August 08, 2017

Facilitating a Regional Discussion on Drug Trafficking in Central Asia

Earlier this year, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) conducted three roundtables in Central Asia, to discuss the results of court monitoring of drug-related crimes collected during 2016. Two national roundtables in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, and a regional roundtable in Kyrgyzstan, included representatives from judiciaries, prosecutor’s offices, law enforcement agencies, defense advocate communities and other state institutions.

During the roundtables, representatives of state agencies and various branches of the justice system presented on the deficiencies revealed in both drug crime legislation and investigation and prosecution processes that were exposed during the court monitoring process. Difficulties in the classification of synthetic drugs and the need to identify supply chains in order to prosecute large-scale drug traffickers, as opposed to drug users, were consistent across the Central Asia region.

Attendees were able to share recommendations for addressing these deficiencies and ideas on how to implement the recommendations. Tajikistan focused on major issues in the course of the inquiry and investigation stages of a case, particularly the validity of controlled purchases of drugs by law enforcement agencies (LEAs), their repeatability, the timeliness of seizures of drugs and failures in identifying chains of custody and sources of supply. Recommendations for resolving these issues included developing and adopting an interagency instruction on conducting a controlled purchase by LEAs, introducing legislation allowing for investigation agreements between suspects, the accused and investigating authorities, in order to effectively disclose the sources of supply and strengthen the prosecutor's oversight of the legality of operational search activities as they are carried out.

In Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, recommendations emphasize the importance of making amendments to legislation on matters such as combating the spread of new synthetic drugs; strengthening controls that allow for the destruction of confiscated drugs in order to avoid secondary trafficking of them; incorporating plea bargaining into prosecution of group crimes; improving standards used by investigation bodies to more accurately identify crimes; determining the source and circumstances of the acquisition of drugs by conducting an analysis of using and buying behavior; and improving approaches to treatment and rehabilitation of drug users to prevent future drug crimes.

The participants at the regional roundtable in Kyrgyzstan, emphasized the need for continued efforts from both government agencies and expert associations to amend relevant legislation and evaluate the deficiencies identified in the country-specific reports, as well as ongoing efforts to address them. Discussing ways to implement these recommendations in a setting amongst peers from neighboring countries helped facilitate a more holistic regional approach to addressing this transnational issue.

These roundtables were organized as part of ABA ROLI’s Court Monitoring of Drug-Related Cases in Central Asia program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. This program, which evaluated cases, expert opinions and international experience on overcoming the procedural deficiencies in investigating and prosecuting drug-related crimes in Central Asia, ended in March 2017.

To learn more about our work in Central Asia, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org