UNODC, Kyrgyz State Penitentiary Service and Japan co-operation to address violent extremism in prisons

Many countries are currently facing a threat from violent extremism, and hardly a week goes by without an act of violent extremism taking place somewhere in the world. Attacks undertaken by violent extremist cause more than loss of life and economic damage; they can sow the seeds of division between communities, giving rise to increasingly reactionary and extremist views in other parts of society. Kyrgyzstan increases efforts to counter violent extremism and terrorism, however, an associated challenge has gained importance and urgency: how to manage violent extremists in prison settings.

It is in this context that the Government of Japan provided financial contribution to UNODC to provide technical assistance to the Prison Service of Kyrgyzstan to address radicalization to violence and violent extremism in prison settings. Contribution Agreement was signed between the UNODC and Government of Japan in March 2017 in Vienna, Austria and today, representatives of law-enforcement officials, civil society and international organizations gathered to discuss emerging threats and effective policies on management of violent extremism prisoners, prevention of progression to violent extremism in prisons and interventions aimed at disengaging prisoners from violence and facilitating their social reintegration.

"At present, there are more than 180 convicted prisoners for violent extremism and terrorism crimes in Kyrgyzstan. Prison Service has to develop effective strategies to address manifestation of radicalization to violence in prison settings based on international good practice documents" said Mr. Taalaibek Zhaparov, Chairperson of the State Penitentiary Service of Kyrgyzstan.

"In order to achieve Sustainable Development Goals and maintain stability on Eurasian continent including Central Asia, the Japanese side is pleased to support the efforts of the State Penitentiary Service of Kyrgyzstan to prevent radicalization and violent extremism in places of detention," said Japanese Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, H.E. Yoshihiro Yamamura.

"With regards to the specific issues of the management of violent extremist prisoners (VEPs), UNODC hasĀ  published a new handbook dedicated to the "Management of Violent Extremist Prisoners and the Prevention of Radicalization to Violence in Prisons", as a specialized resource for prison practitioners and policymakers," said Mr. Alexander Fedulov, Head of Programme Office in Kyrgyzstan "This Handbook 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".

During presentation of the Action Plan, UNODC International Manager Ms. Vera Tkachenko, emphasized the need to closely embed any intervention targeting violent extremist prisoners in broader prison reform efforts. "Overcrowding, poor prison conditions and infrastructure, insufficient prison management capacity as well as corruption are all factors which will poison attempts to effectively prevent and counter violent extremism in prisons," she added.

Chairperson of the Prison Service of Kyrgyzstan and Head of UNODC Programme Office in Kyrgyzstan endorsed Action Plan that includes key areas of UNODC assistance, including strengthening capacity of prison staff, managing risks posed by violent extremist prisoners, enhancing inter-agency and regional co-operation and implementing of prison-based disengagement interventions, others. These activities will be implemented under the umbrella of UNODC Programme for Central Asia 2015-2019 that represents the overarching framework under which UNODC provides assistance within the Central Asian States.