Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


High-Level Dialogue on Prosecution, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Returnees from Conflict Zones: Kazakhstan Experience  

22 November 2021

Your Excellency, Mr. Rakhmetullin,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my utmost pleasure to start my tour of Central Asia with this visit to Kazakhstan. I am indeed happy to be able to address you in person, but let me begin by extending my thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kazakhstan's Agency of International Development, and the European Union Delegation for organizing this important event.

The relocation and reintegration of returnees from conflict zones and their accompanying family members are issues with significant implications for a society’s security and cohesion.

They are also issues that Kazakhstan has ample experience with. Since 2019, a total of 654 individuals, mostly children and women, were brought back from conflict zones as a result of five humanitarian operations.

You have shown leadership and invested considerable resources in the return of your citizens.

Kazakhstan’s efforts in this regard, are unique and commendable and have set an important example for other Member States to draw lessons from.

They have also laid a foundation for future work, as we look to address the many challenges that persist.

Security threats are at the heart of these challenges.

Member States have an obligation to counter the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, and to protect individuals within their jurisdiction from terrorist attacks.

The possible involvement of returnees with terrorist groups must be tackled in a balanced manner that mitigates security risks while at the same time fully preserving the rights of returnees and their family members, in line with international humanitarian, human rights, and refugee law.

Society’s response to returnees has been another major, related challenge.

Returnees must be reintegrated in order for societies to move forward peacefully, but the challenge is that their relatives back home, let alone the general public, are often reluctant to accept their return.

Societies need to strive for justice and long-term security, while preventing radicalization and protecting citizens.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has extensive experience in fostering effective and human-rights compliant prosecution, rehabilitation, and reintegration strategies.

Our Office is proud to work with Kazakhstan and other Member States in the region and beyond, as well as our partners within the UN, to improve the management of returnees, in line with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

In Central Asia, we have been supporting countries in improving the capacities of policy-makers, practitioners, and civil society organizations to address the threat of Foreign Terrorist Fighters and to prevent violent extremism.

Our partnership with the government of Kazakhstan has been among the most fruitful.

Kazakhstan is one of only 10 countries that are party to all 19 international conventions and protocols related to terrorism, and we have leveraged that commitment to take action together.

Prevention of violent extremism in prisons has been one of the key areas where we have taken positive strides.

Following prosecution for crimes committed in conflict zones, returnees often serve sentences in prisons, where they are in many cases vulnerable to radicalization, or threaten to radicalize others.

As custodian for the UN Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners, the “Nelson Mandela Rules”, our Office has been assisting Kazakhstan in improving prison management.

Together with UNOCT, we have supported the Ministry of Interior of Kazakhstan in establishing a new Prison Staff Training Center on prevention of radicalization to violence in prisons, as well as a new Research and Training Center on implementation of the Nelson Mandela Rules.

As a result, around 600 prison officers so far have been trained throughout the country, with many more expected to benefit from similar training.

E-learning has also been a valuable resource, with over 2,600 prison and probation officers in Kazakhstan to date successfully completing UNODC’s online courses on the Nelson Mandela Rules, and more enrolling every day. 

In addition, we have worked together to protect children, including children associated with and exploited by terrorist groups.

Through Kazakhstan’s strong support for our Global Programme to End Violence against Children, we have been cooperating to ensure that children affected by terrorism are treated primarily as victims and given a chance at rehabilitation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For the good of societies, we must find pathways to justice, rehabilitation, and reintegration. Together we must continuously find innovative and sustainable interventions and solutions.

This was stressed by the Security Council, in its Resolution 2396 (2017), which encourages UN Member States to continue sharing  and adopting best practices in this area.

Our work with Kazakhstan and our partners is bringing us closer to this aim, and I would like to thank the United States, the European Union, and the Government of the Netherlands for their crucial support.

UNODC is committed to continuing this important work, to support Member States in safely bringing returnees and their accompanying family members back into their communities, where they belong.

Thank you.