November 19, 2016

National Working Groups in Central Asia Discuss Gaps in Counternarcotic Cases as well as Recommendations to Legislative Initiatives

On Nov. 19, 2016, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) convened members of the Central Asia regional court monitoring working group to discuss the results of court monitoring of drug-related crimes. Held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the meeting was attended by 22 working group members from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, who also sit on their respective country’s national and regional court monitoring working groups.

Each country’s national working group, which were established in late 2014 with ABA ROLI’s support, are composed of high-level decision-makers and practitioners in the sphere of combating, investigating and prosecuting drug-related crimes in Central Asia. Members include judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and law enforcement personnel.

During the meeting, the group reviewed the results of more than 60 drug-related cases that had been monitored on or near the border areas of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan since June 2016. While there are still a number of cases that are under evaluation, the results to date reveal how drug-related crimes are investigated and prosecuted in these countries. In particular, the results demonstrated a lack of identification of the sources and circumstances of drug purchases. For example, in Kazakhstan, none of the cases observed utilized financial investigations as part of the investigation process to reveal organized criminal networks or instances of money laundering. The data collected by monitors also showed that in only a select few of the more than 60 cases did interstate cooperation occur during the investigation stages of the case (as disclosed during the trial process). Working group members identified the lack of interregional cooperation during drug cases — especially those taking place on or near international borders — to be a major gap in the investigation and prosecution of drug-related crimes in Central Asia.

Furthermore, the group discussed recently initiated legislative reform efforts related to countering synthetic drugs in all three countries, such as a recently developed concept of a draft law in Kazakhstan and draft legislation developed in Kyrgyzstan. Working group members will incorporate their findings from the court monitoring reports and their collaborative discussions into a set of recommendations that ABA ROLI will then provide to stakeholders and national legislative reform working groups considering and developing these draft laws.

The regional working group meeting was organized as part of ABA ROLI’s Court Monitoring of Drug Related Criminal Cases in Central Asia program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

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