advice bureaus and 14 crisis centres offering psychological help have existed for some time. But experts say more work needs to be done to make adolescents aware of these opportunities to get help and advice. Raspopova argues that psychologists should also work with parents to give them a better understanding of how to make children more able to cope with stress. The roots of this problem dont lie in children; it is primarily adults who are at fault, she said. In terms of the law, a court case in the northwestern city of Aktobe this February may provide a precedent for dealing with bullying. A 19-year-old youth was convicted of driving a 17-year-old to commit suicide by hanging in September. The victim had been subjected to repeated instances of extortion. Rahila Muhambetkalieva, a judge in Aktobe, said there had been previous criminal cases in Aktobe region involving accusations of provoking suicide, but it was the first time it had been successfully proved in court, as it was difficult to demonstrate the causal effect of bullying. Mirlan Telebarisov is an independent journalist in Kazakstan. This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign Ministry of Norway. KAZAK LEADER STILL MAKING THE RUNNING Despite more promises of democracy and pluralism, President Nazarbaevs landslide victory gives him complete control about how the country is to be run. By Almaz Rysaliev The inauguration of Kazak president Nursultan Nazarbaev for yet another term in office has left analysts wondering whether On April 8, the inauguration of the incumbent re-elected for yet another term takes place. Nazarbaev was awarded 95.5 per cent of the vote in the April 2 election, with turnout officially put at nearly 90 per cent. The other three candidates never stood a chance. The leader of the Kazak Patriots Party, Gani Kasymov, got 1.9 per cent of the vote, Jambyl Akhmetbekov of the Communist People's Party 1.4 per cent and Tabigat green movement head Mels Eleusizov won 1.2 per cent. Opposition groups boycotted the snap election, on the grounds that they had too little time to prepare. Now 70, Nazarbaev has run Kazakstan since the Soviet period, periodically securing constitutional changes to extend his presidential terms and lift the two-term restriction on holding office. The ballot was criticised by the OSCEs Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, ODIHR, which sent observers to monitor the process. In a statement published on April 4, ODIHR said that needed reforms for holding genuine democratic elections still have to materialise, as this election revealed shortcomings similar to those in previous elections. Among the more serious irregularities, ODIHR cited numerous cases where apparently identical signatures appeared on voter lists and cases of ballot box stuffing. The vote count and tabulation of results lacked transparency, the statement said. Yermuhamet Yertysbaev, political advisor to the president, played down the criticism, and promised political reforms including a multiparty parliament and changes to the government. But analysts interviewed by IWPR say such reforms will be subject to the current leaderships own interpretation of democratic progress a carefully staged and orchestrated set process of change. Yertysbaev acknowledged some of the criticism such as multiple voting, but said ODIHRs negative appraisal came down to the strict criteria it applies to the electoral process. Other countries, even the United States, might not meet such election standards, he said in an interview to the Novosti-Kazakstan news agency. Yertysbaev said an early parliamentary election might be held this summer without waiting for the due date in August 2012 so as to facilitate speedy work on the reform process. In interviews to other media, Yertysbaev indicated that the parliamentary election would put an end to the current one-party legislature, and a new generation of western-educated young technocrats would be brought into government so as to stamp out corruption and nepotism. Analysts were sceptical about these promises of changes, saying a multiparty parliament would mean little since the presidential party Nur Otan would remain dominant, and the authorities had no political will to include real opposition parties, as opposed to groups loyal to the authorities. They also warned that following the hastily-conducted presidential vote, bringing forward the parliamentary election would further deprive the opposition of any real chance of success. Almaty-based political analyst Talgat Ismagambetov said he could see no rational for bringing the parliamentary contest forward. If there were reasons, he said, only Nazarbaevs entourage would be aware of them. For instance, Prime Minister Karim Masimov has warned of further economic trouble early next year, as Kazakstan continues to suffer the effects of global crisis. If extraneous circumstances make it more advantageous to hold an early parliamentary election, then it will be brought forward, Ismagambetov said. Alexander Knyazev, a senior researcher with the Institute for Oriental Studies, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, gives some credence to the Kazak leaderships talk of shaking up the system of government. If a parliamentary election was the way to achieve this, Knyazev said, it made sense to hold it as soon as possible. But it would be no easy task - simply sacking large numbers of people and pursuing pointless reshuffles could trigger unnecessary conflict, he warned. In the end, Knyazev finds it unrealistic to believe Kazakstan can make the shift from a system built around one man, President Nazarbaev, to one in which strong institutions take the lead. Ismagambetov sees talk of a technocratic administration as a way of weakening the influence of regional alliances and clan allegiances, and an admission that patronage networks are hampering the efficiency of the public service sector. But he does not foresee major changes to the current government, and believes Masimov will be retained as prime minister. Igor Vinyavsky, editor-in-chief of the opposition Vzglyad newspaper, doubts that much can change as long as Nazarbaev is in power. He believes that if parties other than Nur Otan are allowed into parliament, they will include Ata-Meken, which represents business interests. In turn, Ata-Meken could be used as a vehicle to promote Timur Kulibaev, Nazarbaevs son-in-law, who is seen as one of the possible successors to the president. One thing on which the analysts interviewed for this article agree is that now Nazarbaev has secured another term in office to take him into his mid-70s, he is still a long way off giving a clear hint about who he wants to succeed him. Political analyst Daniar Ashimbaev believes the president will leave the announcement to the last moment. In an interview for Stan.tv on election day, he said politics was driven by personalities in Kazakstan, so nominating a successor too soon posed the risk of creating a dual kingship, with various interest groups backing the heir apparent in order to weaken the incumbent. But as Knyazev pointed out, the public in Kazakstan is keen to know, and has good reason for doing so since the choice will influence the countrys long-term stability. Almaz Rysaliev is IWPRs editor in Kazakstan. **** http://iwpr.net/ ********************************************************** IWPR Giving Voice, Driving Change IWPR - Europe, 48 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, UK Tel: +44 20 7831 1030 IWPR United States, 1325 G Street, NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20005, United States Tel: +1 202 449 7717 1515 Broadway, 11th Floor, New York, New York 10036, United States Tel: +1 212 520 3950 Stichting IWPR Nederland, Eisenhowerlaan 77 K, 2517 KK Den Haag, The Netherlands Tel: +31 70 338 9016 For further details on this project and other information services and media programmes, go to: http://iwpr.net/ ISSN: 1477-7924 Copyright © 2009 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting **** http://iwpr.net/ ********************************************************** This electronic mail message and any attached files are intended solely for the named recipients and may contain confidential and proprietary business information of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) and its affiliates. 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