Public Monitoring Committees from 13 regions – the highest number so far – have published a joint report detailing the results of 500 monitoring visits to penitentiary institutions in Kazakhstan.
Over the past 10 years, Kazakhstan has delivered a number of important reforms to the criminal justice system. The introduction of a new Criminal Code and Criminal Executive Code have had a positive impact on reducing both the rate of imprisonment and the overall size of the prison population.
In the 1990s, Kazakhstan had the third highest prison population in the world after the US and Russia, and in the early 2000s ranked 19th among more than 220 countries worldwide. However, since 2013, when the country began to implement initiatives to reduce the prison population, prison numbers have been in decline and at the time of writing, the rate of imprisonment is now only 62nd highest in the world at 221 per 100, 000 of the population, and 46th highest in terms of prison population, with 39,179 prisoners.
However, human rights violations continue to be a problem in closed institutions. One of the most effective means of preventing human rights violations in prisons is public oversight. Society must know what is happening in prisons, and how the state treats prisoners.
The importance of public oversight of closed institutions is recognised both at the international and national level, with the new Criminal Executive Code endorsing the role of Public Monitoring Committees (PMCs).
Currently there are 93 penitentiary institutions in Kazakhstan (penal colonies, including 6 for women, educational colonies and a high-security prison). Each year, the PMCs conduct more than 500 visits to penitentiary institutions. This collection brings together PMC monitoring reports from 13 regions, detailing the results of their monitoring of penal institutions, with particular regard to human rights abuses.
Monitoring by PMCs is now coordinated by a ‘PMC Coordinating Council’ formed of 15 acting PMC chairmen from different regions. This is a significant new development. The Council’s role includes analysis of national legislation for compliance with international standards for the treatment of prisoners, standardisation of PMC activity, and making recommendations for the Government of Kazakhstan to improve the human rights situation in prisons.
This year, the number of PMCs publishing their activity reports has increased, which should have a positive effect on the integrity and comprehensiveness of information about detention conditions.
This collection is intended for public authorities, NGOs and international organisations, and other stakeholders concerned with human rights observance in Kazakhstan’s prisons.
The publication of this report was supported by PRI.
Download the report (Russian)