The promotion of OSCE human dimension commitments in areas related to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, penitentiary and criminal-justice reform, electoral transparency, gender mainstreaming and the fight against human trafficking are among the main priorities of the Human Dimension Unit at the OSCE Centre in Bishkek. The Centre works very closely with national authorities, civil society and other international organizations to achieve these goals.
The OSCE participating States agree that only a democratic form of government is able to provide security and stability in the long term. Political decision-making based on democratic checks and balances and accountability to the electorate is in itself key to preventing conflicts and ensuring security. The commitment to hold free, fair and transparent elections as agreed upon by all OSCE participating States in the 1990 Copenhagen Document is central to a democratic society.
In its work on the human dimension of security, the Centre in Bishkek has provided electoral suport in recent years and also carries out follow-up activities in line with ODIHR’s election observation reports. In co-operation with international and local partners, the Centre helps prepare members of election commissions with respect to electoral standards and procedures for national elections and also helps raise voter awareness about their electoral rights.
Independent election observation ensures greater transparency in the electoral process and serves as a conflict-prevention tool. Domestic observers also play an important role in election disputes by submitting appeals and filing complaints on alleged electoral fraud to the relevant state bodies, thereby increasing the accountability of election officials and politicians alike.
In this respect, the Centre provides support for non-governmental organizations that observe national and local elections. During elections, domestic observers are deployed throughout the country to monitor and assess the electoral process on and immediately after Election Day. The observers’s findings serve as a basis for constructive dialogue between the state, political parties and civil society on how to address shortcomings in order to achieve better compliance with OSCE commitments on democratic elections.
In close co-operation with ODIHR, the Centre in Bishkek advises state authorities on the establishment of a unified population register, which is necessary to improve the quality of voter lists and access to basic public services.
With the aim of ensuring that justice is served in an efficient, accessible and transparent manner, the Centre supports legal and judicial reform at both the central and local levels as a key instrument for stability and conflict prevention. To do so, the Centre endeavours to bridge gaps in capacity and mutual communication among all stakeholders in the justice system; from prosecutors to judges, from lawyers to police officers and civil society. In the south of the country, the human dimension team engages local partners NGOs to ensure proper referral of complaints from local citizens, provision of free legal advice and court representation while at the same time monitoring fair trial standards and devising advocacy strategies for judicial reform. The efforts undertaken within the past decade have been instrumental in promoting human rights and stabilization efforts in the south of the country.
The Centre in Bishkek promotes respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Kyrgyzstan. In close co-ordination with ODIHR, the Centre played a key role in supporting the adoption of new legislation on freedom of peaceful assembly in line with OSCE human dimension commitments. The Centre continues to support independent monitoring by civil society of assemblies throughout the country to test the implementation of the newly adopted law. The results of the monitoring are publicly discussed and closely co-ordinated with relevant authorities such as the Justice Ministry, the Ombudsman and the Interior Ministry.
The Centre in Bishkek works in close co-operation with ODIHR (and its Advisory Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief) to support the improvement of national legislation in the area of freedom of religion or belief. The Centre also supports independent monitoring by civil society organizations of the implementation of national legislation in this sensitive area.
One of the key priorities for the Centre in Bishkek is the promotion of human rights in closed facilities through nationally owned prevention mechanisms.
As the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, underlined during his visit to Kyrgyzstan in December 2011, torture remains a major concern and is still widely used by law-enforcement agencies, particularly during the first hours after an arrest. The prohibition on torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is absolute in international law, and states have a clear obligation to ensure it.
The Centre in Bishkek has, for many years, been facilitating the establishment of public monitoring mechanisms to safeguard human rights in places of detention in close co-operation with the Ombudsman Office, civil society and relevant state authorities. These joint efforts are guided by the idea that public oversight of detention facilities (notably through unannounced monitoring visits) not only serves as a deterrent to ill-treatment but also demonstrates the state’s commitment to safeguard human rights. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this area was brokered by the OSCE Centre in Bishkek in 2011, and it includes relevant ministries, the Prosecutor-General’s Office, the Ombudsman’s Office and 14 non-governmental organizations. In this respect, the Centre supports the systematic monitoring of detention facilities by groups of monitors comprised of representatives of the Ombudsman’s Office and civil society organizations. In addition, representatives of the civil society organizations and state authorities that are parties to the MoU meet regularly to discuss its implementation and issues related to torture prevention. The Centre has also been instrumental in the establishment of a national preventive mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture.
In the area of penitentiary reform, the Centre works in close co-operation with the State Service for the Execution of Punishments and civil society in promoting a comprehensive reform strategy aimed at improving the penitentiary system to the benefit of inmates and prison staff. A training centre under the State Service for the Execution of Punishments was established with support of the OSCE Centre in Bishkek and has been operational since 2011, offering a wide range of training opportunities aimed at increasing the professional capacity of prison staff and at promoting international human rights standards in the daily work of the penitentiary service.
As part of its efforts to promote human rights in general, the Centre engages civil society and state authorities in an attempt to promote gender equality and to prevent human trafficking.
The Centre supports the implementation of Kyrgyzstan’s National Strategy to Achieve Gender Eqaulity 2012-2020, including its Action Plan, by strengthening the capacity of key actors and raising awareness of gender aspects of security, women’s participation in public life and the involvement of men in promoting gender equality. A network of women leaders in the southern part of the country helps prevent crises at the community level by addressing root causes of tensions and vulnerability.
The Centre helps strengthen the capacity of relevant state authorities with respect to preventing and combating trafficking in human beings from, to and through Kyrgyzstan. Trafficking in human beings is addressed through a targeted approach aimed at increasing the response of different agencies, including the police, border guards, civil society and local government institutions, to the challenges posed by the phenomenon. At the same time, the Centre facilitates inter-agency co-operation at both the national and international level. Awareness-raising campaigns directed at risk groups constitute a significant part of this work, along with capacity building and information sharing. The Human Dimension Unit also works to facilitate co-ordination between civil society, law-enforcement structures and local authorities on combating human trafficking as a key prevention tool.