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Date: Fri, 2 Feb 1996 14:02:40 -0800
Sender: Former Soviet Republic - Central Asia Political Discussion List <CENASIA@VM1.MCGILL.CA>
From: Eric Sievers <esievers@IGC.APC.ORG>
Subject: Kazakstan and Drugs

Drug convictions up in Kazakstan

By Eric Sievers, Yale Law School. From OMRI, 2 February 1996

Drug trafficking convictions in Kazakhstan increased by 41% last year, according to an RFE/RL report of 31 January. In his annual address on the state of Kazakhstan's courts and legal system, Justice Minister Konstantin Kolpakov reported a 15% increase in serious crime, noting that 74,000 criminal and 115,500 civil cases were tried last year. He did not give the total number of crimes recorded, but emphasized that the government was cracking down on crime despite a continuing shortage of trained legal personnel and law enforcement officials. He also urged the parliament to adopt a new criminal code.

-- Bhavna Dave

Of course, this increase is also explained by the increasingly common practice of using drugs as a pretext. Should one desire to harass one's enemies, Almaty's ROVDs abound with officers willing to, for a price, enter someone's apartment, plant a matchbox full of pot in a pocket, and make an arrest. Such hype over the threat of drugs also means that much much more leeway is given in this kind of arrest. This "crackdown" overflows with examples of individuals held for weeks without being charged and, in panic, plea bargaining or bribing their way out of the situation- neither resolution contributing to the development of rule of law.

It would be interesting to see what the racial breakdown of these convictions is, as I strongly suspect individuals of Slavic, Korean, and rural Kazak (at least in Almaty) heritage are disproportionately represented. Correspondingly, I doubt many of these arrests involve significant quantities of drugs. Any comments?

Eric Sievers, Yale Law School