Kyrgyz Republic

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

The Kyrgyz Republic's October 2007 constitution defines the country as a sovereign, unitary, democratic, social state based on the rule of law. The country has an elected president, an appointed prime minister and cabinet, and a parliament elected on the basis of party lists. The December 2007 election failed to meet many of the country's international commitments and was marred by significant obstacles for opposition parties and the use of government resources to benefit specific political interests. In 2008 the government worked to improve prison conditions and took some measures to combat public sector corruption, but serious problems remain. These problems include restrictions on citizens' right to change their government; torture and abuse by law enforcement officials; impunity and pervasive corruption; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of judicial independence; new legal restrictions on freedom of assembly and pressure on NGOs and opposition leaders; increased harassment of independent media and a restrictive new media law; discrimination against women and ethnic minorities; trafficking in persons; child labor; and a new law restricting religious freedom.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The U.S. Government's priorities for promoting human rights and democratic principles, practices, and values in the country include reinforcing democratic institutions; promoting the protection of basic freedoms and human rights; and strengthening the rule of law as a means to combat corruption, particularly in the criminal justice system. The ambassador and visiting senior U.S. officials meet frequently with members of the government, civil society, and human rights groups to encourage reforms that would bring the country into compliance with its international commitments and obligations. In this regard, the United States also seeks to provide practical assistance related to freedom of speech and independent media, freedom of assembly, religious freedom and pluralism, and the protection of human rights.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The United States conducts a wide range of ongoing activities to promote democratic practices and human rights. The United States promotes free and fair elections through training of election officials at all levels, support for an NGO coalition to observe local elections, and political party development projects implemented by civil society organizations. The United States supports information centers throughout the country that offer citizens a reliable source of independent information for learning about local government functions and the elections process, while promoting community discussions and citizen engagement aimed at addressing local problems. Visiting high-level U.S. officials, including the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor in October 2008, emphasize in their meetings with government counterparts and their public statements the importance of maintaining the country's tradition of political and religious freedom. U.S. officials advocate for increased religious freedom through contacts with the State Agency for Religious Affairs and representatives of various religious communities and through U.S. exchange visits for Muslim religious leaders to learn about religious freedom and pluralism. In 2008 the U.S. ambassador hosted an Iftar dinner for Muslim leaders in the south.

Promoting media freedom and freedom of speech remains a key U.S. priority. U.S. officials encourage the government to bring its media laws into compliance with international standards, in particular by rescinding criminal penalties for libel. U.S.-funded assistance programs train journalists on professional standards and the legal framework for media operation, improve production technology, and raise journalism quality. The United States continues support for a local institute that provides legal defense and alternative dispute resolution for journalists, as well as for the only independent printing press in the country, the independent Central Asian news syndicate, and media resource centers in the populous and politically charged Ferghana Valley. U.S.-funded projects contribute to honing the professionalism of female journalists and improving coverage of women's issues and human rights. U.S.-supported satellite programming provides citizens with alternative sources of news and information. The United States supports open, public Internet access and training programs that increase citizen access to information, including through U.S.-funded resource centers.

The United States finances assistance and exchange programs to promote judicial reform, transparency, and rule of law, and it provides robust diplomatic support to anticorruption efforts. One program brings judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and members of civil society to learn about the judicial system in the United States. In 2008 the U.S. Government began a large-scale program designed to increase the independence of the judiciary and reduce corruption across the law enforcement and judicial communities. The United States works with parliament to reform the criminal justice sector by providing technical assistance in drafting legislation to make the criminal law compliant with international norms. The government continues to implement a U.S.-sponsored project to promote effectiveness and root out corruption within the Bishkek traffic police. The United States sponsors judicial training for commercial, criminal, and noncommercial civil judges and conducts anticorruption workshops for prosecutors, law enforcement, and law students. The United States also provides grants to student and teacher groups to combat corruption within the educational system.

The United States supports programs designed to strengthen fundamental freedoms, bolster civil society, protect human rights, and combat human trafficking. An ongoing regional project has helped more than 300 local NGOs conform to national legislation governing NGOs, to include registration and accounting practices. The United States also strengthens the capacity of local civil society coalitions through training and assistance in conducting national advocacy campaigns for governance reforms. A U.S.-supported human rights network monitors prisons and pretrial detention facilities for detainee abuse. The U.S. Government funds a legal education program that teaches high school and undergraduate students in both secular and religious schools about the law and individual rights. The U.S. embassy provides small grants to local NGOs to protect human rights, provide civic education, and foster the rule of law. The United States continues to support antitrafficking efforts by the government and civil society actors, building on a recently completed U.S.-funded antitrafficking project that assisted in repatriation of victims, supported hot lines and shelters for victims, and sponsored information campaigns. The United States also advocates on behalf of U.S.-based NGOs in instances of government harassment.