Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 11:51 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Kazakhstan

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 20 May 2008
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Kazakhstan, 20 May 2008, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 14.8 million (4.4 million under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 65,800
Compulsary Recruitment Age: 18
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 19 (16 as military academy students)
Voting Age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 10 April 2003
Other Treaties: GC AP I, GC AP II, CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182

There were no reports of under-18s in the armed forces. Children could attend military schools from the age of 11. Secondary-school students received weapons training at 16 or 17.


In November 2004 security forces announced the arrests of 17 people, including four from Uzbekistan, in connection with explosions and attacks in Uzbekistan earlier in the year. All were described as members of a previously unknown organization, the Mujahedin of Central Asia,1 which was alleged by the Kazakh authorities to be linked to the armed opposition group the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) (see Uzbekistan entry) and al-Qaeda.2 The Uzbeks among them were reportedly returned to Uzbekistan.3 Others were reported to have been sentenced in Kazakhstan in January 2006 to prison terms of between eight and 25 years.4

Kazakhstan was a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), established in June 2001, comprising also China, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, whose goals included mutual co-operation in security matters.5


National recruitment legislation and practice

Following moves to convert the armed forces to a non-conscript basis, by January 2007 only 15 to 20 per cent of the army was made up of conscripts.6 The reduction in the length of military service and transition towards a non-conscript military was said to have reduced hazing – the systematic abuse and humiliation of new recruits by longer-serving or senior soldiers. However, a significant number of hazing incidents continued to be reported.7

A new Military Obligation and Military Service Act of 8 July 2005 retained 18 as the minimum age for compulsory military service (Article 23), while reducing the length of standard military service from 24 to 12 months.8 The government told the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child there was no provision for reducing the age of conscription in a state of emergency or armed conflict, and that there had been no cases of children being recruited into military service since the Optional Protocol came into force.9

According to Kazakhstan's declaration on ratifying the Optional Protocol in 2003, the minimum age for voluntary recruitment was 19.10

The 2002 Children's Rights Act prohibited enlisting children "for participation in military actions or armed conflicts, or to create children's military units".11

Military training and military schools

Military preparation classes were available for senior school students, whose studies included human rights and human rights law. From the ages of 16 or 17 students received training in the use of airguns, rifles and Kalashnikovs.12 If martial law was declared, boys from the age of 16 and girls from 18 were required to undertake military training, including in the use of firearms and grenades.13

Boys from the age of 11 could enrol in the Zhas Ulan national military school, and from the age of 15 or 16 in the national military boarding schools. In 2005-6 about 4,000 children were studying in military schools, from where about 65 per cent of students went on to become army officers. Pupils entered voluntarily and with their parents' consent. By law the pupils could not participate in armed conflict or other military activities.14

The Zhas Ulan military school offered the standard school curriculum as well as weapons handling and physical training. Priority in selection was given to orphans, children in care and children from large and poor families and families of soldiers.15 The Cadet Corps took boarding students for three-year courses from the age of 15-16, after which they became low-ranking officers. Cadet Corps students at the age of 18 committed themselves to five years' military service after graduation.16 Those who did not sign up were liable for the cost of their education and to conscription.17

Young people were eligible to enter military academies from the year they turned 17. Students were considered to be carrying out military duties in accordance with the rules on carrying out military service. They could sign contracts for military service on reaching the age of 18, but not before completing one year of studies.18

Armed Groups:

It was not known if under-18s from Kazakhstan were recruited to either the Mujahedin of Central Asia or the IMU. Pakistani military sources in 2004 claimed that armed groups operating in Pakistan were increasingly recruiting teenagers from Central Asia, but these claims were disputed and could not be confirmed.19

The recruitment, training, financing or other material support for mercenaries was prohibited under the criminal code (Article 162) and punishable by 7-15 years' imprisonment where minors were involved. The government told the Committee on the Rights of the Child that there was no problem of minors in Kazakhstan being recruited for involvement in armed activities.20


In January 2006 the Ministry of Education and Science established a Committee on Protection of Children's Rights with responsibility for ensuring compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol.21

In September 2006 the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted with concern that there was no specific provision in law criminalizing the recruitment of children below the age of 18. The Committee called on the government to explicitly prohibit by law the recruitment of under-15s into armed forces or armed groups and their direct participation in hostilities, and to establish extraterritorial jurisdiction for these crimes when committed by or against a person who was a citizen of or had other links with Kazakhstan.22

1 This group is known by a number of other names, including Islamic Jihad Group, the Islamic Jihad Union, and the Jamaat of Central Asia Mujahadins.

2 Amnesty International Report 2005.

3 Information from Amnesty International (AI).

4 Marat Yermukanov, "Kazakhstan exacerbates 'religious threat' by maneuvering between Beijing and Washington", Jamestown Foundation Eurasia Daily Monitor, 9 May 2006,

5 Shanghai Cooperation Organisation,

6 Viktor Litovkin, "Kazakhstan wants to build its army in accordance with the best foreign template", Voenno-Promyshlenniy Curer, 17-23 January 2007,

7 For example, see US Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2006.

8 Military Obligation and Military Service Act, No. 74-III, 8 July 2005, at

9 Written replies by the Government of Kazakhstan to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/KAZ/Q/1/Add.1, 21 August 2006.

10 Declaration on accession to the Optional Protocol,; Military Service on Contract Basis Act, No. 167-II 3PK, 20 March 2001, Article 17(1).

11 Initial report of Kazakhstan to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on implementation of the Optional Protocol, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/KAZ/1, 21 November 2005.

12 Written replies, above note 9.

13 Government Decree of 11 May 2006 in accordance with the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan of 8 July 2005 "On Military Obligation and Military Service" (Article 41), at

14 Written replies, above note 9; Statement of Kazakhstan to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, 43rd session, 11 September 2006. (Kazakhstan's report to the Committee indicated that children could enrol in the Zhas Ulan school from the age of 11; the written replies, however, gave the age of enrolment as 12-13.)

15 Government of Kazakhstan, Admission Rules for the Republican "Zhas Ulan" school, undated, at

16 Ministry of Defence, "Republican school 'Zhas Ulan' named", and "The Cadet Corps of the Ministry of Defense", .

17 Military Obligation and Military Service Act, above note 8, Article 31.

18 Ibid.

19 See, for example, "Tale of a lost militant", Reuters, 15 December 2004; "Qaeda using children for terrorism", Daily Times (Pakistan), 26 November 2004, both at (for more detail see Tajikistan entry).

20 Initial report, above note 11; Statement, above note 14.

21 Kazakhstan NGOs' Working Group on Protection of Children's Rights, Explanatory Note to the Report on Activities Undertaken by the Republic of Kazakhstan in the Framework of Implementation of the Provisions of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Concerning the Children's Participation in the Armed Conflicts, 2006, at

22 Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of report submitted by Kazakhstan on implementation of the Optional Protocol, Concluding observations, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/KAZ/CO/1, 29 September 2006.

Search Refworld