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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The capacity of security forces to both prevent and provoke
conflict is increasingly recognised. Police forces can play a vital role in
providing the security environment necessary for peaceful political and
economic development, and are at the forefront of tackling international
security issues, including drugs trafficking, the proliferation of weapons of
mass destruction, and terrorism. A competent and democratised security sector
is vital to enhancing governance and ensuring greater public trust in the
state. Bad security forces, on the other hand, can provoke or deepen conflict
and create environments where terrorism can prosper. Getting the security
sector right is a key element in conflict prevention.
Unlike in many developing countries, the military in Central
Asian states plays a more limited role in everyday political life than the
interior ministries. Police forces in the region are much more powerful than
the militaries and include their own armed units designed for internal control.
They have a considerable role in political life that may grow further in the future.
Although the role of militaries in Central Asian societies should not be
ignored, the internal security forces pose the greater threat to stability and
the greater opposition to deeper economic and political reform.
In Central Asia the structures of most
police forces have changed little since the Soviet period. While societies and
economic systems have undergone rapid transition, the organs of state security
remain largely unreformed. In many ways they are actually worse than under the
Soviet state: more corrupt, less responsive to the population, more involved in
organised crime, and often out of the control of political masters. The police
are feared, mistrusted and viewed as ineffective in protecting the population
The security sector in Central Asian states suffers from
under-funding, lack of qualified personnel, and rampant corruption. The
Ministry of Interior in Kyrgyzstan receives less than 25 per cent
of its funding from the budget; the rest comes
from a mixture of businesses, protection rackets and extortion. In Tajikistan
the figures are even worse. The police have to break the law simply
to carry out their duties, often starting the day by extorting petrol from
drivers for their patrol cars and devoting much of their time to illegally
boosting their small official salaries. They have become increasingly
ineffectual at fighting serious crime and terrorism, partly because they have
themselves become closely entangled in criminal networks engaged in contraband
and drugs trafficking.
The entire security sector in these countries – including
the military, the judicial and penal systems and the various forces charged
with internal security – requires sustained, long-term reform. This report,
however, focuses on the most problematic of the institutions, the police, which
has the greatest potential to cause future instability.
There are three main areas where unreformed police forces
have a serious detrimental impact on development and pose a threat to
First, police forces and the justice system are not
effective in countering serious criminal and terrorist threats. Although in
some instances and in all three countries the police have done valuable work, a
combination of high-level corruption, lack of professionalism, lack of cooperation
with the general public, and serious resource limitations or misdirection of
funds has allowed these threats to flourish.
Secondly, police forces are largely seen as the coercive
branch of government rather than a neutral, service-oriented force that ensures
law and order for all. They are involved in widespread human rights abuses that
have estranged them from the society they are supposed to serve. In Uzbekistan
they have led the repression against those accused of religious extremism and
political opposition to the regime. Abuses by the police, including torture,
have fuelled support for extremist groups and enhanced the risk the region
faces from terrorism. In Kyrgyzstan's recent unrest, shooting by police
of five demonstrators set off much wider civil
disorder and engendered a national political crisis.
Thirdly, security forces are acting as a brake on economic
progress. Security is a key concern for domestic business and international
investors but too often the police are not seen as defenders of
business from criminals. Instead they are often involved in extortion rackets,
costing business significant profits, or are directly involved in organised
Bilateral agencies, such as the UK's
Department for International Development (DfID), are looking at ways to promote
security sector reform as a development issue. So far much focus has been on
post-conflict situations but it also is important for conflict prevention.
Much international assistance to police forces in Central Asia
continues to focus on bilateral training and technical
assistance with little attention to structural reform or cultural change.
Although all police forces in the region lack adequate funding, equipment and
training, assistance in these areas on its own without wider reform is unlikely
to make significant difference to their overall effectiveness. Most technical
assistance actually goes for high-tech solutions determined by the donor's
policies. Not only is this seldom effective, but it can also on occasion merely
legitimise existing practices and promote more corruption. Ideally,
all technical assistance should be linked to reform-oriented outcomes and serve
as a stimulus to changes in behaviour.
There is little coordination among donors and different
government institutions involved in assistance to law enforcement agencies. Yet
there is a wealth of experience of police reform among Western states, where
many problems faced by Central Asian police forces have been evident at one
time or another. International organisations have done little in this field,
but the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has begun to
take police reform seriously. The UN also has an important opportunity, through
its Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP) and the translation of
UNDP's research on security sector reform into on-the-ground projects.
The obstacles to reforms should not be underestimated.
Interior ministries are politically powerful in each of the Central Asian
states. In many cases, they have little incentive to change if that means
undermining their personal political and financial power bases. Many have
experienced previous reforms that have done little except shift personnel or
introduce unrealistic concepts from outside. Reforms have to take into account
this internal opposition and develop appreciation within security forces of
their long-term benefits. Unless they do so, there is little hope that wider
concepts of good governance, democratisation and economic development will
flourish in this unstable region.
Long-term reform and democratisation of police forces will
take many years and involve much wider policy shifts in governance, economies,
judiciaries, intelligence services and legal systems. This report
attempts to initiate a discussion of how the most immediate problems posed by
security forces within each country can be addressed and to engage the
international community in a problem that threatens to undermine other efforts
to promote regional stability.
To the government of Kyrgyzstan:
the State Commission on Law Enforcement Agencies and encourage it to develop a
far-reaching draft for reform of law enforcement agencies in coordination with
reforms in the justice and penal systems.
widespread discussion within the police and media and with international
organisations of a reform plan among whose key elements are:
(a) achieving a viable and sustainable financial base for
policing activities, including training, technical equipment, and adequate
salaries for officers;
(b) structural reforms aimed at changing the culture
of policing and used as a method of reducing the levels of corruption in police
ranks, including decentralisation of control where necessary to local
(c) increasing oversight functions for society, NGOs, elected
assemblies, other security and justice structures, and primarily the court
(d) much stricter definition of what each security service does,
with a law on police powers and their limits and specific
prohibitions on torture and abuse of power.
To the government of Tajikistan:
3. Reinvigorate the special commission on power structures to
continue its work against officers in security forces involved in corrupt and
4. Begin an assessment of the true security needs of the
country in its new peaceful phase of development, taking into account
continuing security threats and budgetary realities.
5. Ensure that all police undergo proper training, including on
the rights of lawyers and defendants, and international and national
prohibitions against torture and other abuses.
6. Allow the media and NGOs increased access to law enforcement
agencies so as to improve social monitoring of their activities, with particular
focus on police brutality.
7. Invite the UN and other international organisations to
discuss how assistance could be used within an overall reform plan for the law
To the government of Uzbekistan:
8. Encourage a debate on the role and effectiveness of the
police through the media, international organisations, academic and research
institutes, and within the police themselves.
9. Develop a police law that will clearly define police powers
and their limits, including specific prohibitions on torture, and incorporating
the provisions of the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.
10. Initiate serious investigations into police corruption,
using mixed commissions from all security services, government officials, and
independent figures, beginning with police education establishments and their
11. Ensure better oversight of the law enforcement agencies and
a reduction in human rights abuses by:
(a) permitting legal registration of NGOs involved in monitoring
law enforcement agencies and giving them access to places of detention;
(b) developing a more independent judicial system, with greater
rights for advocates, including clarified rights of access, and diminished
powers for the procuracy;
(c) ensuring that journalists are not harassed or prevented from
writing critical articles regarding the actions of law enforcement agencies;
(d) establishing an independent complaints body, including
representatives of civil society, to investigate all accusations of
ill-treatment by the police and other security organs; and
(e) passing legislation based on international conventions and
similar legislation in other states that is aimed specifically at ending
torture by law enforcement and justice officials.
To the international community:
12. Place torture high on the agenda of relations with the
Central Asian nations, stressing that its use by police enhances the risk of
extremism and undermines support for governments, and back up political
pressure with a coordinated program to put in place measures against the
13. Fund research and seminars on police reform, human rights
and security, focused both on short-term needs and long-term change.
14. Draw up common bilateral aid guidelines for each country,
particularly respecting drug interdiction, to ensure that common messages
regarding the necessity of reform are not undermined.
15. Include security sector reform in development plans,
including in World Bank Poverty Reduction Strategies.
16. Link bilateral and multilateral economic aid to programs in
judicial reform and reform of security structures.
Osh/Brussels, 10 December 2002