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TITLE:  KYRGYZ REPUBLIC HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                        KYRGYZ REPUBLIC


The Kyrgyz Republic became an independent state in 1991.  
Although the 1993 Constitution defines the form of government 
as a democratic republic with substantial civil rights for its 
citizens, the President, Askar Akayev, continues to dominate 
the Government.  First elected President by the Kyrgyzstan 
Supreme Soviet in 1990, he was "reelected" in a 1991 referendum 
in which he was unopposed.  His term of office was reaffirmed 
in a January 1994 referendum.  Following a series of 
presidential decrees in September, an October 22 national 
referendum approved constitutional amendments allowing the 
Constitution to be amended by future referendums and calling 
for the formation of a new 105-member bicameral Parliament.  
Parliamentary elections scheduled for December 24 were 
postponed until February 1995.

The Committee on National Security (KNB) has inherited much of 
its personnel and infrastructure from the Soviet Committee for 
State Security, or KGB.  The KNB Chairman is a member of the 
Cabinet.  The KNB appears to be under the full control of the 
Government, and it must conform its actions to the law.

The Kyrgyz Republic is a poor, very mountainous country, with a 
predominantly agricultural economy highly dependent on trade 
with the other states of the former Soviet Union.  The 
Government is committed to establish a market economy, 
encourage privatization, and attract foreign investment.  In 
1994 it made significant progress in controlling inflation and 
stabilizing the currency, but industrial production and the 
standard of living continued to fall.

The major human rights question raised in 1994 was whether the 
Government was manipulating the political system to ensure its 
retention of power.  It closed two newspapers that had 
criticized its policies and engineered a parliamentary boycott, 
at least in part to prevent investigation of government 
corruption and to create a more malleable legislative body.  
Other human rights problems include executive branch domination 
of the judiciary (with concomitant lack of protection against 
arbitrary detention and assurance of fair trial), and ethnic 
discrimination.

In response to the exodus of the Russian-speaking people, the 
President issued two decrees acknowledging that discrimination 
was one of the factors in their decision to leave.  In the same 
decrees, the President postponed the adoption of Kyrgyz as the 
official language until the year 2005, made Russian the 
official language for work in technical and scientific fields, 
and recommitted the Government to fighting discrimination.  The 
more than 40 percent of the population that is non-Kyrgyz 
welcomed this approach.  Nevertheless, discrimination by ethnic 
Kyrgyz government officials against non-Kyrgyz citizens 
remained a common complaint of the Russian-speaking and Uzbek 
population.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1     Respect for the Integrity of the Person, 
              Including Freedom from:

    a.   Political and Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of such killings.

    b.   Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances or abductions 
attributable to government authorities or others.

    c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Local independent newspapers have run numerous stories about 
police brutality.  In most instances, it involved police 
physically abusing suspects taken into custody.  In the fall of 
1994, over the course of 1 month, the police detained and beat 
two journalists.  When the press questioned a government 
minister, he said they had been beaten not as journalists but 
as citizens of Kyrgyzstan.

    d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The judicial system continues to operate under the laws and 
procedures of the Soviet period.  The procurator's office 
determines who may be detained, arrested, and prosecuted.  The 
Ministry of the Interior, the KNB, and the General Procurator's 
office carry out investigations.  Since 1990 everyone arrested 
or charged with a crime has the right to defense counsel.  The 
procurator's office responsible for the investigation often 
nominates the defense counsel, who is required to visit the 
accused within the first 3 days of initial incarceration.  The 
old procedure, however, in which the accused had access to 
defense counsel only after the case comes to trial, is often 
followed.

The Criminal Code permits the procurator to detain a suspect 
for up to 72 hours before releasing him or informing him of the 
crime he is suspected of having committed.  If the procurator 
elects to accuse a suspect, he must immediately advise defense 
counsel of that decision.  The accused remains in detention 
while the procurator investigates the case and prepares to 
present it to the court.  At the procurator's discretion, he 
may keep the accused in pretrial detention for up to 1 year.  
Upon expiration of the year, the procurator must release the 
accused or ask the Parliament to extend the period of 
detention.  Since independence, there have been no known 
instances in which the Supreme Soviet voted for such an 
extension.  The procurator, not the judge, is in charge of the 
criminal proceedings, and thus the courts continue to be widely 
perceived as a rubber stamp for the procurator and not a 
protector of citizens' rights.  In addition, judges' salaries 
are abysmally low, which has led to the apparently well-
grounded view among the population that judges' decisions can 
be easily bought.

    e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial

The court system remains largely unreformed since the Soviet 
period.  Once the procurator is ready, he brings the case of 
the accused to court and tries it before a judge and two 
people's assessors (pensioners or citizens chosen from labor 
collectives).  The accused and defense counsel have access to 
all evidence gathered by the procurator.  They attend all 
proceedings, which are generally public, and are allowed to 
question witnesses and present evidence.  Witnesses do not 
recapitulate their testimony before the court; instead they 
affirm or deny their statements in the procurator's files.  
Defendants in criminal cases are treated in a demeaning manner 
by being kept in cages in the courtroom.

The court may render one of three decisions:  innocent, guilty, 
or indeterminate (i.e., the case is returned to the procurator 
for further investigation).  Both the defendant and the 
procurator may appeal the verdict to the next higher court or 
to the General Procurator's office.  However, the decision of a 
court to return a case to the procurator for further 
investigation may not be appealed, and the accused is returned 
to the procurator's custody where he or she may remain under 
detention.  The Court of Appeal may review lower court 
decisions irrespective of whether a party to the decision has 
appealed.  Changes to the lower court's decision frequently 
result in the imposition of a more severe penalty, and almost 
invariably so in criminal cases.

The Government has recognized the need to reform the system.  
Certain Western practices, including the presumption of 
innocence of the accused, have been introduced.  However, a 
deteriorating economy and a system staffed largely by officials 
trained during the Soviet period continued to impede reforms.

The appointment of ethnic Kyrgyz to key positions in the 
judicial system has led to charges by non-Kyrgyz that the 
system is arbitrary and unfair, and that the courts treat 
Kyrgyz more leniently than members of other groups.  Although 
systematic discrimination is not clearly evident, it is 
credible in individual cases.

    f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The 1993 Constitution prohibits unlawful entry into a home 
against the wishes of the occupant and states that a person's 
private life, privacy of correspondence, and telephonic and 
telegraphic communications are protected by law.  Current law 
and procedures require the General Procurators's approval for 
wiretaps, searches of homes, interception of mail, and similar 
procedures.

Personnel and organizations responsible for violations during 
the Soviet period have remained largely in place; however, no 
widespread and systematic violations of the privacy of citizens 
were reported in 1994, but the local press often cited 
harassment of individuals by police on the street as a 
problem.  Some citizens active in politics or interested in 
human rights believe that the privacy of their communications 
was violated in 1994.  Credible evidence is not available.

Section 2     Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

    a.   Freedom of Speech and Press

In 1994 the Government restricted these rights.  In 1992 the 
Supreme Soviet passed a law which calls for freedom of the 
press and mass media but also provides guidelines proscribing 
publication of certain information.  The law supports the right 
of journalists to obtain information, to publish without prior 
restraint, and to protect sources.  However, it also contains 
provisions that the Government used to restrict press freedom.  
For example, the law prohibits publication of material that 
advocates war, violence, or intolerance toward ethnic or 
religious groups; desecration of national norms, ethics, and 
symbols like the national seal, anthem, or flag; publication of 
pornography; and propagation of "false information."  The law 
also states that the press should not violate the privacy or 
dignity of individuals.  It requires all media to register with 
the Ministry of Justice and to await the Ministry's approval 
before beginning to operate.

While a few fully independent newspapers and magazines exist in 
the capital, the Government continues to control the press in 
various ways.  For example, President Akayev in July sharply 
criticized the press for alleged irresponsibility and proposed 
legal action to shut down the parliamentary newspaper 
Svobodniye Gory.  A Bishkek court in August ordered the closing 
of Svobodniye Gory, which had been outspokenly critical of the 
President.  The newspaper's August 19 edition was impounded at 
the government printing house.  The procurator brought a suit 
against Svobodniye Gory for allegedly publishing "deliberately 
distorted information aimed at discrediting the President, 
circulating material which violates ethical norms, and 
deliberately insulting the leaders of foreign states and their 
symbols, thus significantly damaging the interests and 
integrity of the State and threatening its stability."

On August 19, the President issued a decree establishing a 
council on the activities of the mass media.  According to the 
government newspaper Slovo Kyrgyzstan, "the council will help 
journalists in their work and prevent the use of the media from 
causing political instability and upsetting interethnic accord 
and civic peace."  On August 23, the Ministry of Justice 
ordered the state-owned printing house to stop printing the 
weekly newspaper Politika, which had been a frequent critic of 
the President and the Government.  The Ministry of Justice 
claimed that Politika was not registered as a newspaper, 
although it was a supplement to the legally registered 
newspaper Delo, whose name appeared above Politika's masthead.  
Other newspapers, including government ones, print weekly 
supplements without having them registered separately.

The Government owns all radio and television facilities, with 
the exception of a television station in the capital, which 
runs mostly videos copied in violation of international 
copyright laws, and two radio stations that play music and 
report news.  No prior restriction or censorship existed for 
the electronic media during the first half of 1994, but Kyrgyz 
television remained government controlled.

    b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Under the 1993 Constitution, citizens have the right to 
assemble and associate freely and did so without government 
interference.  Permits are required for public marches and 
gatherings but reportedly are routinely available.

The 1991 Law on Public Organizations, which includes labor 
unions, political parties, and cultural associations, requires 
them to register with the Ministry of Justice.  A bureaucratic 
mentality, carried over from the Soviet period, is at least 
partly responsible for the difficulties some organizations find 
in registering, although ultimately all organizations have been 
able to register.

    c.   Freedom of Religion

There are no governmental impediments to the revival and 
practice of all religions.

    d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Government policy supports free travel within and outside 
Kyrgyzstan.  However, certain policies imposed during the 
Soviet period remain in effect and continue, to varying 
degrees, to restrict internal migration and resettlement and 
impede citizens' ability to travel abroad.

Under the Soviet-era law, citizens need official government 
permission ("propiska") to work and settle in a particular area 
of the country.  Home and apartment owners are legally 
restricted to selling their property to buyers with such 
permission.  However, this law has increasingly become 
irrelevant as people for economic reasons relocate within the 
country, freely selling their homes and businesses.

There is no law on emigration.  Administrative procedures 
permit movement of people; however, citizens who apply for 
international passports must present a letter of invitation 
from the country they intend to visit or to which they intend 
to emigrate.  This policy was instituted during the Soviet 
period and impedes unrestricted foreign travel.  There were no 
reports, however, that citizens, after presenting such a 
letter, were denied a passport or an exit visa.  Emigrants 
reportedly were not prevented from returning to Kyrgyzstan.

To ease the difficulties for the members of the Russian-
speaking minority to emigrate and to handle in a more 
systematic manner the arrival of Tajik refugees, the Government 
began in 1993 to negotiate agreements with both Russia and 
Tajikistan on management of the resettlement process and 
protection of migrants' rights.  Issues blocking the signing of 
a bilateral agreement with Russia are the legal status of their 
respective nationalities in each other's countries, and the 
procedure for allowing individuals to regain their citizenship 
if they wish to return to Kyrgyzstan once they have emigrated 
to Russia.

Section 3     Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of 
              Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens have the constitutional right to effect a peaceful 
change of government but do not have the ability to do so.  The 
Government has maintained its hold on power by means of two 
one-sided referendums, the closure of two newspapers, the 
manipulation of the Parliament's closure, and a series of 
presidential decrees.

In January President Akayev asked that the people confirm 
through a referendum their desire that he should complete his 
term of office.  Few people took at face value the Government's 
claim that 95.94 percent of the electorate had voted and that 
96.43 percent of these had cast ballots in favor of the 
President.  Most observers attribute these percentages to 
overzealousness on the part of the President's circle of 
advisers and local officials, most of whom employed 
Soviet-style methods to get out the vote and to make sure it 
was overwhelmingly positive.

In August the President asserted that Communists had caused a 
political crisis by preventing the legislature from fulfilling 
its role.  Many observers suggested, however, that the 
Government was motivated by a desire to squelch corruption 
investigations and create a more malleable Parliament.  A 
majority of deputies boycotted the last scheduled parliamentary 
session and prevented a quorum, thus making it impossible for 
Parliament to conduct any legislative business before its term 
expires on February 15, 1995.  Deputies made public claims of 
being instructed to sign a "boycott" statement.  The September 7
edition of Vecherniy Bishkek quoted a number of purported 
"boycotters" who said that they had never signed the document 
attributed to them in the government press.

On September 20, the President issued a decree calling for a 
referendum to amend the Constitution and announcing the 
formation of an election commission composed of 15 people.  
However, Article 58 of the Constitution provides that only 
Parliament may create a central election commission.  The 
commission appointed by the President consisted of
3 representatives of political parties, of whom 2 were members 
of parties established by the Government, and 12 persons from 
organizations funded or otherwise controlled by the Government.

On September 22, the President set forth by decree an outline 
of the structure and functions of local government organs.  
However, Article 93 of the Constitution provides that only 
laws, not decrees, can regulate the principles of the 
organization and activity of local government, thus placing it 
under the jurisdiction of the Parliament and not the 
President.  In addition, the President proposed that local 
government administrative officials be eligible for election to 
the regional house of his newly proposed bicameral Parliament, 
despite the Constitution's ban on parliamentary membership for 
such officials.  The decree also called for elections to local 
government organs to take place on October 22, although the 
election districts had not yet been announced or the candidates 
nominated.

On September 23, a presidential decree set October 22 as the 
date for a national referendum, proposing two amendments to the 
Constitution.  One amendment stipulated that the Constitution 
could be changed by means of a referendum (the Constitution at 
that time did not allow this).  The other amendment provided 
for a bicameral parliament, in which one house would have 35 
permanently sitting members, the "lawmaking" house, while the 
other would have 70 members convened periodically to approve 
the budget and confirm presidential appointees.  The decree 
provided that, based on the results of the referendum, the 
future parliament would make "the appropriate changes and 
additions" to five sections of the Constitution.  The 
referendum contravened the procedures set forth in Article 96 
of the Constitution, which provide clear guidelines for 
amending the Constitution.  Both referendum questions were 
approved by over 80 percent of the votes cast.  The election 
commission reported an 86-percent voter turnout.

Russian speakers also allege that a "ceiling" exists in 
government employment which precludes their promotion beyond a 
certain level.  The representation of ethnic Kyrgyz at high and 
intermediate levels of government is proportionally much 
greater than the percentage of ethnic Kyrgyz in the general 
population.  Russian speakers have been replaced in many 
positions in government, industry, and education by ethnic 
Kyrgyz.  This gives credence to perceptions that career 
opportunities are limited for those who are not ethnic Kyrgyz.

There are no laws that restrict women or minorities from 
participating in politics or government, and recently a women's 
party was registered in Kyrgyzstan.  However, out of the 22 
ministries and state committees, ethnic Kyrgyz men head all but 
3; only 1 is headed by a woman.

Section 4     Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
              Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged 
              Violations of Human Rights

The Government does not restrict the activities of local human 
rights monitors or the delegations and representatives of 
international and nongovernmental human rights groups that 
visit Kyrgyzstan.  There are two human rights groups, the 
Kyrgyz-American Human Rights Bureau and the Human Rights 
Organization.  The former has publicly criticized the 
Government's violation of the Constitution.  In addition, in 
connection with the independent newspaper, Delo No, it has 
publicly taken up the causes of those who appear to have 
suffered injustices at the hands of the police.

Section 5     Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
              Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Government expresses strong commitment to protecting the 
rights of members of all ethnic, religious, and linguistic 
groups as well as those of women.  Articles 15 to 20 of the 
Constitution protect the rights and freedom of individuals and 
prohibit discrimination, including on the basis of language.  
In an estimated population of 4.46 million, some 56.5 percent 
are Kyrgyz, 18.8 percent Russians, 13.5 percent Uzbeks, and the 
rest Ukrainians, Tajiks, Kazakhs, and others.

    Women

The law gives equal status to women in Kyrgyzstan, and women 
are well represented in the work force, professions, and 
institutions of higher learning.  In rural areas, women are 
still seen only in the role of homemaker, mother, and wife.  
The press often reports abuse and violence against women, which 
is usually associated with abuse of alcohol.  Normal law 
enforcement procedures are used in cases of domestic violence.  
The Government has not established programs to address these 
issues.

    Children

In April Parliament ratified the U.N. Convention on Children.  
Since Parliament did not convene in the fall, it did not adopt 
local laws to bring Kyrgyzstan into compliance with the U.N. 
Convention.  Authorities continue to rely on former Soviet law 
in this sphere.  There is no monitoring of children's rights in 
Kyrgyzstan.  Children in rural areas are commonly used to pick 
crops.

    National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Reported complaints of discrimination center on the treatment 
of citizens who are not ethnic Kyrgyz.  These groups, which 
make up over 40 percent of the population, are often called the 
Russian-speaking minority.  Members of this minority allege 
discrimination in hiring, promotion, and housing.  They 
complain that government officials at all levels favored ethnic 
Kyrgyz.

The 1993 Constitution designates Kyrgyz as the official 
language but provides for the preservation and equal and free 
development of Russian and other languages used in the 
country.  However, many Russian speakers, particularly ethnic 
Russians and Ukrainians, still feel disadvantaged because they 
cannot speak Kyrgyz.  They have called on the Government to 
adopt a policy of bilingualism.  The Government has not 
established a universally available program of Kyrgyz 
instruction for adult non-Kyrgyz speakers, although limited 
instruction is available.

In general, adults who do not speak the language do not demand 
Kyrgyz-language instruction.  On June 14, President Akayev 
issued a decree designed to protect the rights of the Russian-
speaking minority and thereby reduce the outflow of Russian 
speakers.  The decree states that the exodus of Russians from 
the country is caused by social and political reasons--ethnic 
hostility and job discrimination--and is hurting the national 
economy.  The decree stipulates that the Russian language will 
have official status alongside Kyrgyz in regions and at 
enterprises where Russian speakers constitute a majority, as 
well as in sectors, such as health services and technical 
sciences, where use of Russian is particularly appropriate.  It 
also provides for the fair representation of the 
Russian-speaking population in the national Government, local 
state administration, and on the boards of state organs and 
enterprises.

    People with Disabilities

There is no special law to protect disabled individuals, nor 
any law mandating accessibility.  Former Soviet law continues 
to remain the basis for any resolution of complaints.  
Government officials are inattentive to the issue, partly due 
to the difficult economic situation and the state of the budget.

Section 6     Worker Rights

    a.   The Right of Association

The 1992 Labor Law provides for the right of all workers to 
form and belong to trade unions, and there is no evidence that 
the Government tried to obstruct the formation of independent 
unions.  However, the Federation of Trade Unions of the Kyrgyz 
Republic, successor to the former official union, remains the 
sole trade union umbrella organization in the country.  The 
same leaders are in charge, managing the State's social fund 
and retaining the possession of its previously held properties, 
as well as some of the resorts and sanatoriums financed by the 
official Soviet trade union council.

In 1994 the Federation continued to be critical of government 
policies, especially its policy of privatization, and their 
impact on working class living standards.  Nevertheless, the 
Federation still regards itself as in a process of transition 
in which it is adjusting its relations with the Government, 
with other unions in the former Soviet Union, and with unions 
abroad.  The Federation remains affiliated to the Moscow-based 
General Confederation of Trade Unions, which succeeded the 
Soviet-era All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions.

Nineteen of Kyrgyzstan's 20 union organizations are affiliated 
with the Federation and claim a total membership of
1.4 million.  The exception is the growing Union of 
Entrepreneurs and Cooperative Members, which as of October 
claimed a membership of 100,000.

While the right to strike is not codified, strikes are not 
prohibited.  In 1994 there were no strikes.  The threat of a 
strike by miners in the south was sufficient to induce the 
Government to address the group's concerns.  There were no 
retaliatory actions against this group, nor were there 
instances of human rights abuses directed at unions or 
individual workers.

The law permits unions to form and join federations and to 
affiliate with international trade union bodies.  The Labor Law 
calls for practices consistent with international standards.  
Since independent unions are still in their infancy, no 
meaningful affiliation with international trade union bodies 
has taken place.

    b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law recognizes the right of unions to negotiate for better 
wages and conditions.  Although overall union structure and 
practice remain relatively unchanged since the Soviet era, 
there is growing evidence of active union participation in 
state-owned and privatized enterprises.  However, the 
Government sets wage levels by decree in most sectors of the 
economy, although many state-owned factories have introduced 
systems of bonuses and other incentives in keeping with the 
Government's commitment to develop a market economy.  In the 
private sector, employers set their own wage levels.

The law protects union members from antiunion discrimination, 
and there were no recorded instances of discrimination against 
anyone because of union activities in 1994.  However, because 
the old management and labor leadership continues to dominate 
the labor movement, anyone who wishes to form an independent 
union faces formidable obstacles.  This, along with a 
deteriorating economy, may discourage independent union 
activity.  According to Federation officials, in the course of 
the privatization process the workers of some enterprises, 
possibly under pressure from management, dissolved their 
primary trade union organizations.  The Federation also cited 
one example in which the organization charter of a newly 
privatized entity precluded its workers from engaging in union 
activities.

There are no export processing zones.

    c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law forbids forced or compulsory labor, and it is not known 
to occur.

    d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment is 18 years.  Students are 
allowed to work up to 6 hours per day in summer or in part-time 
jobs from the age of 16.  The law prohibits the use of child 
labor (under age 16); the Ministry of Education monitors 
enforcement.  However, families frequently call upon their 
children to work to help support the family.

    e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government sets a national, legally mandated minimum wage 
at a level theoretically sufficient to provide minimal 
subsistence.  As of December 15, the minimum wage was about 
$6.00 (68 soms) per month.  In practice, even the higher median 
wage is considered insufficient to assure a decent standard of 
living for a worker and family.  The Federation is responsible 
for enforcing all labor laws, including the Law on Minimum 
Wages.  As the Government provides the overwhelming proportion 
of employment, minimum wage regulations are largely observed.  
However, enforcement of labor laws is nonexistent in the 
growing underground economy.  Market forces help wages in the 
unofficial sector to keep pace with official wage scales.

The standard workweek is 41 hours, usually within a 5-day 
week.  For state-owned industries, there is a mandatory 24-hour 
rest period in the workweek.

Safety and health conditions in factories are poor.  The 
deteriorating economy hindered enforcement of existing 
regulations and prevented investment to improve health and 
safety standards.  The April 1992 law established occupational 
health and safety standards, as well as enforcement 
procedures.  Besides government inspection teams, trade unions 
are assigned active roles in assuring compliance with these 
measures, but once again the rapidly deteriorating economic 
situation in the country has made the compliance record of 
businesses spotty.

(###)

[end of document]

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