U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Kyrgyzstan
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Kyrgyzstan, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa5024.html [accessed 19 April 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
KYRGYZ REPUBLICThe 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, dominates the government. Akayev was reelected in December 1995 in an open, multicandidate presidential election, which was marred, however, by deregistration of three rival candidates immediately prior to the vote. Also in 1995, a new, two-chamber Parliament was elected for a 5-year term. The Constitution was amended by referendum in February 1996 to strengthen substantially the presidency and define the role of Parliament. However, the referendum was marred by serious irregularities. In 1995 a Constitutional Court was sworn in, and a reform program was implemented to improve the quality of the judiciary in 1996. While Parliament has become increasingly active, the balance of power resides in the office of the President. The judiciary is dominated by the executive branch. Law enforcement responsibilities are divided between the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) for general crime, the Ministry of National Security (MNB) for state-level crime, and the procurator's office for both types of crime. Both the MVD and the MNB deal with corruption and organized crime. These ministries inherited their personnel and infrastructure from their Soviet predecessors. Both appear to be under the full control of the Government and usually conform their actions to the law. Kyrgyzstani borders are manned by Russian border troops under an agreement with the Russian Federation. The Government has little authority over these troops, who sometimes enforce their own rules rather than Kyrgyzstani law. The Kyrgyz Republic is a poor, mountainous country with a predominantly agricultural economy. Cotton, wool, and meat are the main agricultural products and exports. Other exports include gold, mercury, antimony, uranium, and hydroelectricity. The Government has carried out progressive market reforms. The moderate growth apparent in most sectors has increased, and economic reform is now accepted by the general public. However, the level of hardship for pensioners, unemployed workers, and government workers with salary arrearages continues to be very high. Foreign assistance plays a significant role in the country's budget. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens in many areas, but there were problems with citizens' limited ability to change their government, freedom of speech and the press, due process for the accused, religious freedom, and ethnic discrimination. Prison conditions remained poor. As in the past, but with increasing frequency, journalists were tried, arrested, and convicted under criminal rather than civil statutes for libeling government officials or other prominent citizens. However, in a number of cases journalists received reduced sentences on appeal or by pardon. At year's end, a journalist who previously was serving a sentence under criminal libel had been amnestied, but eight other cases were announced by the President's press secretary as pending. In a number of cases, the accused were held for months without bail before their trials. The Constitution was amended illegally in a 1996 referendum marred by irregularities. In general executive domination of the judiciary made assurances of due process problematic. Local village elders' courts levied harsh sentences beyond their mandate, but abuses such as torture and death sentences by stoning apparently have abated. Although sanctioned by the Government, elders' courts are not part of the regular judicial structure, and the Government has made efforts to curtail their activities. The Government does not fully protect freedom of religion. Concerns about ethnic discrimination remain, but in general, the situation of minorities has improved and emigration rates have stabilized at a low level. Violence against women is a problem that authorities often ignore. There is a growing number of street children.