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Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Kazakhstan

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Kazakhstan, 2004, available at: [accessed 27 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.

Republic of Kazakhstan

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 15.5 million (5.0 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 65,800
Compulsory recruitment age: 18
Voluntary recruitment age: 19 (possibly 17 for military training)
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 10 April 2003
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ILO 138, ILO 182

There were no reports of under-18s serving in the armed forces. The law was unclear as to whether 17 year olds could sign up for voluntary military service in military schools. The law provided for 16 year olds to be called for military service in an emergency. Disadvantaged children and orphans could be admitted to special schools from the age of ten, where they received some military training. Many reportedly went on to enlist in the armed forces.


In December 2003 the president signed into law a moratorium on executions. Dozens of people were executed during the previous two years. Torture and ill-treatment of criminal suspects was widespread. There were reports that courts admitted evidence based on false confessions and based convictions primarily on such evidence. Members of the secular opposition and independent journalists faced harassment and repression by the authorities. Members of the Uighur ethnic minority who were accused of sympathizing with and supporting banned Islamist opposition movements were arrested and faced ill-treatment and torture. In September 2002 the president established the position of Human Rights Commissioner.1


National recruitment legislation and practice

Under the 1993 Law on Universal Military Duty and Military Service, the minimum age for obligatory and voluntary military service is 18.2 In September 2002 Kazakhstan told the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that this law had been amended in March 2001 to annul the provision that had allowed 17 year olds to enrol for military service in military academies (Article 18).3 The 2001 Law on Military Service on a Contract, passed at the same time, states that the minimum voluntary recruitment age is 19 years, but that boys and girls may sign up for voluntary military service to study in military academies at the age of 17 (Article 17).4

Voluntary service in the armed forces increased to between 10,000 and 12,000 personnel. However, plans to professionalize the forces were constrained by the low pay offered.5 The military therefore remained largely conscripted.

The constitution provides for conscription: "Defence of the Republic of Kazakhstan shall be a sacred duty and responsibility of every citizen" (Article 36).6 Males register for conscription when they are 17. All those between the ages of 18 and 27 are liable for service. Under the 1993 Law on Universal Military Duty and Military Service, as amended, service is for 24 months, 12 months for higher education graduates, and 30 months for naval conscripts. Exemptions are allowed. In the event of mobilization, all male nationals aged from 16 to 55 will receive military training.7 A draft law reportedly adopted in 2000 to introduce an alternative, non-military, service had not come into force by early 2004.8

Some of those eligible for conscription reportedly bribe their way into the armed forces to escape poverty after they fail health checks.9 Conditions in the armed forces are harsh. In the first nine months of 2003, 128 investigations into hazing10 of new recruits by physical and mental abuse were opened, and "close to 100 suicides" of recruits were reported in the same year. An anti-hazing training program was introduced.11

Military training and military schools

Under the Law on Universal Military Duty and Military Service, the preparation of children for military service begins when they are 15 and includes training within the general education system and in specialist institutions.12 Plans to revive such training, which was provided in schools until recently, were said to be in formation.13

Children are admitted from as young as ten years old to Zhas Ulan (Young Guardsmen) military schools in Almaty, Astana and Semipalatinsk where they receive physical and other training to promote their interest in the military. First established in 1999, these schools are similar to Suvorov schools in the Russian Federation in their curriculum and in the enrolment of disadvantaged children such as orphans.14 The commander of the school in Astana said that all school staff "should encourage the cadets to join the armed forces" and estimated that around 50 per cent of them did take up military careers.15

Students aged between 15 and 17 at three military boarding schools, in Almaty, Shymkent and Karaganda, receive training in military and technical skills from the Cadet Corps of the Ministry of Defence. By the time they graduate, most at the age of 18, they are qualified as noncommissioned officers in the armed forces. At three higher military academies, 17 year olds can begin service in the armed forces. In addition, students attending over 20 institutions providing higher education can receive officer training.16

1 Amnesty International Reports 2002, 2003, and 2004,

2 Initial report of Kazakhstan to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/41.Add 13, September 2002,

3 Initial report to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit.

4 Zakon o voennoi sluzhbe po kontraku (Law on Military Service on a Contract) (in Russian), March 2001, at Ministry of Defence,

5 Roger N. McDermott, Kazakhstan's armed forces: Reform or decay?, Conflict Studies Research Centre, June 2002,

6 Constitution, at official Kazakhstan website,

7 Zakon o vseobshchei voinskoi obiazannosti i voennoi sluzhbe (Law on Universal Military Duty and Military Service) (in Russian) at Ministry of Defence,

8 Child Soldiers Coalition interview with the Kazakh Defence Attaché to the United Kingdom (UK), 8 March 2004; Letter to Coalition from Kazakh Permanent Mission to the UN, Geneva, 8 March 2001.

9 Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), Reporting Central Asia, No. 180, 6 February 2003,

10 An institutionalized system of extreme physical abuse and psychological humiliation inflicted over an extended period on the most recent or junior conscripts by longer-serving conscripts or senior soldiers. While not formally condoned, lack of supervision allows the practice to continue unchecked. The precise form it takes may vary from one army to another, but its essential features are that it is systematic, continual, status-related, and usually carried out by those who have previously been its victims.

11 US Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2003, February 2004,

12 Law on Universal Military Duty and Military Service, op. cit.

13 See Child Soldiers Coalition Global Report 2001; Kazakh Defence Attaché to UK, op. cit.

14 Kazakh Defence Attaché to UK, op. cit.; Voennoe obrazovanie (Military education) (in Russian), Ministry of Defence,

15 Interview with Colonel Kuangaliev, reported in British Council, Peacekeeping English Project (PEP) Newsletter, 4 September 2001,

16 Military education, op. cit.

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