From Art Therapy to Preventing Violent Extremism in Correctional Facilities: Kazakhstan Commemorates Nelson Mandela International Day

On 18 July 2020 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in collaboration with the Kazakhstan Ministry of Internal Affairs' Prison Committee, commemorated Nelson Mandela International Day by hosting several activities designed to draw attention to issues and challenges faced by the corrections system and the applicability of Nelson Mandela Rules. These activities ranged from promoting the use of art as a form of prisoner rehabilitation and reintegration to capacity building support for prison officers.

The week-long commemoration started with the delivery of an online master class by Artist Beibit Asemkul on the basics of painting for prisoners in eight correctional facilities.

During the master class, prisoners learned about the basics of abstract painting and acrylic painting techniques. By providing art therapy, UNODC and the Prison Committee hope to facilitate the construction of art stimuli, improve mental stimulation, reduce stress, boost prisoner self-esteem, and provide employable vocational skills.

UNODC further highlighted the Kazakhstan prisoners' art skills by hosting an online photo-exhibition of their works. The exhibition displayed photos submitted through competition among pilot institutions located in Karaganda and Pavlodar regions. The competitors sent Nelson Mandela-inspired photos for the contest with plenty of submissions dedicated to his commitment to human rights and justice. As a result of the competition, the ten winning works were posted on Facebook page of UNODC Regional Office for Central Asia.

In her video address, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of South Africa to Kazakhstan Ms. Keitumetsi S. T. Matthews remarked that, "The dignity of Kazakhstan as a country will always be high, not only because of the enormous social and economic successes achieved over the last 27 years but also because of how both law-abiding citizens and those who have broken the law are treated. It is my firm belief that Kazakhstan commands more respect for the effort of the government taken to ensure that it treats prisoners in terms of the Nelson Mandela Rules."

The Kazakhstan Ministry of Internal Affairs' Prison Committee and UNODC also used the occasion to promote the 'UNODC Interactive E-learning Course on the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.’ The unique interactive videos and scenario-based course invite participants to not only memorise the rules but also apply it in their day-to-day operations. To date, over 1,100 Kazakhstan prison officers have completed the course. An animated video and a photo collage of the first cohort of certified officers who completed the course were shared in social media to encourage more officers to enroll. The photo collage, which was designed to depict Nelson Mandela, was titled "Kazakhstan Champions of Nelson Mandela Rules" to honour the officers' commitments to advance the Nelson Mandela Rules.

Furthermore, UNODC and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan also held the official online opening of the Prison Staff Training Centre at the Kostanay Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs named after Shyrakbek Kabylbayev as a commitment to build the capacity of Kazakhstan Prison Officers further. Representatives of the European Union, the Embassy of the Netherlands in Kazakhstan, the UN Resident Coordinator in Kazakhstan, and the UNODC management attended the event along with the government stakeholders.

The Centre aims to address the pressing problem of the spread of violent extremism in correctional settings at the national level. It will provide continuous training for prison staff involved in the rehabilitation of those convicted of violent extremism- and terrorism-related crimes, in addition to conducting scientific research in this area. The UN Resident Coordinator in Kazakhstan, Mr. Norimasa Shimomura, emphasised the UN's commitment to the prison service and noted that "the UN system remains ready to strengthen the dynamic partnership aimed at developing and implementing tailor-made capacity building of prison officers as a unique way of continuing to spread the word about the Mandela Rules in times of COVID-19 and to prevent radicalisation to violence in prisons by introducing effective prison-based disengagement and rehabilitation programme." The events were held within the framework of the UN Global programme, "Supporting the Management of Violent Extremist Prisoners and the Prevention of Radicalisation to Violence in Prisons," that is jointly implemented by the Prison Committee of the Kazakhstan Ministry of Internal Affairs, UNODC, UN Counter-Terrorism Centre and the Executive Directorate of UN Counter-Terrorism Committee (UN CTED). The programme is made possible through the generous financial support from the European Union, the Government of the Netherlands and UNCTC.


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