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By Ulan Nazarov and Maksat Osmonaliyev
BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan’s leadership has given the order to go after organised criminal groups (OCGs).
“The situation with crime in this country – I must put it bluntly – is very complex. Members of criminal circles in certain regions have already infiltrated the government, particularly the local authorities,” President Roza Otunbayeva told the Defence Council in February. “They have now gained strength, such that they are able to destabilise the (country’s) situation and provoke ethnic clashes.”
The President’s Office said it received more than 8,000 citizens’ complaints in 2010 about criminal groups. The Interior Ministry is pursuing more than 1,000 suspects on organised crime charges. The crime rate rose 30% in 2010 compared to 2009.
Issyk-Kul Oblast leads the country in crime with crime rates four times higher than average and 3,000 crimes committed in 2010 alone, Otunbayeva said.
“Unidentified persons will attack people who are alone at night and beat them to death,” said Aziza Abdirasulova, director of the human rights centre Kylym Shamy. “The city (Bishkek) is in a panic. The stores and cafes shut down after 7pm; the people are afraid to go out after dark. The local police aren’t doing anything.”
IM to fight organised crime
Interior Minister Zarylbek Irsaliyev has promised to confront organised crime before the year is out.
Decades of government corruption have allowed criminal groups to take deep root in the country’s various power structures, including the Interior Ministry, First Deputy Interior Minister and Police Major General Melis Turganbayev said.
“We have to cleanse all the (governmental) structures of crime, and in this regard, we need support from the public,” he said. “Some media outlets are reproaching us because law enforcement agencies are catching small groups and letting the big ones go free. They need to understand that organised criminal groups have a broad hierarchy. ... We are catching the (direct) perpetrators, and soon we will get to the brains.”
The ministry has specific plans on how to deal with OCGs, he said. One of them is the OCG Liquidation Programme, being developed by the oblast prosecutors’ offices and departments of internal affairs, the State Service for Drug Control (SSDC), the State National Security Committee (SNSC), the border guard and the oblast and district administrations.
Among the principal measures to counter organised crime, Turganbayev said, are the continued seizure of illegal weapons and ammunitions, investigations into the political protection of criminals from within governmental institutions and efforts to employ promising youth in the Interior Ministry.
Anti-terrorist centres to be created
The country also will focus on preventing potentially dangerous extremist-religious or terrorist developments, creating regional anti-terrorist centres, reinforcing border security, developing crime-fighting theory and monitoring religious clergy, he said.
The SNSC anti-terrorist centre has discovered links between OCGs and terrorists, an anonymous source at the centre said.
“We have evidence of OCG members using terrorists to get revenge on the OCGs' enemies and to create disorder, as well as evidence of terrorists using the OCGs to buy weapons and narcotics,” he said. “So one of the means of combatting OCGs is combatting terrorists.”
Kyrgyzstan has allocated 500m KGS (US $10.56m) to counter organised crime and plans to create a special fund for the Interior Ministry.
“(The government) suggested to the interior minister that he have a separate fund inside his ministry of up to 50m KGS (US $1.056m). We are hoping that the Kyrgyz citizens will seek protection not from bosses and gangsters, but from the police,” said Ar-Namys MP Akylbek Japarov.
Intimidation of potential witnesses makes fighting organised crime difficult, Interior Ministry spokesman Rahmatullo Ahmedov said. However, with recent police reforms, the situation is changing.
Trust is developing, officials say
“People are beginning to trust more in law enforcement agencies and to sign statements against criminal leaders,” he said. “At the same time, we are actively getting into contact with the public, and such contact has positive results. For example, recently, during a live radio show, one listener gave information on a drug distribution centre. ... Within two hours, law enforcement took down this centre.”
Thanks to such co-operation, law enforcers have arrested more than 50 suspected OCG members.
Law enforcement agencies have perceived the change in tone from above and are ready to eradicate organised crime, Turganbayev said.
“It is encouraging to have an issue such as the fight against organised crime brought up to the governmental level,” said Centre for Citizen Oversight Director Nodir Damirhan.
“After all, the government has long assured us that in comparison to other countries, everything is fine here. ... Toward the end of the year, we hope to see concrete results.”
The results will become clearer once authorities disclose how many cases they brought to court and how many convictions they won, Deputy Interior Minister for the Southern Regions Zhanyshbek Zhakypov said.
“It’s good that Roza Otunbayeva raised this issue,” said Akmat Kulov, a resident of Osh Oblast. “Now, there is hope that our children will finally be able to play safely in the streets and our women can go to the store in peace.”