Kazakhstan's strategic goal of becoming one of the 30 most developed countries requires, along with other factors, solutions to a set of tasks to improve criminal policy and modernize the public security system, create an optimal model of justice and strengthen the protection of human rights and freedoms. This work is carried out with the active participation of the General Prosecutor's Office. In this regard, "Kazakhstanskaya Pravda" appealed to the Prosecutor General of Kazakhstan Kairat Kozhamzharov with a request to talk about measures to strengthen the rule of law and prospects for the further development of human rights mechanisms.
- The Head of State in his Message for the current year set the task to the law enforcement agencies for further strengthening the guarantees the citizens rights, ensuring the supremacy of law and humanizing the criminal law. Kairat Perneshovich, I would like to know what exactly has been done in this direction?
- The process of modernization of the criminal and legal sphere is actively underway in Kazakhstan. Such work is carried out in stages and systematically. New approaches made it possible to reduce the repressiveness of the criminal process and strengthened the guarantees of the citizens’ rights involved in the orbit of the criminal process.
I would like to add a bit of retrospective in order for a whole vision the reader. Kazakhstan inherited too harsh Soviet system of justice. In the early 1990s, the prison population ranked third in the world, second only to the United States and Russia. Naturally, this problem had to be solved. This situation promised excessive criminalization and even marginalization of a large part of our country population.
Thanks to the political will of the Head of State, there were very important legal, economic and structural reforms in the country, which made it possible to get rid of the status of the "camp country". In the experience of the OECD countries, in 2015, the Criminal, Criminal Procedural and Penal Enforcement Codes have been fully updated. Due to the implementation of the institution of the investigating judge, judicial control is strengthened. The investigators actions affecting human rights and freedoms are now sanctioned by investigative judges, previously this was the power of prosecutors.
Exemption from responsibility in connection with reconciliation became the duty of the criminal investigative body, it was formerly a right. The sphere of application of alternative types of punishment has expanded. The practice of early release has changed - now the court issues, if the convicted person has served a certain period, has redressed the damage and did not violate the order in prison.
The amendments, significant for the modernization of the procedural foundations of law enforcement activity, were implemented by law from December 21, 2017 on the initiative of the Head of State himself. Its peculiarity was the increase in the adversarial nature of the parties in the criminal process, the expansion of the powers of lawyers, the reduction of the grounds for arrest, the terms of detention of suspects from 72 to 48 hours, including minors to 24 hours, and the restriction of arrest for economic crimes. This is important, as it reduces the opportunities for pressure on a person within the framework of the criminal case.
All procedural sanctions, which the Prosecutor's Office gave earlier, were finally transferred to the investigative judge, which corresponds to the Concept of Legal Policy to 2020 and the Plan of Nation "100 concrete steps". An electronic investigation of criminal cases was implemented. Such a format minimizes the falsification of evidence and various violations of law. Today there are 4 thousand electronic cases. The investigation was completed for 2.5 thousand, 1.8 thousand cases were sent to the court. The courts considered 1,300 cases.
All these measures together favorably strengthened the guarantees of the citizens rights in criminal proceedings. Thus, the risks of torture and ill-treatment of detainees have been significantly reduced. 83% of the detainees are settled for a period not exceeding 48 hours. The number of prisoners on the criminal cases under investigation was reduced by 1,500 people.
This work continues. Just a few days ago, the Head of State signed a new law aimed at reducing the repressiveness of the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code. According to his concept of isolation are subject only to those who are really dangerous to society. To others who committed non-violent crimes, punishments not related to isolation will be applied.
A feature of the law is the expansion of the scope of alternative punishment. Public works as an alternative are introduced into 258 formulations. The restriction of freedom is for 11 grave crimes against property, economics and malfeasance. The threshold of significant, large and especially large damage increases twofold. Fines are being reduced and the terms for their payment are increasing from 6 months to 3 years. The terms and grounds of the arrest are shortened, as well as the upper threshold of deprivation of liberty for 36 convicted persons.
The ongoing reforms in our country are positively evaluated by experts of European institutions. In May of the current year, deputies of the European Parliament made this during their visit to Kazakhstan. After all, thanks to such systemic changes, the number of prisoners in the country for 27 years decreased by 66 thousand. 8 colonies closed, for the maintenance of which annually was spent 12 billion tenge.
Now in the places of deprivation of liberty there are 33 800 people. In the Prison Index, Kazakhstan took 82nd place, ahead of Singapore, Israel and such EU countries as Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia.
- Indeed, the results are impressive. But there is a lot of controversy around humanization. Will it not worsen the criminal situation in the country?
- I was waiting for this question. No, humanization hasn’t worsened and won’t worsen the criminal situation. Judge for yourself. Annually crime, including recidivism, is reduced by 7-10%.
The secret is that humanization has not touched dangerous criminals. We do not reduce punishment to pedophiles, murderers, extremists, terrorists and bandits. Their responsibility remained as strict as before. They are not subject to amnesty. They cannot be exempted from responsibility in connection with reconciliation, repentance, the expiry of the limitation period.
In addition, extremists and terrorists, if their crimes entailed the death of people, as well as pedophiles are not subject to early release. And the latter are also subject to chemical castration.
As you can see, the most dangerous criminals did not fall under the humanization. On the other hand, humanization has its own multiplicative effect. It makes the society healthier. After all, the bulk of the recurrence we received due to the impact on people of criminal subculture in prisons. They came out from there as dependents and could not adapt in society.
Now we are trying to return the stumbling citizens to the society - to re-socialize. To this end, since the beginning of 2017, 4 types of probation have been introduced. They are pre-trial, sentencing, penitentiary and post-penitentiary. That is, the state provides social assistance from the first days of the investigation of the crime this category of the population. Gives education, arranges for work, helps to find housing, tidies up personal documents, provides psychological and medical assistance. But if they do not draw conclusions and violate the restrictions imposed on them, the court can replace their punishment with a more severe one.
Incidentally, the last law just does strengthen the responsibility of those who are released early. Now, in addition, they risk their freedom if they drink or drug.
It is impossible not to note the foreign policy advantage of humanization. Seeing the humane conditions of detention of prisoners in our country, developed countries willingly conclude an agreement on the mutual exchange of prisoners. In this way, we can return to our homeland our citizens imprisoned in foreign states, or bring to justice the criminals hiding abroad.
- Since we are talking about the conditions of prisoners, tell us, what is the situation in the penitentiary institutions?
"This is a problem that has dried everyone's mouth." The basic funds of penitentiary institutions are morally obsolete by 90%. There are colonies of the 18th century built. Yes, criminals deserve strict punishment. For this they are deprived of the most precious - freedom. But the conditions of their detention should not be an additional punishment. They should not humiliate the dignity of a person. This follows from the requirements of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which has been ratified by Kazakhstan.
In the current year, we have made a lot of efforts to solve these problems. In April of the current year, they considered their at an expanded meeting of the collegium of the General Prosecutor's Office with the participation of the Security Council and interested state bodies. Our proposals on the modernization of the penitentiary system and bringing it in line with international standards have found support from the Head of State and the Security Council. The government is already finalizing the development of the Roadmap for Development.
First of all, measures are planned for the transition of the colonies to a cell type of arrest. According to the international standard, every convicted person must be held in a separate cell. It is supposed to gradually reconstruct residential blocks of operating colonies under the international standard. In addition, conditions will be created for the serving of punishment by convicted persons at the place of residence. Measures are planned to digitize the execution of punishment, which will ensure the transparency of the process itself.
- Kairat Perneshovich, you touched upon the topic of ill-treatment. We journalists are often confronted with stories of torture and abuse by those who, on the contrary, should guard the law. What measures are taken in this part?
- Yes, unfortunately, in practice this happens. Therefore, together with law enforcement agencies, we are conducting offensive work in this direction.
First, we strengthen the responsibility for torture and increase the guarantees for the protection of victims of torture, which are often in a dependent position from the abusers. That there was no pressure on them during the investigation, the Criminal Code amended the new law, which I mentioned above. Now, torture is prohibited from being released from criminal responsibility in connection with reconciliation with the victim or active repentance.
In January of the current year, the Law "On the Fund for damages Compensation for Victims" was adopted. Now the state pays monetary compensation to the victims of torture. The law came into force on July 1. By the way, compensation is also due to minors who suffered from sexual violence, who received grave injuries to the health and relatives of the deceased.
Secondly, with the participation of European experts, organizational and practical measures are taken to prevent torture and protect victims.
The country has opened more than 500 transparent glass cabinets for interrogations with video recording. Electronic registration of persons brought to the police was introduced. This allowed reducing by 10% complaints about actions and decisions of criminal prosecution authorities and 2 times - the number of unreasonable deliveries of citizens to law enforcement bodies. Based on the Istanbul Protocol, the Academy of Law Enforcement Agencies has developed a methodology for investigating torture. Work in this direction continues.
- So it turns out that we move from one topic to another smoothly. You have several times touched on the topic of digitalization. As an outside man, I wonder why the prosecutor's office is engaged in it and what aim at the same time it pursues?
- Indeed, at first sight, it may seem strange that the supervisory authority is engaged in digitalization. But in fact it is a necessity. Since 1997, the prosecutor's office has accumulated a full range of digital data related to the prosecution authorities activities, the prosecutor's office and the court. It is automated. There are information systems and analytical tools that ensure the work of state bodies. Given precisely these starting positions of the prosecutor's office, the Head of State instructed to transfer law enforcement activities to a new level of work in digital format.
The main advantage of digitalization is the provision of transparent of automated processes. And where transparency is, there is order. It is from here that our goals follow. We want to ensure the legality in the areas of legal proceedings, the activities of law enforcement and other state bodies through the digitalization of the process work.
Within the framework of the program "Digital Kazakhstan" we are implementing 5 projects. Criminal and administrative processes, the scope of verification of business entities and consideration of applications of citizens automated. All of them are aimed at ensuring a reliable legal environment and strict protection of the citizens’ rights and freedoms, the interests of legal entities and the state.
In particular, the digitalization of the criminal process will allow in online mode to exercise effective supervision and departmental control over criminal cases. It provides access to process participants. The electronic format of the administrative process will not allow illegal decisions of the authorities, reduce errors and, as a consequence, the number of complaints from participants in the process. The system of control over inspections of subjects of small and medium-sized business will eliminate illegal actions on the part of controlling state bodies and will strengthen the protection of businessmen.
Schedules of checks will be made in electronic format. The "E-appealing" system will ensure the control over consideration of citizens’ appeals by state bodies, will allow to carry out a qualitative assessment of their activities.
The Analytical Center is a tool for a global assessment of the state of crime in the country and its prevention. The system can be used not only by prosecutors, but also by local executive bodies to correctly prioritize improvement of the situation in the region.
- Recently, at the General Prosecutor's Office there was a meeting of the board on the results of work in the first half of the year. What are the results?
- I believe that the prosecutor's office took effective measures to protect the constitutional rights of citizens and the interests of the state. In the sphere of public interest, prosecutors have protected the rights of 3 million citizens since the beginning of the year. According to our acts in 6 regions of the country, tariffs for utilities have been reduced. 2 million consumers were reimbursed 7 billion tenge.
For example, in Almaty and the Almaty region, for 800,000 consumers, the tariff for electricity was reduced from 16.9 tenge to 16.3 tenge. For 6.5 thousand inhabitants of the southern megalopolis the prices for water supply are reduced from 152 to 55 tenge. In Kostanay and Rudny for 10 thousand gardeners the tariff for electricity is reduced from 24 to 19 tenge. Now we are taking measures to return excessively paid 20 million tenge.
At the enterprises with harmful and dangerous working conditions, more than 27 thousand violations of labor legislation, norms of industrial, sanitary and epidemiological and fire safety were revealed. Debts on wages in the amount of 430 million tenge were repaid.
During the participation in civil cases, the interests of the state were protected by 15.6 billion tenge. For example, according to my protest, illegal judicial acts on the release of the bookmaker office OLIMPKZ from paying taxes on gambling by almost 2 billion tenge were canceled. For today, the tax has been paid.
In the field of overseeing the legality of pre-trial investigation, surveillance efforts are primarily aimed at protecting the citizens rights involved in criminal proceedings. Prosecutors released 423 citizens from office cabinets of law enforcement agencies and temporary detention facilities. This is 3.5 times more than last year.
In February this year, there was a meeting of the Coordinating Council of Law Enforcement Authorities to reduce the repressiveness of the criminal process. Due to this, alternative measures of restraint began to be applied more. The number of notices of non-exit increased seven-fold, home arrest - 2-fold.
Through the supervision of the legality of sentences that came into force, we considered 2,700 complaints. This is 1.5 times more than for the same period last year. They studied 1,2 thousand criminal cases.
As a result, the Supreme Court over my protests changed 269 sentences, acquitted 12 people, 3 of them spent in the colonies from 1 to 7 years. 223 sentences have been mitigated.
By the way, here I forced to return to the topic of digitalization. Our employees developed an analytic system "Zandylyk" without any expenses from the budget. The Supreme Court took an active part in its creation.
The uniqueness of the system is that it recognizes all the norms of the Criminal Code and automatically verifies the legality of the sentences on them. For one and a half years of work, the system helped us to identify more than 700 unreasonable sentences. The court granted our protests against them. This figure is comparable to the previous 10 years combined.
Following the meeting of the board, we identified the problem areas, over which we will work. Prosecutors are given a number of instructions.
- Kairat Perneshovich, and what are the further prospects for the development of the law enforcement sphere?
- Today Kazakhstan in the world ratings demonstrates the positive dynamics in ensuring the supremacy of law. According to the international Rule of Law Index, our country ranked 64th out of 113. Compared to 2016, we improved the position by 9 points.
But, despite the significant positive changes that have taken place, we still have much to improve. In the criminal trial, there is still an accusatory bias. Therefore, further modernization of the criminal and legal sphere and improvement of mechanisms for the protection of human rights and private property are envisaged in the country's Strategic Development Plan until 2025.
We will continue to strengthen the principles of competitiveness of the parties in criminal proceedings. Now, on behalf of the Head of State, we are studying the best practices of OECD countries, including Germany, which is in the top ten countries in the rule of law index.
Realization of these and other strategic tasks will ensure further approval of the principles of the rule of law in Kazakhstan, the highest values of which is man, his life, rights and freedoms.