Joint UN and EU Programme Unites Efforts with the Government of Kazakhstan in Preventing the Spread of Violent Extremism Ideology in Prisons

5 December 2018, Astana, Kazakhstan - An effective prison system is a critical part of an effective criminal justice response to violent extremism and terrorism. Such a system should prevent further radicalization of prisoners, prevent violent extremism and terrorist activities from being directed or supported from within the prison system, and provide for the social reintegration of prisoners into society and thereby reduce recidivism.

These and other issues were discussed at the high-level roundtable on "Preventing the spread of violent extremism in the penitentiary facilities" organized by the United Nations System, the European Union, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Committee of the Penitentiary System of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan.

The event took place in the framework of the project on "Supporting the management of violent extremist prisoners and the prevention of radicalization to violence in prisons (2018-2021)" which is co-funded by the European Union, the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) and the Government of the Netherlands and is implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the UNCCT and the UN Counter -Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED).

Mr. Stanislav Vasilenko, Special Envoy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan confirmed the need to implement the global programme on the prevention of violent extremism in prisons of Kazakhstan and reiterated the Government's commitment to work together to improve effectiveness of the prison service to manage violent extremist prisoners.

Mr. Bekbulat Turemuratov, Acting Chairperson of the Committee of the Penitentiary Systemof the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan noted that "the Ministry of Internal Affairs pays particular attention to the development and implementation of effective measures to eliminate the spread of extremism within prisons. Thus, since April 2017, the theological rehabilitation service has been functioning in the penitentiary system. This service is responsible for implementation of disengagement interventions, including faith-based programmes. He also mentioned that "prison system jointly with other state bodies, conducts professional training off staff, develops methodological guidelines and various training materials on theological rehabilitation of prisoners."

"A good prison system constitutes a fundamental basis for the effective management of all prisoners, including violent extremist prisoners," stated Mr. Sven-Olov Carlsson, Head of the European Union Delegation to Kazakhstan. He emphasized that "all challenges posed by violent extremist prisoners should be addressed in full compliance with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) and other relevant international standards and norms, including from a gender perspective". He also mentioned that "the EU Strategy for Combating Radicalisation and Recruitment to Terrorism calls for a balanced approach between security-related measures and efforts to tackle those factors that may create an environment conducive to radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism, and establishes the full respect for human rights as one of the foundations for the EU's work in this field".

"In penitentiary system, society needs not only retribution and the restoration of a sense of justice. It also very much needs rehabilitation. Especially, in the case of prisoners convicted of terrorism and violence this is a very difficult, but, therefore, highly necessary task. It is important that this is done in full compliance with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Any efforts to address violent extremism in prisons must not lead to undermining fundamental human rights to which all persons, including violent extremist prisoners, are entitled, including the freedom of thought, religion or belief, and the absolute prohibition of torture," stressed H.E. Dirk Jan Kop, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Astana.

The UNODC Handbook on the Management of Violent Extremist Prisoners and the Prevention of Radicalization to Violence in Prisons, which constitutes the first technical guidance tool to address the manifestation of radicalization to violence and violent extremism in prison settings at the level of the United Nations, was also presented to participants.

Ms. Ashita Mittal, the UNODC Regional Representative for Central Asia, highlighted that "relying only on repressive means alone in the process of countering violent extremism may actually cause more problems than it solves". She recommended "to adopt a more systematic and holistic approach in the prevention of radicalization to violence in the penitentiary facilities" and underlined that "stand-alone interventions for violent extremist prisoners which are implemented in isolation of the broader prison context are unlikely to yield positive results".

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