The Kyrgyz Republic's October 2007 constitution defines the country as a sovereign, unitary, democratic, social state based on the rule of law. The country has an elected president, an appointed prime minister and cabinet, and a parliament elected on the basis of party lists. The December 2007 parliamentary election failed to meet many of the country's international commitments and was marred by significant obstacles for opposition parties and the use of government resources to benefit specific political interests. The government's respect for democracy and human rights improved in a few areas, including initial steps to tackle systemic corruption in the public sectors and improved prison conditions. Despite these improvements, serious problems remained, including: restrictions on citizens' right to change their government; torture and abuse by law enforcement officials; impunity; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of judicial independence; pressure on NGOs and opposition leaders, including government harassment; an increase in pressure on independent media, including assaults on staff and vandalism of property; government harassment and detention of assembly organizers; pervasive corruption; discrimination against women and ethnic minorities; trafficking in persons; and child labor.
The U.S. government's priorities for promoting democratic principles, practices, values, and human rights in the Kyrgyz Republic include strengthening democratic institutions and promoting the protection of basic freedoms and human rights for citizens. The United States encourages the government and civil society to implement constitutional reforms to create checks and balances between branches of government and increase governmental accountability. The ambassador and visiting senior U.S. officials meet frequently with members of the government, civil society, and human rights groups to encourage reforms that would bring the country into compliance with its international commitments and obligations. In this regard, the United States also seeks to provide practical assistance related to freedom of speech and independent media, freedom of assembly, religious freedom and pluralism, and the protection of human rights.
U.S. priorities also include assistance for strengthening the rule of law as a means to consolidate democratic progress and combat corruption. In support of the rule of law, the United States provides assistance to reform the criminal justice system. The United States administers projects that promote an independent and transparent judiciary, while other programs provide skills development and institutional reform for the procuracy (the prosecutor’s office). The United States also works closely with the government on reforms in the judiciary, procuracy, and law enforcement bodies and changes in legislation in connection with its Threshold Country Program under the Millennium Challenge Account.
The embassy conducts a wide range of ongoing activities at all levels to promote democratic practices and human rights. To promote free and fair parliamentary elections, the United States conducted training for Central Election Commission staff, local election monitoring groups, and political party members working in precinct election commissions before the December 2007 parliamentary elections. In preparation for the October 2007 nationwide referendum on a new constitution and electoral code, U.S.-supported NGOs carried out public education campaigns that informed voters of their rights. The United States also funded the publication of precinct election commission manuals, which provided guidelines and regulations for use in all polling stations. The United States provided financial and logistical support for domestic and international monitors of the constitutional referendum and the parliamentary elections. The United States continues its support for political party development through projects implemented by civil society organizations at the national and regional levels, including training and consultation to political parties on party platform development, constituent service provision, legislative advocacy, and communication skills. The United States supports approximately 20 information centers throughout the country that provide key training and host on-site and mobile debate fora.
Promoting media freedom and freedom of speech remains a key U.S. priority. U.S. officials encourage the government to bring its media laws into compliance with international standards, in particular by rescinding criminal penalties for libel and transforming state-owned television into an independent entity. The United States trains journalists in an effort to improve professional standards and clarify the legal framework for media operation. The U.S. government's media initiative provides expertise and assistance to improve the use of modern production technology and update journalism quality. The United States continues support for a local institute that provides legal defense and alternative dispute resolution for journalists, as well as for the first and only independent printing press in the country. The United States also supported the first independent Central Asian news syndicate and media resource centers in the Ferghana Valley, and the first independent printing press in the country. U.S.-funded projects contribute to increasing the professionalism of female journalists and coverage of women's issues and human rights. U.S. assistance also supports passage of a broadcast media law that would regulate the awarding of broadcast frequencies and allow for the unfettered functioning of a free press. In addition, U.S.-supported organizations successfully lobbied for passage of a law to transform state television into a public television network. These organizations also work to defend the law from being overturned. The United States supports open, public Internet access and training programs to increase citizen access to information, including through U.S.-funded resource centers.
The United States continues programs to promote judicial reform and transparency and provides robust diplomatic support to anticorruption efforts. High-level U.S. officials, including the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia in June 2007, stressed to the president and prime minister during visits the need to make anticorruption initiatives the centerpiece of their reform programs. The United States works with parliament to reform the criminal justice sector by providing technical assistance in drafting legislation to make the criminal law compliant with international norms. The government continues to implement a U.S.-sponsored project to improve the effectiveness of and root out corruption within the Bishkek traffic police. The United States sponsors judicial training for commercial, criminal, and noncommercial civil judges, while a U.S.-funded organization continues monitoring courtrooms. The United States also conducts anticorruption workshops for prosecutors, law enforcement, and law students. Several representatives from the Ministry of Justice visited the United States through the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) to gain exposure to the U.S. court system. The United States also provided grants to student and teacher groups to combat corruption within the educational system. One grantee, a civil youth movement, increased awareness of students' legal rights, improved the quality of university services, and promoted budget transparency and self-governing student bodies in two of the country's largest universities. U.S. assistance will continue to combat corruption through programs designed to build a system based on rule of law and increasing transparency.
The United States continues support for programs designed to strengthen fundamental freedoms, bolster civil society, protect human rights, and combat human trafficking. An ongoing regional project aimed at improving the legal framework governing NGOs and the media has helped more than 300 local NGOs by providing better access to information and support for legal reform. The United States also encourages the capacity of local civil society coalitions through training and assistance to conduct national advocacy campaigns for governance reforms. A U.S.-supported human rights network monitors prisons and pretrial detention facilities in an effort to prevent detainee abuse. The embassy provides a series of small grants to local NGOs to protect human rights, provide civic education, and foster the rule of law. The United States continues to fund a three-year project to combat human trafficking, which assists in repatriation of victims, supports hot lines and shelters for victims, and sponsors antitrafficking information campaigns. The United States has advocated on behalf of U.S. NGOs in instances when they or their staff experienced government harassment.
The United States continues to advocate for increased religious freedom by maintaining regular contact with the State Agency for Religious Affairs and representatives of various religious communities and funding several Muslim religious leaders to learn about religious freedom and pluralism in the United States through the IVLP. The ambassador hosts Iftaar dinners for Muslim leaders in Bishkek and southern Kyrgyzstan and visits regional mosques. In September 2007 a senior U.S. policy advisor met with government officials and religious leaders to promote better mutual understanding and enhance engagement between the government and the country's Muslim communities.