Kazakhstan, the United Nations and the European Union Jointly Addressing Violent Extremism in Prisons

March 26, 2019, Astana, Kazakhstan - Many countries are currently facing a threat from violent extremism. It has evolved and taken on new forms and capabilities. Trends, means and patterns of radicalization to violence equally continue to broaden. In light of the risk that prisons constitute potential locations for the radicalization to violence of prisoners, Kazakhstan strengthens international co-operation and increases efforts to address the manifestation of radicalization to violence and violent extremism in prison settings. Prison authorities emphasize that prisons also provide an opportunity for prisoners to disengage from violence and could even prove a catalyst for positive change.

It is in this context that European Union, United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) and the Netherlands provided strategic political and financial assistance to the United Nations entities, including United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and UNOCT to further enhance, in close consultation with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (UNCTED), the provision and delivery of technical assistance to Member States to implement this to prevent the progression to violent extremism in prisons.

The official launch of the global programme "Supporting the management of violent extremist prisoners and the prevention of radicalization to violence in prisons (2018-2021)" was launched in Astana in December 2018. The programme's overall budget is 9,1 million USD. This initiative is co-financed by the European Union (USD 4,7 Mio.), the Government of the Netherlands (USD 1,4 Mio.) and the United Nations Office of Counter Terrorism (USD 3,0 Mio) and implemented in three beneficiary countries: Kazakhstan, Tunis and Uganda.

Today, the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Kazakhstan and UNODC signed a Country Work Plan for the implementation of the global initiative for the period from 2019 to 2021. It was developed in partnership with key state counterparts, civil society and implementing partners and includes four components - safety and security, prisoners' risks and needs assessment, prison-based rehabilitation programs as well as post release support and alternatives to imprisonment in suitable cases.

Mr. Janat Suleimanov, First Deputy of the Minister of Interior of the Republic of Kazakhstan noted that "the Ministry of Interior 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 informed 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."

During the event, Mr. Norimasa Shimomura, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Kazakhstan, emphasized the need to closely embed any interventions targeting violent extremist prisoners in broader prison reform efforts and underlined that "A good prison system constitutes a fundamental basis for the effective management of all prisoners, including violent extremist prisoners. All challenges posed by violent extremist prisoners must 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 and age perspective".

"The European Union is a reliable partner to Kazakhstan in support of rule of law, judicial reform and modernization of the penitentiary system. Just during the last 5 years we have committed and made significant contributions to this end amounting to more than EUR 12 million to bilateral projects in the justice sector in Kazakhstan in addition to regional projects covering Central Asia addressing justice and security issues amounting to more than EUR 70 million. The EU welcomes concrete steps taken by the Government of Kazakhstan to improve criminal legislation, enhance the capacity of criminal justice institutions and promote the use of non-custodial sanctions and alternatives to imprisonment. This is more important, since - despite efforts to tackle the issue and certain results - inhuman treatment still remains a serious problem in prisons and pre-trial detention centers of many countries, a situation which also risks undermining any effective actions against the spreading of violent extremism in these facilities. It is therefore important to recall that full respect of human rights is an integral part of this process" said Ambassador Sven-Olov Carlsson, Head of the European Union's Delegation to Kazakhstan.

"Any efforts in prisons to address violent extremism 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 Dirk Jan Kop, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Astana.

Representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior, National Security Service, Prison Service of the Republic of Kazakhstan as well as international organizations took part in the event.

UNODC supports the management of violent extremist prisoners and the prevention of radicalization to violence in prisons in compliance with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. The key document for implementation of the Global Programme is 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 work with this category of prisoners at the United Nations level.

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