In the early and mid-1990s, preservation of internal security
against a variety of crimes, and especially against growing commerce
in narcotics, became an extremely difficult task. White-collar
crime and government corruption have added to the atmosphere of
In 1991 President Akayev abolished the Kyrgyzstan branch of the
KGB and replaced it with the State Committee for National Security,
whose role subsequently was prescribed in a 1992 law. In 1996
the armed force of the committee, the National Guard, was an elite
force of 1,000 recruited from all national groups in Kyrgyzstan.
Organized in two battalions, the National Guard has been commanded
since its inception by a Kyrgyz general; the chief of the border
troops also is under that commander. The National Guard has the
prescribed function of protecting the president and government
property and assisting in natural disasters; except under exceptional
circumstances, its role does not include maintenance of domestic
The republic's police system is largely unchanged from the Soviet
era. Still called "militia," the police are under the jurisdiction
of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. A force estimated at 25,000
individuals, the militia is commanded by the Central Police Force
in Bishkek. The republic's police have suffered the same large-scale
resignations because of low pay and bad working conditions as
have other former Soviet republics lacking resources to support
internal security. In April 1995, the national power company shut
off power to the Central Police Force headquarters for nonpayment
of electric bills, leaving the capital without even emergency
police service for five hours. The poor equipment of the police
further hampers their ability to respond to crimes. Police personnel
frequently have been implicated in crime. Nearly 700 police were
caught in the commission of crimes in the two months after President
Akayev replaced the entire administration of the Ministry of Internal
Affairs in 1995.
Kyrgyzstan's crime problem is generally regarded as out of control.
In 1994 more than 40,000 crimes were reported, or more than one
crime per 100 citizens, and a high percentage of those crimes
were classified as serious.
Petty crime touches every sector of the economy. For example,
although cellular telephone networks and satellite linkups have
been established in Bishkek, telecommunications elsewhere have
grown much worse because the theft and resale of cable has become
common. Power outages are frequent for the same reason, and any
sort of equipment with salvageable metal is said to be quickly
stripped if left unattended.
Foreigners are not exempt from crime, as they were in the Soviet
era. In 1994 some 185 crimes against foreigners were registered
in Bishkek. Most of these crimes were apartment burglaries, although
beatings and armed robberies also have been reported. In April
1995, a small bomb was left in front of a Belgian relief mission's
door, and "Foreigners Out of Bishkek" was painted on the wall
President Akayev vowed to crack down on crime in the mid-1990s,
proposing much stiffer penalties for common crimes, including
life imprisonment for auto theft. One sign of his seriousness
was the replacement in January 1995 of the entire senior staff
of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The new minister, the Kyrgyz
Modolbek Moldashev, served in the Soviet KGB and lived most of
his life outside the republic. When he took office, Moldashev
brought in his own people from the State Committee for National
Security and the Ministry of Defense. However, it is far from
clear that Kyrgyzstan's security organizations are capable of
cracking down on the drug-driven sector of the economy, and experts
predict that if narcotics escape control, the spiral of criminal
activities will continue to grow.
Government corruption and malfeasance also contribute to an atmosphere
of lawlessness. In the mid-1990s, bribery, kickbacks, and influence
peddling became increasingly common in government agencies. Law
enforcement officials have received little cooperation from legislators
in punishing their colleagues who are caught violating the law.
In 1993 the Interregional Investigative Unit, established to combat
bribery, found itself shut down after twenty successful investigations
and replaced by an economic crimes investigation unit, some members
of which began taking bribes themselves.
Perhaps the most lucrative, and certainly the most problematic,
of Kyrgyzstan's exports is narcotics, particularly opium and heroin.
Government officials believe that the narcotics industry presents
the greatest challenge to the internal security of Kyrgyzstan
because of its capacity to destabilize the country.
In the Soviet era, the Kyrgyz Republic was a legal producer of
opium, with about 2,000 hectares of land planted to poppies in
1974, the last year before world pressure forced such farms to
be closed. At that point, an estimated 16 percent of the world's
opium came from Kyrgyzstan. The country's climate is exceptionally
well suited to cultivation of opium poppies and wild marijuana,
producing unusually pure final products from both types of plant.
Kyrgyzstan is said to produce even better poppies than does nearby
Afghanistan, which has surpassed Burma as the world's leading
supplier of heroin.
In 1992 Kyrgyzstan applied to the World Health Organization for
permission to reinstitute the production of medicinal opium as
a means of generating desperately needed revenue. The plan was
to increase the planting in the northeastern Ysyk-Köl area to
about 10,000 hectares and to open plantations in Talas and Naryn
as well, yielding a projected annual profit of about US$200 million.
Under pressure from the world community, the plan was dropped.
In 1992 republic narcotics police uncovered thirteen drug-refining
laboratories and seized two tons of ready narcotics. The police
reported that drug-related crime rose 222 percent from 1991 to
1992 and that 830 people had been arrested on drug-distribution
charges. Another report indicated that 70 percent of the 44,000
crimes reported in the republic in 1992 had a connection to drugs
in one way or another. At that time, the head of the country's
narcotics police estimated that only about 20 percent of the narcotics
traffic was being interdicted, mainly because resources are very
inadequate. Government officials fear that this industry will
continue to grow, especially in the absence of large-scale international
assistance; in 1994 Russia ceased its cooperation with Kyrgyzstan
in narcotics interdiction. An emerging distribution chain moves
opium to Moscow, then to Poland, from where it is transferred
to Europe and the United States.
Osh is said to have become a major new international point-of-purchase
for opium and heroin, which is produced in all of the countries
adjoining the Fergana Valley, including Kyrgyzstan. More than
300 kilograms of opium were seized in Osh Province in 1994, an
amount estimated to be less than 10 percent of the total moving
through Osh. At the end of 1994, the head of the National Security
Committee characterized the narcotics trade as the republic's
sole growth industry, which he warned was solidifying its grip
on the republic's conventional economy.
The court system remains essentially unchanged from the Soviet
era. Nominally there are three levels in the court system: local
courts, which handle petty crimes such as pickpocketing and vandalism;
province-level courts, which handle crimes such as murder, grand
larceny, and organized crime; and the Supreme Court, to which
decisions of the lower courts can be appealed. However, there
has been persistent conflict between Akayev and the legislature
over the composition and authority of the Supreme Court, as well
as over Akayev's choice of chief justice. As in the Soviet system,
the office of the state procurator, chief civilian legal officer
of the state, acts as both prosecuting attorney and chief investigator
in each case.
The protections for individuals accused of crimes remain at the
primitive level of Soviet law. According to law, the accused can
be held for three days before a charge is made, and pretrial detention
can last for as long as a year. There is no system of bail; the
accused remains incarcerated until tried. Both the police and
forces of the State Committee for National Security have the right
to violate guarantees of privacy (of the home, telephone, mail,
and banks), with the sanction of the state procurator. In theory
search warrants and judicial orders for such things as wiretaps
only are issued by authority of a judge; in practice this is not
Very little current information is known about Kyrgyzstan's prison
system. In the Soviet era, at least twelve labor camps and three
prisons operated in the republic, including at least one uranium
mine-labor camp in which prisoners worked without protective gear.
The total prison capacity and present population are not known,
but it may be presumed that prisons in Kyrgyzstan are suffering
the same overcrowding as are prisons elsewhere in the former Soviet
Union. The 1995 purge of the Ministry of Internal Affairs included
appointment of a new head of the prison system, a colonel who
had been assistant minister of internal affairs prior to the shakeup.
Data as of March 1996