2013 Country Report on Terrorism: Kazakhstan

Overview: The Government of Kazakhstan passed new counterterrorism legislation and continued to develop its national program for countering terrorism and what it refers to as religious extremism, with efforts to establish new interagency counterterrorism bodies at the national, regional, and local levels. The national program outlines the responsibilities of each government agency and ministry to prevent and/or respond to acts of terrorism, with a strong focus on social and educational programs that are intended to form a zero-tolerance approach for citizens, especially youth, against the influence of terrorist or extremist ideas.

The Government of Kazakhstan has expressed an interest in increasing counterterrorism cooperation with the United States, particularly in the areas of information sharing and law enforcement cooperation, and in the development of Kazakhstani capability to conduct special counterterrorism operations.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Kazakhstani legislation criminalizes terrorist acts and extremist “propaganda.” New legislation adds the forfeiture of property to the potential sentences for all terrorism-related crimes.

In January, President Nursultan Nazarbayev approved changes and amendments to Kazakhstan’s existing counterterrorism legislation that provided new definitions for several legal terms relating to terrorism and violent extremism, assigned counterterrorism roles and responsibilities to 26 government agencies, and created a framework for the government’s national counterterrorism program, including the establishment of national, regional, and local counterterrorism centers. The government’s ambitious new counterterrorism plan envisions extensive interagency cooperation and coordination, but cooperation, coordination, and information-sharing are limited in practice and certain government agencies dominate counterterrorism operations. There are four special counterterrorism detachments under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and one under the National Security Committee. The new state program for law enforcement development provides for the creation of new counterterrorist detachments and enhanced training for such units.

Details of the implementation of the national counterterrorism program are being defined primarily through specific bylaws, executive orders, and government decrees. For example, the government issued decrees identifying facilities vulnerable to terrorist threats, a public outreach system that includes codes corresponding to current threat levels, and procedures for compensating victims of terrorist acts. Nevertheless, a lack of capacity constrained more effective Kazakhstani government counterterrorism efforts in 2013.

Law enforcement units demonstrated the capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist plots; law enforcement officials made numerous arrests of people believed to be terrorists or violent extremists, but also of peaceful religious figures. Kazakhstan continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program and received training in incident response.

Kazakhstan’s security forces, including military and law enforcement, have had a mixed record but are undergoing a process of professionalization and reform with the goal of more effectively discharging their duties and increasing respect for human rights. Parliamentarians criticized law enforcement bodies for the tendency to “eliminate” or kill members of suspected terrorist groups rather than capture them for questioning, but there is a lack of transparency about the specific circumstances of counterterrorism operations. We refer you to the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Right Practices for 2013 for further information:http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper

Kazakhstani officials announced the arrest and prosecution of numerous individuals and groups on charges of terrorism or extremism. Trials of small groups of alleged extremists have become frequent throughout Kazakhstan. Sentences typically range from five to 15 years in prison. One group was accused of planning to attack senior host government officials and bomb several landmark sites in the capital.

As a testament to Kazakhstan’s growing cooperation with the United States, the Prosecutor General of Kazakhstan traveled to Washington in December 2013 and met with heads of federal law enforcement agencies. In a meeting with the FBI Director, the two parties discussed bilateral judicial cooperation in countering terrorism. 

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Kazakhstan belongs to the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and the Finance of Terrorism (EAG), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. The Financial Monitoring Committee under the Ministry of Finance recorded 360 cases of terrorist financing in 2013. The latest EAG evaluation, done in 2011, found Kazakhstan non-compliant in reporting suspicious transactions. There is no requirement for non-profit organizations to file suspicious transaction reports. A further evaluation was scheduled, but was postponed by Kazakhstan in order to properly prepare for the evaluation. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

 Regional and International Cooperation: The Kazakhstani Prosecutor General’s Office cooperated with the OSCE on countering violent extremism and terrorism through joint workshops. 

Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: The government’s counterterrorism efforts focused heavily on the prevention of radicalization, with particular efforts to educate youth and provide positive alternatives through social programs and economic opportunities, but the results of these nascent programs are unclear. Kazakhstan’s legislation on religious beliefs and practices is unnecessarily restrictive, and might engender violent resistance from peaceful religious groups that experience government repression. We refer you to the Department of State’s Annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom (http://www.state.gov/j/drl/irf/rpt/index.htm) for further information.

Kazakhstan’s recent strategy in countering radicalization and religious extremism focuses on preventive messaging to vulnerable groups, primarily young people and prison inmates. State-sponsored NGOs and local officials offer lectures to students in secondary schools, vocational schools, and universities. The lectures focused on religious groups the government considers to be “destructive,” which include peaceful “non-traditional” religious groups. The program aims to make young people “immune” to religious extremism and includes government publications on “proper” religious values.

Media have aired interviews with former terrorists who publicly state that they regret their deeds, including an interview with young men who said they illegally crossed the Turkish-Syrian border to fight alongside Syrian insurgents because of the influence of “internet propaganda.” One of Kazakhstan’s national news agencies aired a segment that showed the men repenting of their actions and appealing to Kazakhstani Muslims not to follow in their footsteps.