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Country reports: Kyrgyz Republic.

A. Introduction

The Kyrgyz Republic is a key transit country for the trafficking of Afghan opiates to Europe, the Russian Federation and China through its borders with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. The Kyrgyz Republic faces serious problems in monitoring its border with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan due to the topography of the country, which is 94 percent mountainous. Due to an ongoing negotiation process with neighboring states, 30 percent of the borders in Kyrgyzstan remain virtually uncontrolled. The internal drug situation is also cause for serious concern. One hundred thousand hectares of wild-growing cannabis in the country serve as a source of marijuana for local criminals. There is also evidence of intensive illicit cultivation of cannabis. The ephedra plant, which grows on fifty five thousand hectares, is a source for production of Ephedrone (Methcathinone), an amphetamine-type psychoactive stimulant. It can also be used to produce, ephedrine, an important precursor chemical for methamphetamine. There is a high level of drug addiction in the country, amounting to more than one percent of the population of Kyrgyzstan with three percent of the population remaining under high risk. With Kyrgyzstan's depleted financial resources, political turmoil, challenges in establishing a strong and stable central government, the current drug and crime situation, if not addressed, will continue seriously to affect the stability not only of the country, but also of the region.

Following intensive anti-government protests which lasted for several months, the government of President Bakiev was overthrown on April 7, 2010, after violent clashes that left 86 people dead. An interim government was formed under Roza Otunbaeva to restore order and the rule of law and to oversee a constitutional referendum and parliamentary elections. In May 2010, by decree of the interim government, Roza Otunbaeva was appointed President for the transitional period ending December 2011.

In the midst of political instability and a weakening of central government authority, new violence erupted in Southern Kyrgyzstan between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in June 2010, leaving hundreds of people dead. An International Independent Commission of Inquiry was established to investigate facts and causes of this violence. Although the detailed investigation results are yet to be announced, this violence is seen by some in the international community and many current Kyrgyz government officials to be a result of concerted actions of organized criminal groups, especially those involved in drug trafficking in southern Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz Republic is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends

1. Institutional Development

In 2003, with the assistance and funding of the U.S. Government and the UNODC, Kyrgyzstan established an independent body to fight drugs, the Drug Control Agency (DCA). It became the agency that coordinated all drug enforcement activities in the Kyrgyz Republic. To stop transnational drug crime, the DCA worked with its counter-parts in Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. In August 2007, 32 Kyrgyz law enforcement officers from the DCA, Ministry of the Interior, Customs Service and Border Guards were trained and completely outfitted with equipment to form the first four Mobile Interdiction Teams (MobITs). The teams were deployed in September 2007 after the completion of five weeks of training. Their mission was to identify drug trafficking targets and seize illicit narcotics. Their mobility allowed travel into remote southern areas between fixed border posts along the Kyrgyz border with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The multiagency teams never achieved the intended goal of joint operations. The DCA Director brought the MobITs under his complete control during FY2009. In April 2009 two DEA agents were assigned to the U.S. embassy on a temporary basis to work closely with the DCA and MobITs, after which performance improved (see below).

In October 2009 then-President Bakiev abolished the DCA and divided its functions between the Ministry of Interior (MVD) and the Ministry of Health (MOH). There is some reason to believe this was because the DCA had conducted an operation that affected the President or his family.

The elimination of the DCA was effected by the presidential decree of October 26, 2009. On November 6, 2009, the government ordered the handing over of all buildings, staff, equipment, vehicles and other assets of the DCA to the MVD and MOH.

Following the elimination of the DCA, the MobITs were also placed under the control of the MVD. With the anti-drug agency's independence thus compromised, INL instructed the UNODC, which helps State INL to manage its programs in Kyrgyzstan, to suspend all activities under the project, including the payment of salary supplements to MobITs officers, until the organizational situation stabilized. National plans for MOBITS were not confirmed until March 2010, and it was only then that INL allowed UNODC to resume salary supplements for MobITs agents--but only for those who had passed previous USG-required selection and vetting, including a polygraph test.

In August 2010, new President Otunbaeva reversed the organizational situation, establishing by decree a new State Service on Drug Control (SDC) as a specialized law enforcement body in the area of illicit drug trafficking, psychotropic substances and precursors. The new agency was staffed with 262 certified and 33 civil and support personnel. The decree instructed the MoI and MoH to hand over to the SDC all assets previously transferred to those Ministries, including buildings, vehicles, weapons, ammunition, technical assets, documentation, finances and personnel. In September 2010, a second presidential decree confirmed the SDC as the legal successor to the DCA and placed the MobITs under its jurisdiction.

The Kyrgyz Republic is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, and the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. The Kyrgyz Republic is also a party to the UN Convention against Corruption and the UN Convention against Transnational Crime and its Protocols on Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants.

2. Supply Reduction

While there is still no significant commercial production of drugs in Kyrgyzstan, cannabis and ephedra grow wild over wide areas, especially in the Chui valley region and around Lake Issyk-Kul. In the past, Kyrgyzstan was a major producer of licit opium, and for decades was the Soviet Union's main source of the ephedra plant. However, with the continued large production of opium in Afghanistan, it has become easier and less risky to import drugs from Afghanistan via Tajikistan than to produce them locally. During FY09 the Kyrgyz government carried out yearly eradication campaigns against illicit crops and there was at least one substantial seizure resulting in the destruction of approximately 1400 kilograms of marijuana. No such seizure was recorded in 2010.

The Kyrgyz Republic shares a common border with China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Mountainous terrain, poor road conditions, and an inhospitable climate for much of the year make detection and apprehension of drug traffickers more difficult. Border stations located on mountain passes on the Chinese and Tajik borders are snow covered and unstaffed for up to four months of the year. These isolated passes are frequently used routes for drug traffickers. Government outposts and interdiction forces rarely have electricity, running water or modern amenities to support their counternarcotics efforts. The Kyrgyz Republic is one of the poorest successor states of the former Soviet Union, relying on a crumbling infrastructure and suffering from a lack of natural resources or significant industry. Unlike some of its Central Asian neighbors, the Kyrgyz Republic does not have a productive oil industry or significant energy reserves. The south and southwest regions--the Osh and Batken districts--are important trafficking routes for drug shipments from Afghanistan. The city of Osh, in particular, is the main crossroads for road and air traffic and a primary transfer point for narcotics into Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and on to markets in Russia, Western Europe and the United States.

Due to a very limited and rudimentary transportation system, traffickers mostly utilize lengthy overland routes leading through Afghanistan's neighboring provinces. As in 2009, a large part of the drugs smuggled through Central Asia in 2010 entered the region through Tajikistan. Together with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan represents the main conduit for onward smuggling of opiates. In the last few years, trafficking has increased on the long and mountainous border between the Tajik Garm region and Batken in Kyrgyzstan. Onward smuggling through the Kyrgyz Republic takes drugs mainly to the Uzbek part of the Fergana valley, and across the northern border into Kazakhstan.

MobITs units in the south report encountering traffickers on three specific routes:

* Kyzylart route--the Osh-Khorog route and areas bordering the Murgab district of the Badakshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan

* Altyn Mazar route--starting from the Rushan plateau up to Chon Alay valley

* Batken route--includes the mountain paths of Jergetal and Garm regions of Tajikistan to Batken and Kadamjay counties of the Batken region and, ultimately, further trafficking to Kazakhstan, Russia and European countries

Law enforcement statistics are gathered by the Kyrgyz Government on a calendar-year basis. Two different drug agencies were in service at different times during 2010, and, for part of that time, little or no attention was paid to addressing narcotic s trafficking. The data following should be viewed in that light:

* In 2009, nearly eight tons of drugs and precursors were seized by all Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies, including 341 kg of heroin (up 14 percent compared to 2008) and 376 kg of opium (up 167 percent compared to 2008). Marijuana seizures decreased by 41 percent, amounting to 2029 kg (4741 kg in 2008); hashish seizures increased by 57 percent, amounting to 718 kg of (457 kg in 2008);

* From January--June 2010, by contrast, law enforcement agencies seized only 637 kg of drugs, including 100 kg of heroin (down 58 percent compared to the same period of 2009), 33 kg of opium (-76%), 341 kg of hashish (-36%) and 136 kg of marijuana (-34%)

* In 2009 there were 34 drug-related crimes per 100,000 population. Convictions for those crimes were 25 per 100,000 population.

3. Demand Reduction

Existing economic problems and budget constraints prevent the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic from addressing the country's burgeoning drug-abuse and HIV/AIDS problems effectively. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kyrgyz Republic and the other countries of Central Asia is the fastest growing in the world. Driven by intravenous drug abuse, high rates of HIV can be observed among high-risk groups along the drug trafficking routes. Sentinel surveillance conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2007 found HIV to be as high as 34 percent among injecting drug users (IDU). As noted in a Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (GFATM) report on Central Asia, another worrying trend is the number of young people infected. Approximately 75 percent of new infections over the previous five years have occurred in people below 30. While this is still considered a concentrated epidemic, extremely high rates among most-at-risk populations (MARPs) as well as repeated outbreaks that are a result of treatment in a hospital or a healthcare service unit indicate a potential for the spread of HIV into the general population. In 2007, an outbreak of HIV/AIDS took place among very young hospitalized children in southern Kyrgyzstan, which investigations determined was due to contamination of the blood supply and re-use of medical instruments.

In 2009, according to the UNODC, 687 new HIV cases were reported, for a total of 2718, of which 67 percent involved intravenous drug users (IUDs). In Kyrgyz prisons, 208 new cases of HIV were reported. At the end of 2010, there were a reported 7100 registered IUDs in Kyrgyzstan.

Insufficient budget funds are hampering prevention and treatment programs and training of professional staff. Although for the past few years funding from international financial and technical assistance programs to address HIV/AIDS problems in Central Asia has increased considerably, the Kyrgyz government has devoted insufficient state funding to HIV/AIDS and substitution therapy programs. The recent political unrest and violent change in administrations have only made matters worse.

In past several years, and with international assistance, the Kyrgyz Republic has successfully created a decentralized system of provision of Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST), both in specialized institutions and family medicine centers. OST is provided by teams of specialists in a comprehensive way and with external support sourced through NGOs. Provision of OST through family medicine centers offers the potential for further integration of the treatment of IDUs with family medicine and further reduction of their stigma. The country has developed a Clinical Protocol for OST providers, whether under the Ministry of Health or Ministry of Justice (2008).

4. Corruption

Corruption remains a serious problem and a deterrent to effective law enforcement. Up until its elimination, the DCA possessed a relatively good reputation, and its staff went through a thorough vetting procedure and received substantial salary supplements from the U.S. UNODC project mentioned above. The MobITs units were also vetted and underwent polygraph tests, as did all DCA agents. As a matter of policy, the Kyrgyz government does not encourage or facilitate illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. Although four Kyrgyz law enforcement officials were identified in 2008 as involved in narcotics trafficking, the outcome of these cases is unknown. Due to the change in government and destruction of records, the only information that can be found is that the cases may still be pending.

C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives

From 2003 to 2008, USAID funded a consortium of organizations headed by the Alliance for Open Society International (AOSI) to implement a Drug Demand Reduction Program in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and the Fergana Valley of Kyrgyzstan. The activity was designed to reduce the spread of HIV by decreasing drug use and changing attitudes toward drugs among target groups, with an emphasis on at-risk youth, vulnerable women, current drug users, migrant populations, and prisoners. The program supported the training of health care professionals, volunteer outreach workers, teachers, psychologists, law enforcement officials, and journalists. It also provided training in drug prevention strategies for professionals in national and local government agencies, including officials in the ministries of Health, Education, Labor and Social Welfare, and Justice, as well as the Drug Control and Migration Committees.

From 2004 to 2009, the USAID-funded Central Asia Program on AIDS Control and Intervention Targeting Youth and Vulnerable Groups (CAPACITY) built technical capacity within Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia to launch large-scale responses to HIV/AIDS and develop indigenous institutions and networks to manage comprehensive HIV/AIDS control programs. CAPACITY aimed to:

* Improve stewardship of national HIV/AIDS programs

* Educate and empower vulnerable populations to protect their health.

* Improve the quality of HIV/AIDS services

* Improve resource use through integration of HIV/AIDS services into countries' overall health systems.

These strategies reinforced the U.S. priorities embodied in the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The project worked to increase the capacity of local and other USAID partners to leverage the resources available through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), the World Bank, the British Department for International Development (DFID), and other donors. Currently, USAID is initiating a new Health Outreach Program aimed at helping vulnerable groups to increase their access to prevention and treatment services for HIV and tuberculosis.

U.S. bilateral counternarcotics assistance has been stalled since the elimination of the DCA in October 2009. It will resume as the new SDC acquires strength, exhibits independence, and is seen to enjoy high-level government support. INL also anticipates working with the UNODC on anti-drug assistance as that organization develops proposals for international funding.

D. Conclusion

The U.S. intends in 2011 to work with the SDC to rebuild the capacity and commitment to interdict drug shipments and capture traffickers, and with other components of the Kyrgyz law-enforcement system to prosecute suspects and punish those found guilty. Russia is expected to continue and increase its role in assistance to the SDC. Prior to the elimination of the DCA, the government of Kyrgyzstan was supportive of international and regional efforts to limit drug trafficking, and supported major initiatives to address its own domestic drug use problems. Continuation of this focus is imperative to future success in combating narcotics trafficking in Kyrgyzstan and in the region.
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Publication:International Narcotics Control Strategy Report
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9KYRG
Date:Mar 1, 2011
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