The Kyrgyz Republic's new December constitution defines the country as a sovereign, unitary, democratic, social state based on the rule of law. The country has a population of approximately 5,218,000. The country has a multiparty parliamentary system and was ruled by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, whose July 2005 election, following the March overthrow of the Akayev regime, marked tangible progress towards meeting international standards. Only a dozen out of approximately 90 registered political parties played a significant role, and no single party was dominant. On November 9, following a week-long opposition-led street protest, the country adopted a new constitution, which held out the possibility of greater checks and balances among the branches of government. On December 30, the parliament adopted a revised version of the constitution that restored many powers to the president. The new constitution envisages a greater role for political parties, with half the seats in the next parliament to be elected by party lists. The civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces, although some members committed serious human rights abuses.
The following human rights problems were reported: some restrictions on citizens' right to change their government; arbitrary or unlawful killings; disappearance of and failure to protect refugee and asylum seekers; torture and abuse by law enforcement officials; impunity; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of judicial independence; pressure on nongovernmental organization (NGO) and opposition leaders, including physical assaults and government harassment; an increase in pressure on independent media, including assaults on staff and vandalism of property; government harassment of assembly organizers; pervasive corruption; discrimination against women, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities and homosexuals; child abuse; child labor; and trafficking in persons.
Despite these problems, the government's respect for human rights improved in several areas. Assistance from international organizations helped improve prison conditions in several locations and promoted the proper handling of prisoners. Tuberculosis (TB) mortality rates in prisons decreased. Local NGOs observed a reduction in incidents of military hazing among soldiers and cadets of the armed forces. During the year several Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) officials were dismissed or prosecuted for abuses or misconduct. The government also took initial steps to tackle systemic corruption in the public and private sectors, although comprehensive national action was not yet taken. The government allowed several large-scale opposition rallies.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
On August 6, the special forces of the National Security Service (SNB) shot and killed three persons, including Mukhammadrafiq Kamalov, imam of the largest mosque in Karasuu. Immediately following the incident, government officials said that the three were affiliated with banned the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and were killed in the course of an antiterrorism operation. Kamalov's family and observers, including the ombudsman for human rights, denied security officials' allegations about the possible involvement of the imam in religious extremist groups. Security officials later conceded that Kamalov might not have been part of the group but instead may have been kidnapped by the suspected terrorists and thus killed accidentally in the raid. On May 24, security forces detained Kamalov and searched his house on suspicion of his involvement in activities of the extremist Islamist political organization, Hizb ut Tahrir (HT).
On October 15, Aibek Alimjanov, a businessman, deputy of the Osh City Council, and the leader of the Uzbek Cultural Center in Osh, was shot and killed. The government denied any political connections to the crime and suspected the attack was related to Alimjanov's business dealings. The Uzbek community alleged that Alimjanov was targeted because of his ethnicity and expressed concerns about the sluggish investigation. The same community addressed a letter to the president requesting his assistance in expediting a resolution to the case. An investigation into the incident continued at year's end.
There were no developments in the investigations into the April 2005 killing of Usen Kudaibergenov and the June 2005 killing of parliamentarian Jalgarbek Surabaldiyev.
At year's end the Bishkek court continued consideration of an appellate case regarding the September 2005 killing of parliamentarian Bayaman Erkinbayev. The appeal was filed by the late deputy's wife for the two defendants, Makhmudjan Ruzimetov and Sabyrkul Batyrov, who were sentenced to death in August for being accomplices to the crime. In December, Russian law enforcement agencies reported that Sultan Abalayev, a person who supposedly carried out the assassination of Erkinbayev and who was on the Interpol wanted list, was arrested in Chechnya, Russia. It was unclear if Abalayev, a Russian citizen, would be extradited for prosecution.
On August 3, N31 prison colony inmates Rustam Abdullin, Azamat Zakirov, and Yevgeniy Golovin were sentenced to death for the October 2005 killing of parliamentarian Tynychbek Akmatbayev and three other officials while they visited their prison colony near Bishkek.
There were no reports on deaths due to military hazing.
There were no developments or further information regarding the December 2005 Uzbek border guard shooting of a Kyrgyz citizen or the October 2004 death of Tashkenbay Moidinov while held in police custody.
According to an August 23 statement by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), five Uzbek citizens that had applied for asylum status disappeared in July and August, with eyewitnesses claiming in at least two of these cases that the individuals had been seized from their homes and taken away in unmarked vehicles. The Prosecutor General's Office eventually initiated an investigation into the disappearances, but only after the UNHCR publicly appealed for government action. The investigation did not produce any results, and the whereabouts of these asylum seekers remained unknown at year's end (see section 2.d.).
There were no developments and none were expected in the investigation of the 2004 two week disappearance of Tursunbek Akunov. Akunov alleged the SNB was involved. In 2005 Akunov became chairman of the State Commission on Human Rights.
Local human rights advocates continued to report that approximately 12 Kyrgyz citizens were serving sentences in Uzbek prisons after being kidnapped by Uzbek security services beginning in 2000.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits such practices; however, police and SNB forces employed them. At times police beat detainees and prisoners to extract confessions.
In March and August the human rights ombudsman expressed concern over a number of incidents involving abuse of detainees, blaming the abuse on corruption and a low level of professionalism among jail and police officials. In June the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) established the Internal Security Service (ISS) to investigate and curb corruption and abuse within penitentiaries. As of December, the unit was investigating eight cases of alleged violations.
On December 5, the NGO Spravedlivost and the Osh Advocacy Center, with support of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office in Osh, conducted a two-day human rights training seminar for the heads of the Osh, Jalalabad, and Batken oblast penitentiaries. The training focused on educating prison staff in protecting prisoners' human rights and establishing better relations with human rights organizations.
According to the NGO Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, military hazing steadily decreased over the preceding year. The NGO monitored various military units, recording all instances of hazing, and worked closely with military authorities to implement preventive measures. Hazing incidents reported during the year included physical abuse and money extortion by noncommissioned officers. On a quarterly basis, the NGO met with military representatives to discuss incidents of hazing and to plan activities for further improvement. According to the NGO, military authorities take every incident seriously and strive to develop measures to eliminate problems. The NGO published a quarterly magazine and aired a regular program on the National TV channel about the military service, including work and living conditions and morale of the troops. Representatives of the NGO visited military units on a regular basis, conducting interviews with soldiers and officers.
In November Freedom House reported about two border servicemen, Gairat Torakeldiyev and Erkin Kamalov, who sustained injuries from physical abuse by their peers. The Military Prosecutor's Office and the senior leadership of the National Border Service were investigating both cases.
On October 16, 143 cadets protested at the military college and refused to attend classes. According to the college authorities, the protest was organized by 10-15 informal cadet leaders who did not want to comply with the college's rigid internal disciplinary rules. They were also accused of harassing junior cadets and stealing their money and personal belongings. The college authorities conducted a meeting with parents, teachers, and cadets. The issue was reportedly resolved. Representatives of the Military Prosecutor's Office counseled those responsible for organizing the protest, hazing junior cadets, and committing other violations.
On August 5, prisoners at the Temporary Detention Center in Jalalabad rioted to protest systematic beatings by on site police officers. According to Aziza Abdurasulova, a member of the presidential Human Rights Commission, 15 police officers admitted they beat detainees to extort confessions. The government opened an investigation into the incident, but results were not released at year's end.
No additional information was available on the investigation of the 2005 beating of 30 inmates or on whether there was any action taken regarding the 2005 beating of a 15-year-old in a pretrial facility in Jalalabad.
During the year the attorney of an Uzbek citizen, Otabek Ahadov, filed a complaint with the UN Commission on Human Rights regarding claims of torture sustained by Ahadov in custody. Ahadov, arrested in 2000 and convicted and sentenced to death in 2002 for killing a Uighur community leader, claimed that he was severely tortured while in police custody. Ahadov claimed that while detained in the Bishkek City Police's Division of Interior in 2000, he was given psychotropic drugs and physically abused. Also in 2000, the government's Republican Office of Forensic Medical Examination conducted a forensic medical examination that revealed that Ahadov had bruises and abrasions that could have been made during his detention.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
As of November, according to a department supervising penitentiary facilities (DSPI) official, there were over 16,000 prisoners.
Prison conditions were very poor and included overcrowding, food and medicine shortages, poor health care and disease prevention facilities, and lack of heat and other necessities. Morbidity and mortality rates continued to decline, particularly those resulting from TB. During the year, the number of prisoners with TB decreased from 2725 to approximately 2300 at year's end. A total of 135 prisoners died from complications due to TB, down from 159 deaths in 2005.
Pretrial detention facilities were particularly overcrowded, and conditions and mistreatment generally were worse than in prisons.
The NGO Ray of Solomon renovated cells, hallways, and recreation grounds to improve conditions at the pretrial detention center in Osh.
On January 9, the president signed a law reforming the penitentiary system. The law outlines rules of employment, enrollment requirements, criteria for promotion, and benefits for penitentiary staff. Starting April 1, salaries of penitentiary facilities staff increased 30 percent, and during the year approximately 200 workers participated in training exercises focusing on the psychological aspects of dealing with prisoners, especially in crisis situations such as riots. On March 10, the government also adopted the Ymyt national program to reform the penitentiary system by 2010 and bring legislation into compliance with international human rights standards.
During the year the government and NGOs conducted roundtable discussions on penal reform, specifically addressing mitigation of punishment for minor crimes or alternative methods of punishment in lieu of incarceration. In August, with OSCE support, the government established an independent monitoring group for two southern provinces that included local government and NGO representatives and doctors. By year's end the group had visited penitentiaries in Osh and Jalalabad and prepared a report for the MOJ.
Unlike the previous year, no prison deaths due to negligence or violence were reported. There were no further developments in the October and November 2005 deaths of five prisoners at the N31 prison colony and the November 2005 deaths of two prisoners at prison colony #8 during prison riots and subsequent police raids on the facilities.
During the year, prisoners protested at a number of penitentiaries throughout the country. The protests were mainly brought on by the lack of food and medical care that affected the wellbeing of prisoners in several penitentiaries. Local NGOs likewise reported that the basic rights of prisoners were violated.
On December 9, female and teenage prisoners of the N14 colony's pretrial detention center rioted and attempted to commit suicide by slitting their wrists. The protest was reportedly to publicize the poor living conditions and a lack of proper medicine. However, the DSPI stated that the riot was instigated by drug-dependent detainees following recent administrative operations that restricted the flow of illicit drugs into the prison. The prisoners submitted demands to the administration including more movement around the facility and a loosening of some restrictions. The conflict was peacefully resolved.
In April the Ombudsman's Office reported that three detainees of the Temporary Detention Center in Naryn attempted suicide by slitting their wrists, to protest the use of force during interrogations. By year's end the government has not provided a response.
Authorities held 165 prisoners facing the death sentence in 16 cells in the basements of pretrial centers in Bishkek and Osh; since 1998 there has been a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty. According to law, no more than two prisoners per cell are authorized; however, 10 death penalty convicts were being held per cell.
The government continued to permit domestic and international human rights observers to visit prisons. The International Committee for the Red Cross was allowed to visit detainees in MOJ and SNB prisons and pretrial detention centers and was granted access to inmates on death row.
On March 10, the DSPI, the MOJ, and the Swiss NGO Doctors without Borders signed a memorandum to implement measures aimed at reducing TB outbreaks within the prison population of two penitentiaries. At the beginning of the year there were 2,725 prisoners with various forms of TB.
According to an August International Crisis Group (ICG) report, the majority of prisoners were under tight control of criminal leaders who enforced a caste system inherited from the former Soviet Union. Corruption was rife and human rights violations widespread among prison officials. According to the ICG, HIV/AIDS and TB infection rates among inmates were higher than in the general population.
According to the department supervising penitentiary facilities, there were 102 prisoners with HIV out of approximately 16,000 prisoners.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, police at times used false charges to arrest persons and solicited bribes in exchange for their release.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
Law enforcement responsibilities are divided between the MVD for general crime, the SNB for state level crime, and the Prosecutor's Office for both types of crimes. Corruption, particularly the payment of bribes to avoid investigation or prosecution, was a major problem at all levels of law enforcement. The government took steps to address corruption in the police force, including public commitments to fight corruption and a July 2005 government decree that increased police officers' salaries by 50 percent. On December 8, Kurmanbek Joroyev, the head of the National Agency for Corruption Prevention, blamed law enforcement officials for not taking active measures to fight corruption.
Police impunity remained a problem; however, during the year numerous MVD officials were dismissed and prosecuted for various offenses, including corruption, abuse of authority, and police brutality. According to the Ministry of Interior, during the first eleven months of the year police uncovered 1,557 cases of economic crimes and other illegal activity committed by government officials. The report listed 300 cases of abuse of power, 198 cases of bribe taking, 83 cases of negligence of official duties and fraud, and 478 cases of embezzlement. At year's end 352 officials had been prosecuted.
Arrest and Detention
The Prosecutor General's Office determines who may be detained, arrested, and prosecuted. An arrest warrant from the Prosecutor's Office is required to detain an individual, and there were no reports that this provision was abused. The law permits law enforcement officials to detain suspects for 72 hours before releasing them or charging them with a crime, and this was generally enforced in practice. The law requires that investigators notify a detainee's family within 12 hours of detention; however, this requirement often was not observed in practice. At year's end there were no reports of incommunicado detention of prisoners.
All persons arrested or charged with crimes have the right to defense counsel at public expense. By law defense counsel is permitted to visit the accused immediately upon delivery to a detention facility. In practice the accused at times did not see defense counsel until trial. Human rights groups noted that arrested minors were usually denied lawyers; police often did not notify parents of children who were arrested, and generally neither parents nor lawyers were present during questioning, despite laws to the contrary. Consequently children often were intimidated into signing confessions. The law also authorizes house arrest for certain types of suspects. There were reports that at times law enforcement officials selectively incarcerated persons suspected of minor crimes, while other persons suspected of more serious crimes remained at large. There was a functioning bail system.
On September 9, the president signed the law on witness protection. The law sets out a system of state protection for witnesses, victims, and other participants in criminal trials. Under this law, testimony from witnesses and other trial participants will also carry greater weight both in the investigation and in court proceedings. Observers believed the law would increase witnesses' willingness to testify. According to the NGO Golden Goal, up to 80 percent of witnesses refused to give evidence for fear of retaliation by the accused.
The government continued to express concern about perceived extremist groups with radical religious or political agendas. During the year security forces detained persons on charges related to activities connected to the banned extremist Islamist political organization HT and initiated criminal cases, mostly for possession of or disseminating leaflets and booklets of an extremist nature. Although HT maintained that it was committed to nonviolence, the party's virulently anti Semitic and anti Western literature called for the overthrow of secular governments, including in Central Asia, to be replaced with a worldwide Islamic government called the caliphate (see section 2.a. and 2.b.). During the year law enforcement agencies arrested a number of members of religious parties for possessing or distributing religious literature; in almost all cases, it was reported that they possessed munitions in addition to religious literature. On September 2, Rasul Ahunov, a leader of the Islamic Party of Turkestan, was killed by authorities during a security operation.
The prosecutor has the discretion to hold suspects in pretrial detention for as long as one year, after which the prosecutor is required to release the suspect. There were no known instances in which the parliament was asked to extend a detention.
During the demonstrations in early November, police temporarily detained approximately 600 participants of the rally under suspicion that the demonstrators had been paid and ordered to create civil unrest. They were released after their identities were checked and fingerprints taken.
On November 9, Bakyt Kalpekov, an activist of the Ata-Meken opposition party, was taken into custody by security forces and charged with assaulting the deputy director of the National TV Company during the November rally. Even though he was released on bail two days later, the courts ordered him back into detention pending the outcome of his court case.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The law provides for an independent judiciary; however, the executive branch at times interfered with the judiciary. Lawyers and citizens commonly believed that judges were open to bribes or susceptible to outside pressure, and low salaries remained a contributing factor.
Cases originate in local courts and can move to appeals courts at the municipal or regional level and finally to the Supreme Court. There were separate military courts as well as a separate arbitration court system for economic disputes. Civilians may be tried in a military court if one of the codefendants is a member of the military. Military court cases can be appealed to a military appellate court and ultimately to the Supreme Court.
The Constitutional Court has responsibility for determining the constitutionality of laws, resolving disputes concerning the interpretation of the constitution, and determining the validity of presidential elections. The Constitutional Court may not intervene in actions of the Supreme Court, except in cases related to the constitution. The court has specific authority to determine the constitutionality of NGO activities, political parties, and religious organizations. Traditional elders' courts consider property and family law matters and low level crime. Local elders' courts are under the supervision of the prosecutor's office but do not receive close oversight since many are located in remote regions. However, decisions of elders' courts can be appealed to the corresponding regional court. Military courts and elders' courts follow the same rules and procedures as general courts.
Under the new constitution, the president will nominate, and parliament approve, justices to the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. The president can propose the dismissal of supreme and Constitutional Court justices, subject to parliament's approval. The National Council for Judicial Affairs (NCJA) will nominate, the president appoint, and parliament approve local judges. Local judges can be relieved of duty by the president at the proposal of the NCJA. The NCJA will consist of representatives of legislative, executive, and judicial branches of power and civic society.
During the year the president and other high-level officials spoke of the need for judicial reforms to strengthen the independence of the judiciary system. By year's end a program of judiciary reform was developed but not yet adopted.
Prosecutors bring cases before courts and judges direct criminal proceedings. A prosecutor participating in a trial is called the state prosecutor--his/her role is to maintain the indictment at all stages of the criminal process. The defendant's attorney defends the rights and interests of the defendant. The defendant may refuse attorney support and defend himself/herself. A criminal case is conducted by one judge; appellate cases, by three judges; and cases brought for supervisory consideration, by a judicial board of the Supreme Court. In the course of court proceedings, prosecutors provide support to charges against the defendant, and the attorney defends the accused. If a court renders a case indeterminable, it is returned to the investigative bodies for further investigation, and suspects may remain under detention.
The law provides for defendants' rights, including the presumption of innocence. In practice, however, such rights were not always respected. The judicial system continued to operate in many cases according to Soviet laws and procedures in which there was no presumption of innocence, and the focus of pretrial investigation was to collect evidence sufficient to show guilt. The law provides for an unlimited number of visits between an attorney and a client. Although official permission for such visits is required, it was usually granted.
The law permits defendants and counsel the right to access all evidence gathered by the prosecutor, attend all proceedings, question witnesses, and present evidence. However, these rights were not always respected in practice. Witnesses generally have to present their testimony in court; however, under certain circumstances specified in the law, witness testimony given during the investigation can be presented during the trial via audio or video recording without the witness being physically present. Indigent defendants were provided attorneys at public expense.
The law does not provide for juries. Defendants and prosecutors have the right to appeal the court's decision. The law provides for transparency of court proceedings. Generally, trials are open to the public, unless state secrets or the privacy of defendants are involved; however, even in closed proceedings, the verdict is announced publicly.
Military courts and elders' courts follow the same rules and procedures as general courts.
In February, following the demands of the opposition, the Supreme Court revisited the court decision on the Aksy events of March 2002, when five protesters were killed by government forces. The case was reopened because of allegations that the previous court decision was unfair. In 2004 the Supreme Court upheld the local court decision acquitting several officials of giving the order to shoot at the protesters. In August the prosecutor general stated that his office was also reinvestigating the Aksy case to determine who the culprits were. By year's end no results for either investigation had been announced.
On March 27, more than 20 prisoners on death row sent an appeal to the president, claiming that their cases were fabricated by the previous government and requesting their convictions be reexamined. At year's end the government had not publicly responded to this appeal.
Two citizens of Uzbekistan, detained in 2003 for allegedly conducting terrorist actions in the Oberon Market in Bishkek and the Bakai Bank in Osh, were placed on death row. Many NGOs claimed that they did not receive a fair trial because their cases were not fully investigated by the authorities.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
Since the change of the government in March 2005, there were no political detentions. There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
The constitution and law provide for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. As with criminal matters, citizens believed the civil judicial system was subject to outside influence, including from the government. Local courts address civil, criminal, economic, administrative, and other cases. The Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority which oversees the proceedings of the local courts and rules on appellate cases.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law prohibits such actions; however, the government at times violated these prohibitions. The law requires general prosecutor approval for wiretaps, home searches, mail interception, and similar acts.
Opposition leader and member of parliament Melis Eshimkanov reported that his car was followed by security forces on September 9 in Bishkek. SNB officials admitted that security service agents followed his car but claimed that their target was Eshimkanov's driver, who was suspected of being involved in unknown criminal activities. Later in September, Eshimkanov reported harassment of his friends and relatives by law enforcement agents, as well as attempts by local officials to initiate a campaign to remove him from parliament.
The government continued to conduct widespread document checks of some foreigners of all nationalities.
Family law prohibits divorce during pregnancy and while a child is younger than one year of age.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press. Although there were notable improvements after the March 2005 departure of Akayev, the government at times restricted these rights in practice. After the March 2005 change of government, National TV offered airtime to various politicians, lawsuits against independent media decreased, and independent media experienced new, albeit limited, freedom of operations and news coverage. During the year reports continued that politicians critical of the Bakiyev government were not allowed on National TV. Despite such reports, however, critics had received air time.
While the law provides for freedom of speech and the press, there were reports of harassment that were characterized as reprisal for criticizing the government. The MVD reported that 158 persons were detained or prosecuted during the year for distribution or possession of HT literature; those arrested typically were charged for distribution of literature inciting ethnic, racial, or religious hatred.
There were approximately 40 to 50 regularly printed newspapers and magazines, eight of which were state owned, with varying degrees of independence. Although the state printing house, Uchkun, was the primary newspaper publisher in the country, an independent printing press run by the nongovernmental Media Support Center (MSC) provided an alternative to state owned printing presses. Approximately 50 television and radio stations operated in the country, with two television stations broadcasting nationwide: Government TV and Radio Company (GTRK) and the People's TV and Radio (E1TR).
Foreign media operated freely. The law prohibits foreign ownership of domestic media; however, there was a small degree of foreign ownership of media, through local partners. Russian television stations Channel One and RTR dominated coverage and local ratings. Mir Interstate TV and Radio Company, a member-funded Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) television station network, was increasing its television and radio broadcasts throughout the country. A number of Russia based media outlets also operated freely in the country, although they were registered with the MOJ, and therefore the government considered them domestic media.
During the year ownership of major private television stations was challenged by new political and business leaders, through buyouts or in courts, which resulted in a change of political orientation of some channels, including Kyrgyz Public Education TV (KOORT), Independent Bishkek TV (NBT), and New Television Network (NTS), and the closing of another (Pyramida). Beginning in March 2005, Pyramida became the target of numerous attacks that aimed to disable its broadcast capabilities. These attacks were widely believed to be politically motivated due to the nature of the station's reporting, which was supportive of the opposition and critical of the president. In September unknown assailants physically assaulted several staff members and torched the television station, causing over $200,000 in damages. At year's end the attackers had not been identified, and there was no government response. There was also a fight over ownership of Pyramida between Adylbek Biynazarov, president and owner of 45 percent of the firm's stock, and InvestMedia. Pyramida television broadcasts were limited to UHF when the two sides went to court. At year's end court proceedings for ownership of Pyramida TV ended, but the outcome was not made public; Pyramida TV also resumed broadcasting on VHF.
Unknown individuals cut power to NTS' antennae in Bishkek and Osh during its coverage of the opposition-led demonstrations in November. Although armed guards and generators quickly restored broadcasts from the Bishkek antenna, the southern antenna, rented from the government, had not resumed operations at year's end.
In September the president vetoed two parliamentary bills: "On National Television and Radio Corporation" that proposed making GTRK a public broadcaster, and a second bill that proposed wider and more balanced media coverage of the parliament.
On November 14, the president signed a decree setting up a supervisory board for GTRK that would comprise equal numbers of presidential representatives, parliamentarians, and GTRK employees. Opposition parliamentarians claimed that the November 9 constitutional amendments give parliament the right to reform the GTRK without consulting the president and that the director of GTRK should be appointed by the prime minister, not the president. The issue was not resolved at year's end.
All media were required to register with the MOJ and receive ministry approval to operate. The media law states that registration should take no longer than one month, but in practice the process often took much longer. Part of the process included background checks on each media outlet's owner and source of financing, including international donor organizations. During the year no new television or radio licenses were granted. New licensing/frequency distribution procedures were being reviewed by the government.
At year's end the government had not implemented its 2005 plan to privatize state-owned media. Government newspapers, television, and radio continued to receive state subsidies, and the government remained the primary source of scarce advertising revenue, which allowed the government to influence media content.
During the year progovernmental media outlets published numerous negative articles about several parliamentary deputies, NGOs, and their leaders. The GTRK aired a program on September 17 that called for the removal of some opposition deputies, including Dooronbek Sadyrbayev and Azimbek Beknazarov.
Although the GTRK initially was to become a public broadcaster, in November 2005 the government announced that it would instead turn GTRK's southern branch, then called Osh3000, into a public broadcaster. The new broadcaster, dubbed ElTR, started operating in December 2005, although it did not have a separate channel. ElTR continued to depend on the GTRK for its national broadcasting, and the government appointed E1TR's board of directors and senior management. Although officially a public broadcaster, E1TR did not operate independently of the government.
In May the government cut off independent channel NTS' broadcasts to regions outside of Bishkek allegedly to give the transmission frequency to public broadcaster ElTR. ElTR never used the channel and NTS never resumed its nationwide broadcast.
During the year harassment of journalists decreased, although unknown persons continued to intimidate members of the media. NTS's general manager, possibly in connection with NTS's live broadcast of the opposition-led demonstrations in November, was summoned by the SNB. The general manager's house was robbed soon after the November demonstrations ended.
The government used law enforcement agencies and state run media to intimidate independent media. Sever-Elektro, a state-owned electric power company, filed a slander suit against the opposition newspaper Agym. The owner of Agym, member of parliament Melis Eshimkanov, stated that Sever-Elektro's claim was an attempt to close down Agym's operations by potentially bankrupting the newspaper.
Although the law prohibits censorship, a few independent journalists reportedly faced occasional government pressure over critical press coverage or were denied access to public meetings and information freely provided to state run outlets. The government continued to interfere in the newspapers' editorial policies, in some cases replacing editors with government appointed individuals.
Libel remains a criminal offense punishable by up to three years in prison. In May President Bakiyev submitted a bill to decriminalize libel; at year's end parliament had not passed it.
There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e mail or Internet chatrooms. Individuals and groups could engage in peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by electronic mail. During the opposition-led demonstrations in November, numerous Internet sources complained about attempts made by hackers to disrupt their broadcasts. At year's end there were no new developments regarding the Gazeta.kg case.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of Assembly
The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right in practice.
Throughout the year opposition and progovernment groups held a number of demonstrations and rallies throughout the country. Between January and August, 164 rallies were held in Bishkek, 83 of which focused on political demands, while 81 focused on socioeconomic demands. Law enforcement authorities provided security for many of these demonstrations. There were no reported cases of the government attempting to prevent demonstrations from occurring; however, authorities tried to place certain restrictions on the right to assemble. On April 6, the Bishkek Mayor's Office issued a decree stating that all rallies and demonstrations could be held only within preapproved locations.
Before a mass opposition demonstration on April 29, the government used law enforcement agencies to threaten and dissuade opposition members and leaders from participating in the demonstration. On the day of the demonstration, approximately 3,500 police and national guard troops surrounded the main Ala Too square in Bishkek, where approximately 7,000 persons were gathered demanding that the government reform the constitution and combat corruption; however, the demonstrators were allowed to protest peacefully and there were no reports of police harassment or violence.
On May 26, authorities in Jalalabad refused to provide the necessary permits, because of a technicality, to the Uzbek Cultural Center in Jalalabad to hold a rally to promote Uzbek as an official state language.
On June 25, police used tear gas to end election related clashes in the south. Several persons were injured when supporters of Mamat Orozbayev and Sanzharbek Kadyraliyev began throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at each other and exchanged gunfire in the southern town of Uzgen (see section 3).
On September 17, an opposition rally took place without government interference in the southern city of Aksy. There were reports, however, that the government attempted to limit participation at the rally by spreading rumors, through the state-owned press, that the event had been canceled. Additionally, some participants claimed that the rally was infiltrated by progovernment supporters who attempted to intimidate opposition supporters verbally. Despite these claims, the event took place without incident.
In August police detained a small group of land squatters who were demonstrating in front of the Lenin District State Administration building in Bishkek. The police did not employ any aggressive tactics to detain the demonstrators, who were released soon after their detention, there were reports of skirmishes between opposing groups of demonstrators at the demonstration site. No casualties were reported and the government did not issue any response to the incident.
From November 2 through 8, thousands of opposition protesters held mass demonstrations calling for the government to implement reforms or to step down. At one point, demonstrators peacefully occupied an administrative building in a suburb of Bishkek. The demonstrations were largely peaceful except for some altercations between opposition and progovernment protestors; law enforcement officials used tear gas to halt the violence and responded appropriately and generally respected freedom of assembly.
On March 31, the supporters of a well known criminal leader gathered in front of parliament and demanded the resignation of the prime minister, blaming him for the death of the crime boss' brother. Despite the disruption, there were no reports of the authorities attempting to block the demonstration, nor were there reports of any acts of violence during the rally.
Freedom of Association
The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right, although the government at times used law enforcement agencies to intimidate NGOs. NGOs, labor unions, political parties, and cultural associations must register with the MOJ. NGOs are required to have three members to register, and all other organizations require at least 10 members. The MOJ did not deny any domestic NGOs registration during the year. During the year the MOJ reregistered the Kyrgyz Human Rights Committee. The law prohibits activities of foreign political parties and NGOs, including their representative offices and branches, from pursuing political goals (see section 3).
The government continued its ban of four organizations it deemed to be extremist due to alleged ties to international terrorist organizations: HT, the Islamic Party of Turkestan, the Organization for Freeing Eastern Turkestan, and the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Party. Arrests and prosecution of persons accused of possessing and distributing HT literature continued during the year (see section 2.a.). Most arrests of alleged extremists occurred in the south and involved ethnic Uzbeks. The majority of those arrested typically were charged with distribution of literature inciting ethnic, racial, or religious hatred.
On January 9, the president signed amendments that provide for financial compensation to individuals undergoing physical rehabilitation and to those who suffered politically motivated labor or social rights violations.
c. Freedom of Religion
The law provides for freedom of religion. The government generally respected this right in practice, although there were some restrictions, particularly regarding the activities of Islamic groups that it considered to be extremists and a threat to the country. Islam is the most widely practiced faith.
The State Agency for Religious Affairs (SARA) -- called the State Commission on Religious Affairs, or SCRA, until November 2005 -- is responsible for promoting religious tolerance, protecting freedom of conscience, and overseeing laws on religion. Under the law all religious organizations, including religious schools, are required to register with SARA, and each congregation is required to register separately. In July SARA moved its headquarters to the southern city of Osh, reportedly to monitor more closely religious extremists within the predominantly Muslim Ferghana Valley.
Although there has been a history of several groups having difficulties registering, almost all were eventually registered, except for the Hare Krishnas, who continued to have difficulties. Since 1996 SARA has registered 270 religious groups and nearly 1,200 foreign citizens as religious missionaries.
In December 2005 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported ongoing problems in its efforts to register with SARA; the church had not been registered at year's end, and its application was pending its response to SARA's request for additional information. The church initially submitted its application for registration in August 2004.
Organizations applying for registration must have at least 10 members who are adult citizens and must submit an application form, organizational charter, minutes of an institutional meeting, and a list of founding members. Each congregation must register separately. A religious organization then must complete a registration process with the MOJ to obtain legal status, which is necessary to own property, open bank accounts, and conclude contracts. If a religious organization engages in commercial activity, it is required to pay taxes. In practice the MOJ has never registered a religious organization without prior registration by SARA. The registration process with SARA is often cumbersome, taking one month on average, but in the past it sometimes took up to several years. According to SARA regulations, registration is rejected if a religious organization does not comply with the law or is a threat to national security, social stability, interethnic and interdenominational harmony, public order, health, or morality. An applicant whose registration is denied may reapply and may appeal to the courts.
The government was concerned about political extremism it believed was disguised as conservative Islam, particularly Wahhabist interpretations. During the year no incidents of domestic or foreign security services monitoring worshipers at mosques were reported. On August 6, SNB agents followed and killed Muhammadrafiq Kamalov, the imam of Karasuu's largest mosque, as well as two other alleged extremists who were riding in the same car (see section 1.a.).
Law enforcement authorities, including the MVD and the SNB, often played a role in investigating religious organizations and resolving interreligious disputes. Representatives of smaller churches, such as the Church of Jesus Christ, complained of government attempts to hamper their activities in the past. During the year the police detained 158 persons for religious activity and opened criminal cases regarding most of these detainees. There were 162 HT related cases reported during the year (see section 2.a.).
Missionary groups of various religious organizations operated freely, although they are required to register with the government.
In December 2005 the Jalalabad City Education Department banned the wearing of hijabs or headscarves in that city's schools. Several parents protested the move and demanded that the ban be lifted. In May, following intervention by the State Muftiate, the ban was lifted for a short period of time before it was re-enacted at several schools. It continued to be in effect at year's end. According to the NGO Spravedlivost's lawyer, at year's end the city education administration still banned scarves at schools, arguing it was part of the school uniform regulations.
The government forbids the teaching of religion (or atheism) in public schools, but the State Muftiate has called for the introduction of religious studies into the school curriculum as a possible antidote to religious extremism.
Societal Abuse and Discrimination
In July a group of citizens attacked Zulumbek Sarygulov, a Protestant pastor in Osh, vandalized his home, and burned his religious books. The incident was reported to be under investigation, but no further information was available from the government at year's end.
During the year a local lawyer, who often represented Protestant churches, expressed concern regarding increasing pressure from Muslims and asserted that the authorities may be tacitly condoning such pressure.
In February clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Dungans were reported in the Iskra village of the Chui Oblast. After claims of an attack on two young Kyrgyz men, a crowd of 150 ethnic Kyrgyz gathered and demanded that ethnic Dungan families immediately leave and resettle elsewhere. Shots were reportedly fired from a car, sparking violence as the crowd hurled stones and burned houses owned by ethnic Dungans. Four ethnic Dungan men were detained and charged with illegal possession of weapons and attempted murder. The men were released and all charges dropped. Criminal cases were opened against some ethnic Kyrgyz who participated in the destruction of houses belonging to ethnic Dungans.
During the year there were no acts of violence, harassment, or vandalism reported against the Jewish community, its institutions, schools, synagogues, or cemeteries; however, there was some isolated anti-Semitism in the media. The President of the Jewish Cultural Center stated that he was concerned about harassment of worshippers coming to the center by one local resident, and he was frustrated with the lack of action on the part of the authorities. The leader of the center did not report any other incidents of anti-Semitism. Approximately 3,000 Jews lived in the country.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2006 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The law on internal migration provides for freedom of movement, and the government generally respected the right in practice; however, certain policies continued to restrict internal migration, resettlement, and travel abroad.
The law requires an official residence registration in order to work and live in a particular area of the country. Applicants for residence registration must file a request with the local police and be able to prove that they have a place to live in the area. Local administrations also tied the availability of social services to registration; individuals who did not register could be denied access to subsidized health care or schooling. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) confirmed reports of authorities detaining and fining individuals without residence registration.
Citizens were able to move within the country with relative ease. However, many internal labor migrants coming from rural areas to cities looking for work were still registered in their hometowns, and consequently had limited access to subsidized healthcare.
The law on migration prohibits travel abroad of citizens who had access to information classified as state secrets. The delay in issuance of new passports continued to be a problem, although the government made several attempts to resolve the matter. According to media reports, corruption impeded passport issuance reform. As a result, citizens continued to experience difficulties traveling internally and internationally.
The law does not provide for or prohibit forced exile, and there were no reports that the government employed it in practice.
In the summer authorities introduced a passport control system throughout the southern provinces to fight terrorism. Public information regarding the control system was limited, resulting in many citizens being detained for hours for not carrying proper identification while trying to cross the border. The passport control system was in effect for several months at the southern borders only and was no longer in effect at year's end. In June mass searches were conducted by law enforcement agencies in the Bazar Korgon district of Jalalabad Oblast.
According to the MVD, only 45 individuals were officially registered as stateless. The most recent 1999 census indicated there were 13,000 stateless persons in the country.
Protection of Refugees
The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol. In practice the government provided some protection against refoulement, the return of persons to a country where they faced persecution. The government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 protocol, although the UNHCR reported no persons received such protection during the year. Although the government at times cooperated with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees and asylum seekers, during the year the government did not grant refugee status or asylum to any Uzbeks or Uighurs, nor did it adequately protect such individuals.
On August 9, the government forcibly returned four registered refugees and one asylum seeker to Uzbekistan. These five Uzbek citizens were part of the larger group of refugees who fled Andijan, Uzbekistan, in May 2005; the rest of the group was eventually resettled in third countries. While UNHCR voiced publicly its concern regarding the forced repatriation of the four Uzbek refugees and one asylum seeker, the government defended its action. On August 10, an official from the Prosecutor General's Office issued a statement acknowledging that the government had returned the five to Uzbek authorities in compliance with bilateral agreements. He also stated that his office had received written assurances from the Government of Uzbekistan that the individuals' rights would be observed during the litigation process. In November Uzbek authorities announced that the investigations were complete and the cases had been forwarded to the courts.
Over July and August, an additional five registered Uzbek asylum seekers were reported missing, with eyewitnesses claiming in at least two of these cases that the individuals had been seized from their homes and taken away in unmarked vehicles. An investigation into their disappearance was eventually initiated by the Prosecutor General's Office, but only after UNHCR publicly appealed for government action. The investigation did not produce any results, and the whereabouts of these asylum seekers remained unknown at year's end. In September, out of concern for their safety, the UNHCR advised refugee and asylum seekers to move north away from the Kyrgyz Uzbek border. In November NGOs reported that Israil Khaldarov, one of the five Uzbek refugees who disappeared from Kyrgyzstan, was found in an Andijan prison.
There were no refugee camps for Uzbek citizens operating in Kyrgyzstan. The media and some NGOs reported that Uzbek refugees continue to hide in Kyrgyzstan for fear of persecution by the Uzbek authorities. The number of current refugees was not available at year's end.
As with Uzbek asylum seekers, the government continued to deny Chechen refugees official refugee status but granted them asylum seeker status if they qualified and provided them with some legal protection.
According to the UNHCR, Uighurs remained at risk of deportation or extradition, particularly if they were involved with political and religious activities in China. Uighurs also risked deportation at the request of the Chinese government.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The law provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully. Although some restrictions remained, the government made progress in respecting citizens' ability to do so. Under the constitution in effect until November 9, the president could veto any legislative act and dissolve the legislature and dismiss members of the government; the president also had immunity after leaving office. The parliament could override presidential vetoes, which it occasionally did in the past. On November 8, parliament passed amendments to the constitution, which the president signed into effect on November 9. The new constitution shifted several powers from the president to parliament and provided the possibility for an improved system of checks and balances between the branches of government. Parliament would be increased from 75 to 90 members with half elected by party lists; the majority party, not the president, would choose the prime minister and form the government, although the president could still dismiss ministers. All ministries, including the SNB, would report to the prime minister rather than the president. The president's ability to dissolve parliament was diminished, while parliament's ability to impeach the president was enhanced. The president could no longer extend his tenure or be re elected via constitutional changes. On December 30, parliament voted to adopt a new version of the constitution that restored certain powers to the president lost in the November 9 constitution, to include nomination of constitutional and Supreme Court judges, appointment and dismissal of regional governors and the heads of local administrations, and control over defense and security bodies.
During the year there were cases of government harassment of members of the political opposition.
Following the November opposition-led demonstrations, opposition members and sympathizers noted increased government harassment by way of heightened scrutiny by the SNB and tax authorities.
On November 12, two grenades were thrown into the house of opposition parliamentarian Isa Omurkulov. No casualties were reported. The government opened a criminal investigation into the case. At year's end no results of the investigation were available.
On November 9, security forces detained Ata-Meken party activist Bakyt Kalpekov and charged him with assaulting the deputy director of the National Television station during the opposition-led demonstrations in November. Although he was released on bail a few days later, he was sent back to jail under court order, pending trial.
On November 30, head of the NGO Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society Edil Baisalov was physically assaulted by an unknown assailant in Osh. On April 12, Baisalov was attacked by another unknown assailant in Bishkek and sustained head injuries. The investigations into both incidents continued at year's end. Baisalov claimed publicly that each attack was related to his political activities.
On December 1, the spouse of opposition member Omurbek Abdrakhmanov was detained and questioned by the financial police under charges of tax evasion. Only after opposition parliamentarians came to her aid and the detention attempt was made public was she released. The government proceeded with an investigation, and the case against her continued at year's end.
Elections and Political Participation
Following former president Akayev's March 2005 departure from government, Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiyev assumed the interim presidency. He was elected president in July 2005 in an election the OSCE reported marked tangible progress towards international standards. Fundamental civil and political rights, such as the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly, were generally respected leading up to the election, and the media provided all candidates with opportunities to present their views. Despite concerted efforts to improve voter lists, however, some aspects of the revision of voter lists breached legal provisions. Unexplained fluctuations in the number of voters on the main voter lists, up to and on election day, raised questions about the accounting of ballots.
During the year parliamentary by elections were held in five districts: the Kadamjaiskiy, Kurshabskiy, and Balykchinskiy districts on April 9, the Mailysuu District on May 14, and the Myrzaakinsky District on October 29. In Kurshabsky, voting results were heavily contested, resulting in a revote at several polling stations. During the June 25 revoting several persons were injured when supporters of Mamat Orozbayev and Sanzharbek Kadyraliyev began throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at each other and exchanged gunfire in the southern town of Uzgen. Police used tear gas to end the clashes, and local authorities were forced to close the polling station and suspend the vote. In October the Central Election Committee (CEC) endorsed only those votes that were made at CEC-validated polling stations. As a result, Sanzharbek Kadyraliyev was recognized as the winner. In other districts, the voting was not associated with any significant irregularities or disturbances.
During the February 2005 parliamentary election, individuals and parties could stand for election. However, the government infringed the right of opposition parties to seek votes and publicize views by restricting the availability of meeting places, limiting air time on state television, and running negative stories about opposition candidates in state-controlled media. The Alga Kyrgyzstan progovernmental party enjoyed the government's support during the electoral campaign.
After March 2005 the political party landscape changed significantly. Out of nearly 90 registered political parties, only a dozen were active, and no single party was dominant. Many government officials were affiliated with progovernmental parties; no opposition party representatives were in the cabinet.
On September 6, Polish authorities detained parliamentarian Omurbek Tekebayev at the Warsaw airport because of an Interpol tip that Tekebayev was transporting illegal drugs. Authorities found illegal drugs in his luggage, but Tekebayev asserted his innocence. Tekebayev and opposition leaders asserted government involvement. On September 8, a Polish court released Tekebayev due to a lack of evidence. A number of pro-opposition politicians suggested that President Bakiyev's brother and first deputy chairman of the SNB, Janysh Bakiyev, was involved in planting the drugs in Tekebayev's luggage. President Bakiyev dismissed his brother and also accepted the resignation of the SNB Chairman Busurmankul Tabaldiyev. Separate parliamentary and state commissions, as well as the Office of the Prosecutor General, opened investigations into the case. On September 21, the parliamentary commission ruled that the SNB set up the incident to compromise Tekebayev's reputation as an opposition leader.
On February 15, member of parliament Kubatbek Baibolov gave a press conference at which he said that law enforcement organs began a black public relations campaign against him. According to Baibolov's opponents in the government, he was responsible for spreading leaflets with instructions for overthrowing the government. No proof linking Baibolov to such leaflets was found. Baibolov believed he was singled out because of his involvement in politics and because he was widely considered to be a potential candidate for speaker of parliament.
There were no women in the 75 seat legislature. Women held several high level government posts, including chief justice of the Constitutional Court, the chair of the State Committee on Migration and Employment Issues, and chair of the Social Fund. In November parliament voted against a government-initiated draft law stipulating that at least 30 percent of ministerial positions be held by women.
There were 12 members of four minorities represented in the 75 seat legislature. Russians and Uzbeks, the two largest ethnic minority groups, remained underrepresented in government positions. Members of minority groups held top posts, including the minister of labor and social protection and chair of the Social Fund. Russian speaking citizens alleged that a "ceiling" precluded promotion beyond a certain level in government service.
Government Corruption and Transparency
Corruption remained a serious problem at all levels of society. During the year the government took limited steps to address the problem including reports of arrests of government officials on corruption charges. In 2005 the government established the Agency for Preventing Corruption and the National Council for Fighting Corruption. During the year the agency conducted a nationwide survey of corruption within government agencies. Based on the results of the study, it released a list of the most corrupt governmental bodies. The list included tax and customs agencies, law enforcement bodies, courts, and agencies controlling construction and the issuance of business licenses.
According to the MVD, 198 cases of bribe taking, 83 cases of negligence of official duties and fraud, 478 cases of embezzlement, and 1,520 cases of malfeasance took place between January and November. The MVD reported that criminal charges were filed against 352 government officials as a result. On August 7, the president signed a new anti-money laundering law.
Even though there were press reports about arrests on corruption charges, no convictions were reported. During the year the National Agency for Corruption Prevention received more than 800 complaints about corruption in government offices, conducted preliminary probes into each one, and forwarded cases to the Prosecutor's Office for prosecution. However, no significant action was taken. In September Parliamentarian Iskhak Masaliyev, addressing the International Business Council, stated the country lacks the political will essential in fighting corruption.
Tax authorities released to the media a list of officials who did not submit income declarations. However, there were no reports of any action taken against officials that failed to comply with the income disclosure law.
Following the 2005 change of government, a special commission was established to identify assets that had belonged to former president Akayev and his entourage. After the results of the commission were released, the Office of the Prosecutor General launched more than 100 investigations to assess the legality of these acquisitions and businesses. The investigations continued at year's end.
The law gives persons the right to request information from the government. The government generally complied with such requests but sometimes took a long time to do so. In October General Prosecutor Kanbaraly Kongantiyev issued an internal regulation forbidding the prosecutor's staff from sharing official information with the media, NGOs, or individuals. According to the regulation, official information can be released only upon approval of the general prosecutor, through his press service.
On November 14, parliament adopted a freedom of information law that was initiated by the president. The law grants broad access to information that has not been deemed by the government to be either commercially sensitive or a state secret.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Bakiyev government made significant efforts to reach out to human rights groups and civil society in general. However, during the year harassment and pressure by law enforcement agencies and unknown persons on human rights activists increased.
According to local NGO leaders, the following major human rights NGOs operated independently: Citizens Against Corruption, Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, Kylym Shamy, Adilet Legal Clinic, Spravedlivost, Foundation for Tolerance International, Association of Centers of Support for Civil Society, Interbilim, and the Bureau of Human Rights.
In March Jalalabad local police filed a case against well known human rights activists Valentina Gritsenko, Abdumalik Sharipov, and Mukhamdjan Abdujaparov, employees of the NGO Spravedlivost NGO headed by Valeriy Uleyev, claiming they published false information about the police during the year. The case continued at year's end.
Representatives of the NGO Civil Society Against Corruption reported that on several occasions between March and October their office was broken into and searched by unknown persons who copied their computer files, which was confirmed by a computer expert's investigation. Several affiliate offices of the NGO Coalition For Democracy and Civil Society reported harassment and attempts to disrupt their activities by local authorities.
In 2005 the Jety-Oguz District Court ordered the removal of the Issy-kul-based NGO Karek from an office previously claimed by the NGO. Karek immediately appealed the court's decision, and on October 17 the Interdistrict Court revised the District Court's verdict ruling in favor of Karek's claim. The plaintiff continued to contest the interdistrict court's decision and contended that the office space was improperly acquired. By year's end the Issyku-Kul Oblast Arbitrary Court supported the interdistrict court's decision and issued a verdict in favor of Karek's claim.
In September 2005 human rights activist Aziza Abdrasulova and her family received threatening phone calls, and her husband was beaten in connection with her support of protesting railway workers. According to Abdrasulova, she and her husband filed complaints and spoke to an investigator, but no official investigation was opened. At year's end no further developments were expected in the case.
In December 2005 the government filed slander charges against Maxim Kuleshov, leader of human rights NGO Peace, Light and Culture and coordinator of the resource center in Tokmok. The case was initiated after Kuleshov filed a lawsuit against police officers for interrupting a December 2005 peaceful rally in Tokmok against torture in penitentiary facilities. Early in the year a police officer filed a lawsuit against Kuleshov for slander because the police denied that torture had ever been used in penitentiary facilities. This case was closed by the end of February because the plaintiff failed to appear in court three times, which enabled the judge to close the case. On December 13, 2005, the city prosecutor closed the case that was opened on December 2, 2005, due to a lack of evidence.
During the year foreign funded NGOs were generally able to pursue their work free from government interference. However, the government attempted to restrict the activities of and intimidate some local foreign funded NGOs. Government interference into the activities of foreign funded NGOs increased slightly after the SNB claimed, at the beginning of the year, that local NGOs were working in the interest of foreign donors. On January 24, Minister of Justice Marat Kaipov publicly instructed the ministry's registration department to launch an investigation of all NGOs operating in the country that receive foreign funding. In a speech to senior justice ministry staff, Minister Kaipov specifically called on the registration department to determine which NGOs funded from abroad might threaten national security and implied that government support should go to those NGOs that advanced the country's development. Government officials later said no NGO investigations would take place and it was a misunderstanding attributable to a bad translation. While no local NGOs reported any attempts by the government to investigate their activities, the General Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation in November into the local activities of the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and the International Foundation for Election Systems. The results of these investigations were pending at year's end.
During the year state owned and progovernment media outlets also frequently published articles criticizing foreign funded NGOs, calling for a halt to their activities (see section 2.b.) and the government used law enforcement agencies to threaten and intimidate NGOs. In July the government expelled foreign diplomats allegedly for conduct incompatible with their diplomatic status; observers believed the government was unhappy with the diplomats' contact with NGOs and opposition members.
The government generally cooperated with the numerous international organizations that reported on human rights problems in the country.
The government generally cooperated with international organizations and permitted visits by UN representatives and other organizations, including the OSCE, International Committee of the Red Cross, and IOM.
The ombudsman's mandate is to act as an independent advocate for human rights on behalf of private citizens and NGOs, and it has the authority to recommend cases to courts for review. The Ombudsman's Office actively advocated for individual rights. The Ombudsman's Office claimed that after the March 2005 events, the number of complaints grew to 62,012. By year's end the Ombudsman's Office received 11,937 appeals, most having to do with land ownership issues and official corruption. The Ombudsman's Office confirmed that in a number of cases its advocacy was effective in reversing court verdicts against complainants.
The parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Law, State Structure, Legality, Court, Judiciary Reform, and Human Rights drafts or reviews legislation affecting human rights before it goes before the full parliament for approval. The committee also reviews all draft legislation that has a human rights component. In addition, the Democratic Security Council under the president is nominally tasked with protecting human rights in the country; however, it remained relatively inactive during the year.
The presidential State Commission on Human Rights' responsibilities included implementing the government's policy on human rights, improving relevant legislation, conducting information campaigns to increase public awareness about human rights issues, and establishing relations with international human rights organizations. At year's end the commission had not yet published its report.
Section 5 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, although in practice there was discrimination against women, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and homosexuals.
The law specifically prohibits domestic violence and spousal abuse; however, violence against women remained a problem. Some estimates indicated domestic violence constituted between 40 and 60 percent of all crimes committed against women. Many crimes against women were not reported due to psychological pressure, cultural traditions, and apathy of law enforcement officials. Penalties ranged from fines to 15 years' imprisonment (if abuse resulted in death). There were 249 reported crimes committed against women as of October 1; the majority of those cases were sent to court.
Several local NGOs provided services for victims of domestic violence, including legal, medical, and psychological assistance, a crisis hot line, shelters, and prevention programs. Organizations involved with battered women also lobbied for new laws on domestic violence. The government also provided offices for the Sezim Shelter and paid its bills.
Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal. Activists noted that the official number of rape cases continued to increase, although it was not clear whether this was due primarily to increased reporting of attacks. Interior Ministry statistics indicated that during the year there were 239 registered cases of rape, the majority of which were sent to court. Actual figures were believed to be significantly higher; NGOs estimated the number could be up to 10 times the reported figure. The NGO Sezim estimated that 90 percent of cases brought against alleged rapists would never be brought to court. All experts concurred that most of the cases would be mired in corruption; however, as bribery has been used commonly to curtail investigations against individuals charged with rape.
Although prohibited by law, rural inhabitants continued the traditional practice of kidnapping women and girls for forced marriage. During the year there were 10 reported cases of forced marriage, but the actual figure may have been much higher. Cultural traditions discouraged victims from going to the authorities. NGOs maintained antitrafficking hot lines, using toll-free numbers provided by the government, to help potential and actual trafficking victims. The IOM established hot lines, staffed by lawyers and social workers, in each province during June and July. The MOI provided free-of-charge office space for the IOM-sponsored hotline staff. The IOM also initiated a countrywide antitrafficking information campaign, including awareness advertisements on television, radio, and billboards.
Prostitution is not a crime, although the operation of brothels, pimping, and recruiting persons into prostitution is illegal, with penalties of up to five years. With no legal measures in place to regulate the industry, it was an ongoing problem. NGOs that defended prostitute's rights, including the NGO Tais-Plus, continued to advocate for legal protection for prostitutes' rights.
Trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor was a problem (see section 5, Trafficking).
According to an expert at the local NGO Shans, sexual harassment is prohibited by law; however, it was rarely reported or prosecuted. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment.
Women enjoy the same rights as men, including under family law, property law, and in the judicial system, although discrimination against women persisted in practice. The National Council on the Issues of Family, Women and Gender Development, under the president, is responsible for women's issues. Average wages for women were substantially less than for men. Women made up the majority of pensioners, a group that was particularly vulnerable to deteriorating economic conditions. After the demise of the Soviet Union, traditional attitudes toward women reemerged in the countryside, where women were relegated to the roles of wife and mother and educational opportunities were curtailed. Data indicated that women were less healthy, more abused, less able to work outside the home, and less able to dispose of their earnings independently than men.
The government was generally committed to the rights and welfare of children, although it lacked resources to address basic needs for shelter, food, and clothing fully. In September the government initiated a program providing each elementary student with a free glass of milk and a roll every morning. Rural and urban schools administered the program effectively.
The law provides for compulsory and free education for the first nine years of schooling, or until age 14; secondary education is free and universal up to age 17. However, financial constraints prevented the government from providing free basic education for all students. Families that kept children in public schools often had to pay burdensome and illegal administrative fees. In September the government issued a decree stating that parents of schoolchildren should refrain from paying administrative fees to schools. Girls and boys attended school in equal ratios. During the year the primary school enrollment ratio was 99 percent for both girls and boys, according to UNICEF; the secondary school enrollment ratio was 78 percent for boys and 85 percent for girls. The law penalizes parents who do not send their children to school or who obstruct their attendance. This law was only sporadically enforced, particularly in rural areas. In 2005-06 76,100, or 6.8 percent, of total school age children completed secondary school.
The government continued to fund the work of two programs to provide benefits for low income children and children with disabilities, such as school supplies and textbooks. Legally, all textbooks should be free, but the government was unable to provide free textbooks to all, and students had to pay for some of the textbooks. At the beginning of the academic year, the government initiated a program that provided all public schoolchildren with free textbooks. According to experts in the field, the program was not completely successful because some schoolchildren throughout the country still had to purchase books.
The government provided health care for children, and boys and girls had equal access. The system of residence registration restricted access to social services, including health care and education, for certain children, such as refugees, migrants, internally displaced persons, and noncitizens (see section 2.d.).
Child abuse, including beatings, child labor, and sexual exploitation continued to be a problem.
Underage marriage was not a significant problem in the country. The practice of bride kidnapping remained a concern, with two underage abductions reported during the year. Criminal cases were opened on both cases. Information on the outcome of those investigations was not available at year's end. Children ages 16 and 17 may legally marry with local authority consent, although marriage before age 16 is prohibited under all circumstances.
Trafficking of children for the purposes of sexual exploitation and labor remained a problem (see section 5, Trafficking).
Children from low income families continued to work as street vendors or in markets and were not able to attend school. According to the NGO Center for Protection of Children, the number of children in the south involved in child labor reached 125,000, while the number of children working on tobacco fields was approximately 15,000 (see section 6.d.). According to UNICEF, approximately 4 percent of the country's children aged 5 to 14 years were engaged in child labor.
As in previous years, there were numerous reports of child abandonment due to parents' lack of resources, which led to larger numbers of children in institutions, foster care, or on the streets. State orphanages and foster homes also faced a lack of resources and often were unable to provide proper care. Some children too old to remain in orphanages were transferred to mental health care facilities, even when they did not exhibit mental health problems. Many street children left home because of abusive (8 percent) or alcoholic (10 percent) parents or desperate economic conditions (75 percent). Government and NGO estimates of the number of street children nationwide ranged from approximately 2,000 to 15,000, depending on the time of the year. Approximately 80 percent of street children were internal migrants. Street children were detained by police and either sent home (if an address was known) or to a rehabilitation center or orphanage. The two MVD maintained rehabilitation centers, one each in Bishkek and Osh, continued to lack sufficient food, clothes, and medicine and remained in poor condition. According to UNICEF, children staying at these MVD-maintained centers claimed that they were physically and mentally abused. Employees at these centers contested those claims and insisted that their practices conformed to normal standards of discipline.
Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits trafficking in persons; however, there were reports that persons were trafficked to, from, and within the country. Trafficking remained a persistent problem, and victims alleged that government officials facilitated, or were complicit in, trafficking. However, the government continued to make significant efforts to address trafficking, including prosecuting several officials involved in trafficking and improving assistance to victims.
The country was a source and transit, and to a lesser degree, a destination for trafficked persons. Internal trafficking for both labor and sexual exploitation also occurred, generally from poor rural areas to larger cities such as Bishkek in the north and Osh in the south. The government recognized that trafficking in persons was a problem, but it was not able to address the issue without financial and practical assistance from various international and nongovernmental organizations. With that assistance, the government was able to improve legislation on prosecution of traffickers, participate and support a countrywide information campaign, and train law enforcement and foreign affairs officials on trafficking awareness.
There was no reliable data on the number of persons trafficked. Local NGOs and government officials estimate that approximately 4,000 Kyrgyz women were working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the sex industry. Most were presumed to be victims of trafficking. A significant number of trafficking victims were also estimated to be working in Kazakhstan and Russia as labor migrants. According to estimates by IOM, Eurasia Foundation, and the Kyrgyz State Committee for Migration and Employment, the number of Kyrgyz labor migrants working in Kazakhstan ranged from 30,000 to 50,000 or from 300,000 to 600,000, depending on the season. Another 300,000 to 500,000 Kyrgyz citizens were estimated to be working in Russia. The number of Kyrgyz citizens working in both countries who may have been victims of trafficking was unknown.
IOM estimated that about 70 percent of trafficking victims were from the southern provinces of Jalalabad and Osh, where unemployment rates were highest. Women, especially from impoverished southern areas, were trafficked for sexual exploitation to the UAE, China, South Korea, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Thailand, Germany, and Syria.
Traffickers were often persons who previously operated local prostitution networks. Relatives or close family friends were also reportedly used to recruit trafficking victims. Tour agents, restaurants, and nightclubs supplemented their activities by trafficking young women to foreign prostitution rings. Traffickers also included organized crime rings that often used former trafficking victims as recruiters. In some cases traffickers provided escorts, usually an older woman, to accompany victims and facilitate border crossings into countries such as the UAE, where young women were generally not allowed to enter alone. Labor trafficking was much less organized and often involved self employed recruiters who simply loaded persons onto buses and transported them to the country for work on farms, as well as to labor recruitment firms (see section 6.c.).
Trafficking in persons, including organizing illegal migration and smuggling, is a criminal offense punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Other provisions of the criminal code used to prosecute traffickers included kidnapping, trading in children, recruiting persons for exploitation, coercion into prostitution, rape, and deprivation of freedom. The maximum sentence for those prosecuted under these laws is 15 years. In January the president enacted a new Law on External Labor Migration. The law regulates recruitment of citizens for work abroad and legal assistance to labor migrants, including cases that pose potential trafficking risks. In February amendments to the Code on Administrative Responsibility increased the punishment for violating visa issuance rules; the amendment is aimed at preventing trafficking of foreign citizens to the country.
According to the MVD, 22 trafficking-related crimes were registered during the first 10 months of the year, with completed investigations on 20 of those cases. According to IOM, there were at least three convictions during the year.
During the year no trafficking victims were prosecuted for illegal migration or other charges related to trafficking; the government respected their status as victims.
The government's efforts to address trafficking included participating in and supporting public information campaigns and improving laws to protect against trafficking in persons, and providing training for law enforcement, diplomatic, and government officials.
On February 14, the SNB prevented the trafficking and potential sexual exploitation of 61 young women by taking them off a UAE bound plane in Osh. The IOM office in Osh interviewed all 61 apprehended women and offered assistance to those considered to be trafficking victims; only six of the women were considered to be victims (including two minors). According to their testimonies, they were told they would be offered lucrative jobs in Dubai. The remainder of the group stated they were traveling voluntarily to work in the sex industry in the UAE. The SNB arrested four organizers who facilitated travel of the group through Kyrgyz territory; one of the organizers admitted that the six recognized victims were intended to be sold into slavery upon arrival in Dubai. At year's end the investigation of the case continued and no further information about the investigation was available.
The MVD has a designated antitrafficking police unit. The National Antitrafficking Council chaired by the vice prime minister is responsible for enforcing a government policy to fight trafficking and oversee the efforts of different government agencies to implement antitrafficking action plans. During the year new officials whose portfolios include combating trafficking were appointed, due to a significant turnover within the government. In late 2005 the responsibility for coordinating antitrafficking activities was assigned to the trafficking division of the newly established State Committee on Migration and Employment (SCME). Together with the OSCE, the SCME was developing a program on preventing and combating trafficking.
Endemic corruption impeded the government's efforts to curb trafficking. Victims reported that local police, immigration officers, and airport security officials often cooperated with highly organized trafficking operations. Observers believed that some government authorities facilitated or were otherwise complicit in trafficking activities. In 2005 and at a October press conference, Kubanychbek Isabekov, chair of the parliamentary Commission on Labor Migration, stated law enforcement officers were directly involved in trafficking.
In January the president signed amendments to article 124 of the Criminal Code that made explicit that trafficking victims would not be prosecuted if they cooperate with an investigation. With this provision in place, it was reported that trafficking victims were cooperative during investigations. According to local NGOs, during the year there were no reported cases of trafficking victims treated or prosecuted as illegal migrants for not cooperating. Since 2005 trafficking victims have not been prosecuted for document fraud or illegal border crossing if they assisted in the prosecution of traffickers. According to the law, the government may provide foreign trafficking victims with criminal immunity and immunity from deportation for violations committed while being trafficked, provided they cooperate with law enforcement officials. In addition, such individuals may be granted temporary or permanent residence status. According to local antitrafficking NGOs, trafficking victims no longer refused to cooperate with police for fear of prosecution for offenses committed while being trafficked into or out of the country. However, it was reported that the trafficking victims feared possible retaliation from traffickers should it be revealed that they provided information to the authorities about traffickers' activities. There were no reports that the government deported foreign victims of trafficking during the year. OSCE and IOM reported that many of those who returned from commercial work overseas stated they were forced to pay bribes to law enforcement officials to avoid imprisonment for having improper or falsified travel documents. However, border authorities reported that Kyrgyz victims who admitted to the use of false documents or illegal entry into the country were not penalized.
The government implemented information campaigns warning persons against the dangers of being trafficked. In April the NGO Golden Goal launched an antitrafficking information campaign sponsored by the Canadian Government and implemented jointly with local law enforcement authorities. As part of the program, training was held for law enforcement officials in Osh on how to treat trafficking victims and enhance antitrafficking activities. Golden Goal also carried out an information campaign within schools and colleges to raise awareness about the dangers of trafficking. In June the government, jointly with IOM and foreign donors, started information campaigns and victims assistance. As part of the campaign, the government established a toll free hot line that callers could use to receive information in Kyrgyz and Russian languages about rules and laws for labor migrants and all others seeking employment opportunities abroad. Callers could receive legal advice on the possibility of being trafficked while seeking employment abroad.
In October the parliament ratified a CIS agreement on combating trafficking aimed at coordinating efforts of CIS law enforcement agencies.
In November Golden Goal and the OSCE launched a Web site, aimed primarily at Ferghana Valley residents, that provided information on combating trafficking, including antitrafficking programs implemented in the region, helpline information for trafficking victims, relevant laws on trafficking, and other useful information. The site also serves as a venue for information sharing between Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Tajik NGOs involved in antitrafficking activities.
Numerous articles in governmental and independent media outlets publicized the dangers of working abroad, and posters on public transport raised public awareness of the problem.
Although the government lacked adequate resources to carry out comprehensive antitrafficking programs, it actively participated in and helped implement numerous NGO and other foreign sponsored antitrafficking programs and cooperated with international organizations and other countries to combat trafficking. The government carried out or participated in a number of antitrafficking and education campaigns. Central and local governments worked with approximately 12 domestic NGOs on information campaign.
According to some NGOs, the government did not directly assist trafficking victims, including those repatriated, with any special services or care facilities. However, the government supported NGOs by providing them with office space, space for two shelters (one in Bishkek and one in Osh), and free advertising in government owned media outlets. The government provided space for a new shelter for juvenile trafficking victims in the south, which opened in November. Law enforcement organs increasingly referred victims to private shelters such as Sezim, which provided shelter for 35 female trafficking victims as well as legal and employment advice to 10 women in Bishkek during the year. Many NGOs conducted workshops for law enforcement officers. A number of NGOs, including Women's Support Center, TAIS Plus, New Chance, Sezim, Podruga, and Golden Goal provided legal, medical, and psychological assistance as well as economic aid to trafficking victims.
The NGO Sezim reported that it received 68 calls to its hot line during the first two months of the year; beginning in March, such calls were made on IOM-sponsored and government operated toll free number. Due to suspension of funding, the Podruga hot line operated only for three months during the year; during this time, it received about 200 calls on their hot line. At year's end IOM provided assistance to 104 trafficking victims, including repatriation, psychological support, shelter upon arrival in Bishkek or Osh, vocational training, and monthly stipends.
IOM, OSCE, various local organizations, and foreign governments sponsored a wide range of preventive programs, including antitrafficking public service announcements, roundtables, and workshops to increase awareness among the government, nonprofit, tourism, and media sectors.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, but in practice there was discrimination in employment, education, access to health care, and in the provision of other state services for persons with disabilities. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, although the government generally did not enforce these provisions in practice. The law provides for access to public transportation and parking for persons with disabilities, subsidies to make mass media available to the hearing or visually impaired, and free plots of land for the construction of a home; however, in practice few special provisions were in place to allow persons with disabilities access to transportation, public buildings, and mass media. In addition, persons with disabilities often had difficulty finding employment because of negative societal attitudes and high unemployment among the general population. The lack of resources made it difficult for persons with disabilities to receive adequate education. Hospitals, special institutions, and boarding homes for persons with mental disabilities were severely strained, due to low budgets and heavy workloads.
Serious problems continued within psychiatric hospitals. The government was unable to provide basic needs such as food, water, clothing, heating, and healthcare, and facilities were often overcrowded. There were documented cases of animal feed being purchased to substitute normal rations for mentally ill patients. Inadequate funding played a critical factor. Mentally disabled children were put into psychiatric hospitals rather than socially integrated with other children. Although they have the right to an education, they were not allowed to go to school. Their parents had established special educational centers to educate their children, but they did not receive any government assistance. Other patients were also often admitted involuntarily, including children without mental disabilities who were too old to remain in orphanages. Patients were sometimes engaged in forced labor on hospital grounds (see section 6.c.). The NGO Mental Health and Society continued its work with the Health Ministry to develop programs aimed at improving conditions in psychiatric hospitals.
There were no further developments and none were expected in the 2005 death of the institutionalized patient at the Chym-Korgon hospital. Relatives of the deceased made attempts to bring the case to the attention of authorities with little success.
The lack of transparency in the administration of mental health facilities contributed to abusive conditions.
Most judges lacked the necessary experience and training to determine whether persons should be referred to psychiatric hospitals, and the practice of institutionalizing individuals against their will continued.
In August the government issued a decree on creating a special independent entity for the protection of psychiatric patients' rights, based on a law originally adopted in 1999. The Office of the Prosecutor General is the government's implementing body for the decree and facilitating the protection of rights for the disabled. According to local NGO lawyers, the members of the Prosecutor's Office had no training and little knowledge on the protection of these rights and were ineffective in assisting disabled citizens.
Minorities alleged discrimination, including from officials, in hiring, promotion, and housing, but no official reports were registered with the local authorities. Statistical data from 2005 reflected the following ethnic breakdown of the population: 67.4 percent Kyrgyz; 10.3 percent Russian; 14.2 percent Uzbek; 1.1 percent Dungan (ethnic Chinese Muslims); and 1 percent Uighur. Other ethnic groups, including Tatars and Germans, comprised 6.4 percent of the population.
Uighur representatives reported no discrimination against Uighurs during the year. However, in February clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Dungans were reported in the Iskra village of the Chui Oblast. (see section 2.c).
In April and May an ethnic Uzbek parliamentarian advocated that Uzbek become an official language. Shortly after the parliamentarian's statement, a number of unknown perpetrators, the majority of whom were reported to be ethnic Kyrgyz, seized his property. The deputy claimed that the local authorities supported the perpetrators because of their objection to Uzbek becoming an official language. However, other Uzbek community representatives disputed this claim. The police, at the behest of the parliamentarian, managed to remove the illegal occupants from the property.
In August opposition leader and member of the parliament Kadyrjan Batyrov accused security forces of violating the human rights of the Uzbek minority in the south by targeting them during antiterrorism and extremism operations. Security service authorities denied the accusations.
The law designates Kyrgyz as the state language and Russian as an official language and provides for preservation and equal and free development of minority languages. Russian speaking citizens alleged that a ceiling precluded promotion beyond a certain level in government service. They also alleged that some otherwise qualified candidates were previously disqualified in elections on the basis of exams, the fairness of which was questioned. Both Uzbek and Russian were widely used both officially and unofficially. A 2004 language law requiring, among other provisions, that the president, prime minister, speaker of parliament, and a number of other unspecified public servants be proficient in Kyrgyz was pending implementation until 2015. The Bakiyev government's initiative to revive the Kyrgyz language and calls for increased official usage of Kyrgyz raised concerns among non Kyrgyz ethnic groups fearing possible discrimination on the basis of language. In the December 30 version of the constitution, Russian remained an official language of the country.
On May 26, authorities in Jalalabad refused to provide the necessary permits, because of a technicality, to the Uzbek Cultural Center in Jalalabad to hold a rally to promote Uzbek as an official state language.
On June 6, police in Jalalabad detained Mamatkadyr Karabayev for allegedly misusing state funds. Karabayev claimed that he was arrested for organizing and leading an ethnic Uzbek-led demonstration that sought official status for the Uzbek language. Karabayev was released under a seven-year suspended sentence and three years' probation.
Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination
According to a 2005 Dutch study, persons of nontraditional sexual orientation, particularly homosexual men, were among the most oppressed groups, although the country does not outlaw homosexuality. Those whose sexuality was publicly known risked physical and verbal abuse, possible loss of work, and unwanted attention from police and authorities, particularly lower ranking police. Incarcerated gay men were often openly victimized in prisons by inmates and officials alike.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The law provides for the right of all workers to form and belong to trade unions, and workers exercised this right in practice. The Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) remained the only trade union umbrella organization in the country, although unions were not required to belong to it. The FTU had 1.06 million members, or 56 percent of the country's employed workforce. Growing numbers of smaller unions were not affiliated with the umbrella organization. One of the largest of these was the Union of Entrepreneurs and Small Business Workers, with a membership of approximately 60,000. The FTU must approve all draft legislation affecting workers' rights.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference and the government protected this right in practice. The law recognizes the right of unions to organize and bargain collectively and trade unions exercise the right on behalf of their members. The government set the minimum wage, after which each employer set its own wage level.
While the right to strike was not granted, it was not prohibited, and several strikes took place during the year. In June Bishkek city minibus drivers went on a strike to protest an increase in the price of diesel fuel. Authorities convinced them to return to work after promising to consider their demands, but none of the drivers' demands were satisfied at year's end. Neither the government nor the strikers raised this issue again.
There are Free Economic Zones (FEZs) that function as export processing zones. All local labor laws apply to the approximately 4,900 workers in the FEZs. According to the World Bank, wages were about 2.3 times higher in FEZs.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children; however, there were reports that such practices occurred (see sections 5 and 6.d.).
The press continued to report that Kyrgyz citizens were forced to work without pay on tobacco farms in Kazakhstan. However, this practice declined significantly after the 2004 signing of a bilateral labor agreement with Kazakhstan.
In July the Kazakh president signed a decree protecting the rights of Kyrgyz labor migrants. The decree prolonged the compulsory registration period for Kyrgyz labor migrants from 3 to 90 days and obliged Kazakh employers to provide social and medical insurance to all Kyrgyz labor migrants.
In 2005 local media reported that approximately 20 Kyrgyz citizens were held hostage in China due to their families' inability to pay for goods purchased from Chinese merchants. According to local NGOs, however, the actual number of individuals being held hostage in China have been more than 100. The IOM claimed that at least three hostages escaped China during the year. The Kyrgyz MFA, according to IOM, continued to negotiate the release of the remaining Kyrgyz citizens with the Chinese Government.
The government worked with the governments of Russia and Kazakhstan to protect the rights of Kyrgyz labor migrants in these countries. In July Presidents Bakiyev and Nazarbayev agreed to legalize Kyrgyz labor migrants in Kazakhstan. Since the beginning of September, over 6000 Kyrgyz labor migrants had been registered, thereby gaining legal protection of their rights and social benefits.
In September the government tightened licensing rules of recruitment companies to include rules for recruiting persons to work abroad. Recruiters are required to monitor the working conditions of labor migrants while a work contract is in effect and check if an employer complies with the terms of employment. In September the government prohibited the activities of the Kazakh company Royal Park, which operated in Osh, that illegally recruited Kyrgyz citizens for work abroad.
Following the change of the structure of the government, a new agency, the State Committee for Migration and Employment Issues, was established and is responsible for streamlining labor migration. Working with the OSCE and the IOM, the government started the development of a new program to combat trafficking for 2006 08.
There were reports that patients in psychiatric hospitals were routinely used for unauthorized labor on hospital grounds and as domestic service for doctors and local farmers. The patients allegedly did not have a choice to refuse and were only paid with food.
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law provides for the protection of children from economic exploitation and from work that poses a danger to their health or spiritual, physical, mental, or academic development. On January 24, President Bakiyev signed a decree aimed at reducing child labor in the country, but at year's end no actions had been taken. In accordance with this decree, the government, in cooperation with trade unions, employers, and the IOM, drafted a state program that seeks to improve child labor regulations. The program reinforces controls over child labor, develops legal forms of child employment and provides for child labor awareness activities. At year's end the Ministries of Justice and Finance were considering the proposal. According to the State Labor Inspectorate, the inspectorate conducts spot checks to confirm compliance with child labor law requirements only at large industrial sites with strong trade unions, which generally do not allow the use of child labor. The lack of employer employee contracts in small and medium sized businesses made it impossible to investigate child labor exploitation at those businesses.
Under the law the minimum age for basic employment is 16, except for certain limited circumstances including odd jobs such as selling newspapers. In addition, the law bans the employment of persons under 18 in a wide variety of categories of employment involving difficult or dangerous conditions, including the metal or oil and gas industries, mining and prospecting, the food industry, entertainment, and machine building. Children between 14 and 15 are allowed to work a maximum of five hours a day; children between 16 and 18 are allowed a maximum of seven hours a day. These laws also apply to children with disabilities.
Child labor remained a widespread problem. Child laborers were prevalent in the following sectors: tobacco, cotton, rice, cattle breeding, gasoline sales, car washing, shoe cleaning, and retail sales of tobacco and alcohol. Large families traditionally considered it necessary for children to work at an early age to help support the family. Children also were involved in family enterprises, particularly in agriculture, domestic duties, and selling products at roadside kiosks.
According to reports from various NGOs, child labor was particularly evident in the south. During the fall, classes were cancelled and children were sent to fields to pick cotton. During the summer children were involved in all levels of tobacco production. Schools required children to participate in the tobacco harvest (some fields were located on school grounds), and the income went directly to the schools, not to the children.
Internal trafficking of children for the purposes of sexual exploitation and labor remained a problem (see Section 5). Children were generally trafficked from poor rural areas to Bishkek and Osh.
The Prosecutor's Office and the State Labor Inspectorate were responsible for enforcing employers' compliance with the labor code. During the year the inspectorate had 54 inspectors throughout the country. During the first six months of the year, the General Procurator's Office conducted 21 checks, resulting in eight written notifications, 14 demands for immediate action, 12 warnings, and two disciplinary actions. Since many children worked for their families or were self employed in such occupations as selling newspapers, pushing handcarts at markets, and selling cigarettes and candy on the streets, it was difficult for the government to determine whether their work schedules and environment conformed to government regulations. The legislative assembly's committees of health protection, women and family, and education, science, and cultural affairs oversaw the legal protection of the interests of minors whenever new laws were discussed in parliament. Trade unions enforced compliance with the labor code. The FTU also had the right to carry out child labor inspections when it received a complaint; there were no inspections during the year.
The government was unable to enforce child labor laws adequately due to a lack of resources. Although employers caught violating the labor code could be charged with disciplinary, financial, administrative, or criminal penalties, punishment was usually minimal.
The government supported several social programs to prevent the engagement of children in exploitative child labor. Araket, a national poverty reduction program, provided financial support for low income families. New Generation, a children's rights program, worked to define suitable working conditions for children and to introduce new methods of monitoring employers' compliance with labor legislation.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The government mandated national minimum wage of approximately $2.54 (100 Kyrgyz Som) per month did not provide a decent standard of living for workers and their families. However, industries and employers generally paid somewhat higher wages. The FTU was responsible for enforcing all labor laws, including the minimum wages law; minimum wage regulations were largely observed. Salaries in the health care field were among the lowest, averaging $33.80 (1,385 Kyrgyz Som) per month. Although the enforcement of labor laws was nonexistent in the growing underground economy, market forces helped wages in the unofficial sector keep pace with official wage scales.
In accordance with the Law on Foreign Labor Migration, adopted on November 14, 2005, all foreign workers are provided with the same rights and conditions as citizens.
The standard workweek is 40 hours, usually within a 5 day week. For state owned industries, there is a mandated 24 hour rest period in the workweek. According to the labor code, overtime work cannot exceed 4 hours per day and 20 hours per week; premium pay of between 150 and 200 percent the hourly wage or compensatory leave for overtime work are provided for. These provisions were mainly enforced at large companies and organizations with strong trade unions.
Safety and health conditions in factories were poor. The law establishes occupational health and safety standards, as well as enforcement procedures. The state labor inspectorate is responsible for protecting and educating workers as well as informing business owners of their rights and responsibilities. The state labor inspectorate is also tasked with carrying out inspections for all types of labor issues but rarely did so in practice. The government failed to enforce existing health and safety regulations. Besides government inspection teams, trade unions are assigned active roles in assuring compliance with these laws, but compliance was uneven among businesses. Workers have the right to remove themselves from workplaces that endangered their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and workers exercised this right in practice.