EU, UN and Netherlands support social reintegration of prisoners in Kazakhstan


KARAGANDY, Kazakhstan (TCA) — Social reintegration of prisoners after release was in the spotlight of the high-level delegation visit from the EU, the UN and the Netherlands. The delegation visited two pilot male and female prison facilities in Kazakhstan’s Karagandy region within the framework of the programme “Supporting the management of violent extremist prisoners and the prevention of radicalization to violence in prisons”. The preliminary findings of the visit were presented on November 1 during the expert meeting hosted by the Akimat (administration) of Karagandy region, the Delegation of the European Union to Kazakhstan reported.

“The Karaganda region is one of the largest regions of Kazakhstan, accounting for 17% of the entire territory of Kazakhstan where most of the country’s prisons are historically located. Social reintegration of prisoners after release is one of the priority areas and I would like to assure that the administration of the Karaganda region will provide assistance and support in the implementation of our joint UNODC project,” said Zhenis Kassymbek, Akim (governor) of the region.

The EU Ambassador to Kazakhstan Sven-Olov Carlsson expressed gratitude to the administration of the Karaganda region for the opportunity to hold an expert meeting in the akimat building and stated that: “This once again emphasizes the commitment and willingness of local authorities to support the implementation of a joint project, which we believe will be an example for other regions of Kazakhstan. The EU, as the main donor of this joint initiative, is ready to support the Government of Kazakhstan in promoting an effective rehabilitation programme for prisoners, which can actively contribute to their social reintegration after release. This requires close coordination between various stakeholders, including government bodies and civil society organizations”.

As reported, the prison system of Kazakhstan has infrastructures to segregate high risk prisoners. Nonetheless, a scattered model, where violent extremist prisoners are held together with general prison population, seems to be preferred. Violent extremist prisoners do not represent a homogeneous group. They are individuals from different levels of ideological commitment where only a small contingent is sentenced for acts of terrorism. The majority is convicted for instigation of social, national, generic, racial, class or religious hatred and propaganda of terrorism or public calls for committing an act of terrorism.

The agenda of the expert meeting covered discussion of the prison-based rehabilitation programmes including vocational training and employment opportunities for prisoners, as well as social reintegration programmes after release.

“Authorities must recognize the importance of rehabilitation and reintegration as part of their criminal justice system. In addition, rehabilitation and reintegration are key for a sustainable, long-term strategy to prevent and counter terrorism. Thirdly, rehabilitation and reintegration will help to comply with international human rights standards,” said Andre Carstens, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Kazakhstan.

Ashita Mittal, UNODC Resident Representative noted that a follow up field mission will be organized in the future to assess the Programme implementation in pilot prison facilities and its impact on four key priority areas: improved safety and security mechanism, introduced prisoner classification system, new approaches for prisoners, prison-based rehabilitation programmes and social reintegration opportunities after release.

In December 2018 Kazakhstan, recognizing the growing threat of extremism and terrorism, was one of the first countries to join the Global UN initiative “Supporting the Management of Violent Extremist Prisoners and the Prevention of Radicalization to Violence in Prisons” along with other beneficiary countries such as Tunisia and Uganda.

The programme is implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the UN Counter-Terrorism Center and the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, with the financial support of the European Union (USD 4.7 mln), the UN Office of Counter Terrorism (USD 3 mln) and the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (USD 1.4 mln).

Sergey Kwan