On 15 September 2011, authority for Kazakhstan’s penitentiary system will be transferred back from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of the Interior of Kazakhstan.
Penal Reform International has serious concerns that this transfer of authority will undermine Kazakhstan’s previous reforms aimed at the mode
rnisation and the demilitarisation of the penitentiary system.
In 2002, responsibilities for prisons had been transferred the opposite way, from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to the Ministry of Justice, implementing recommendations by the UN Committee against Torture.
“PRI strongly believes that a penitentiary system should be governed by judicial authorities and separate from agencies involving policing or military functions,” states Saule Mektepbayeva, PRI’s Central Asia Director.
“It is worrying that rather than modernising its penitentiary system, Kazakhstan seems to be moving backwards.”
In most models in the world the penal services are either under the Ministry of Justice or set up as independent agencies. Where this is not the case yet, the trend is a decoupling the penitentiary system from Ministries of Interior.
The separation of the functions of investigation and prosecution on the one hand, and of execution and supervision of criminal sanctions on the other hand, has proven to be the far superior division of tasks between government entities. Prison management requires skills very distinct from those of policing. Experience across the globe has confirmed that rehabilitation of offenders, highly relevant to the prevention of recidivism, has a far higher prospect of success if allocated to judicial authorities rather then policing authorities.
Since prisons are under the authority of the Ministry of Justice, Kazakhstan has seen concrete positive developments, including a reduction in the prison population. Kazakhstan moved from 3rd place in the ranking of global prison populations in 2001, to 22nd place in 2010; progress was made with regard to public control over prisons and in dealing with tuberculosis in prisons.
“Not only does this retrogressive move put into question Kazakhstan’s commitment to penal reform, it has negative repercussions on other countries in the region which had been encouraged by Kazakhstan’s example,” stresses Saule Mektepbayeva.
PRI calls on the Kazakhstani government to halt the retrogressive transfer of authority before it enters into force on 15 September, and to expand on the process of modernisation and professionalism in the penal system.
Media coverage for PRI following a press conference on this issue