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Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights considers report of Kyrgyzstan

Committee on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights 

2 June 2015

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today concluded its consideration of the combined second and third periodic report of Kyrgyzstan on the implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Introducing the report, Baktybek Zhekshenov, Official Secretary of the Ministry of Social Development of Kyrgyzstan, said that the fundamental purpose of policy and legislation was developing a fair social situation in the country.  The National Strategy for Sustainable Development 2013-2017 and a programme for the transition to sustainable development contained a set of measures to comprehensively reduce poverty in the country, one of the most difficult social problems.  Poverty reduction would be coupled with measures for economic growth, conservation of the environment, reform of the health sector, and measures to address poverty among pensioners.  Labour legislation incorporated the principle of gender equality giving mothers and fathers the right to benefits and guarantees, and prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, race, nationality, or political beliefs.  Kyrgyzstan was in the process of legal harmonization and the reform of the law enforcement and judicial system, guided by the newly established Coordinating Council on Human Rights.

Committee Experts recognized the efforts to create a framework and institutions for human rights protection and asked about the resources and guarantees of independence provided to the Institution of the Ombudsman.  Resources in the country were scarce and that was why the wide-spread corruption and its impact on the public budget were of concern; Experts asked about sectors most affected by corruption and the progress achieved in stamping it out.  Experts noted that the principle of non-discrimination was included in the Constitution and asked about plans to adopt a comprehensive umbrella law prohibiting discrimination.  Which targeted measures were undertaken in regions which were falling behind in terms of economic development and how were resources being used to address regional disparity?  Poverty was on the rise, and child poverty currently stood at 40 per cent; the monthly allowance covered only a small number of families and children were increasingly institutionalized because their parents were poor.  On equal rights of men and women, Experts inquired about measures to correct the low level of salaries in the important sectors of education and health, where women made up the majority of employees, and on guaranteeing women’s rights in the labour market, land ownership and housing.  Other concerns raised by Experts during the interactive discussion included the lack of access to justice for victims of domestic violence and the lack of prohibition of domestic violence, labour protection and social security for workers in the informal economy, the situation of persons with disabilities and of external migrants, homelessness, forced evictions, and maternal mortality.

In response to questions and comments raised by the Committee Experts, the delegation said that the current law on Ombudsmen was not in line with the Paris Principles and that the new draft law was now before the Parliament.  An Expert Working Group on legislative harmonization was considering the inclusion of the definition of discrimination in the law in order to implement the recommendation made by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  An increase in law enforcement measures had led to a decline in the incidence of corruption and bribe offering in State enterprises.  Appropriate legislation and policies had been adopted, including the Law on Combatting Corruption and the National Action Plan, while the whole section of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development had been dedicated to fighting corruption.  The National Strategy for Gender Parity 2020 and the National Action Plan aimed to ensure equality of rights for all without distinction, through appropriate education, eliminating gender discrimination, access of women to courts and promoting gender mainstreaming in decisions concerning political and public participation of women.

Aslan Abashidze, Committee Expert acting as a Country Rapporteur for the report of Kyrgyzstan, emphasized in his closing remarks that all the questions that the Experts asked during the dialogue aimed to understand the situation and how improvements could be made in compliance with the Covenant, and urged the delegation to discuss them in the country, with its open and engaged society.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Zhekshenov said that the Committee’s concluding observations would provide new impetus in pursuing the work in the country and that this dialogue would be an important landmark on its path to improvement of the human rights system. 

Waleed Sadi, Committee Chairperson, in his closing remarks urged Kyrgyzstan to carefully consider the Committee’s concluding observations at all levels, increase awareness about them and make them relevant.

The delegation of Kyrgyzstan consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Social Development, Coordinating Council on Human Rights, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Labour, Migration and Youth, Prosecutor’s General Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Economy, and the Permanent Mission of Kyrgyzstan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will release its formal, written concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Kyrgyzstan towards the end of its three-week session, which will conclude on 19 June 2015.

The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 3 p.m. this afternoon when it will start its consideration of the third periodic report of Venezuela (E/C.12/VEN/3).

Report

The combined second and third periodic report of Kyrgyzstan can be read here: (E/C.12/KGZ/2-3).

Presentation of the Report

BAKTYBEK ZHEKSHENOV, Official Secretary of the Ministry of Social Development of Kyrgyzstan, reaffirmed the will of Kyrgyzstan to further improve legislation and bring it in line with international standards, which was the purpose of the 2010 legislative reform.  Kyrgyzstan was the first country in Central Asia which had adopted parliamentary democracy.  The October 2012 open and democratic elections had marked the beginning of a new era of peaceful transfer of power.  In 2015, the population of Kyrgyzstan numbered 5.7 million and was relatively young, with a growing birth rate, and 66 per cent living in rural areas.  Developing a fair social situation in the country was the fundamental purpose of policy and legislation, including the National Strategy for Sustainable Development 2013-2017.  A programme for the transition to sustainable development contained a set of measures to comprehensively reduce poverty in the country, which represented one of the most difficult social problems.  Human development and reduction of poverty would remain key priorities for the Government, and would be coupled with measures for economic growth and conservation of the environment.  The reduction of poverty was also assisted with the programme for the reform of the health sector, which aimed to ensure protection of the health of the population as a whole and each individual regardless of their socio-economic status.  Reducing the level of poverty among pensioners was another important issue and the main problem was to increase pensions to the level of minimum wage. 

Labour relations were regulated by the Constitution and the Labour Code and other laws and decrees.  The existing Labour Code had been developed with consideration for International Labour Organization conventions and aimed to provide for proper working conditions and protect the rights of employers and employees.  The labour legislation incorporated the principle of gender equality giving mothers and fathers the right to benefits and guarantees, and it prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, race, nationality, or political beliefs.  One tenth of the population worked abroad, mainly in Russia and Kazakhstan.  The National Strategy for Gender Equality 2020 included priority actions in the area of economic empowerment of women, creation of functional education, eliminating gender discrimination and increasing women’s access to justice, and political equality, while the new law on statistics included gender indicators for all collected statistics.  The Penal Code contained a separate article on kidnapping women for purposes of marriage, and if a victim was a minor this was an aggravating circumstance.  A conceptual framework had been developed to guide the process of legal harmonization and the reform of the law enforcement and judicial system; this process was guided by the newly established Coordinating Council which was also in charge of coordinating action in the area of human rights and international protection law. 

Questions from Experts

ASLAN ABASHIDZE, Committee Expert acting as Country Rapporteur, recognized the efforts of Kyrgyzstan in submitting reports to various treaty bodies and noted the five-year delay in submitting the report to this Committee.  The report, which covered the period 1999-2012 lacked sufficient data and statistics, which made it difficult for the Committee to assess whether progress had been achieved.  The new Constitution had been adopted in 2010 and legislative reform was on the way, noted the Country Rapporteur, asking about what was being done to bring older laws in line with the Constitution, particularly in relation to socio-economic and cultural rights.  Resources were scarce in the country and that was why it was important to address corruption: what steps were being taken to stamp it out and what progress had been achieved?  What was the position of the Covenant in the judicial practice and with regard to the ratification of the Optional Protocol?  Mr. Abashidze also asked about intentions concerning the ratification of the Optional Protocol and the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and whether Kyrgyzstan intended to pass the umbrella law prohibiting discrimination.  What was the State doing to address women’s rights in the labour market, in the possession of land titles, and in housing?

Concerning the issue of corruption, a Committee Expert asked about the significance of the statistics provided by Kyrgyzstan and which period it covered, areas most affected by corruption, the estimated cost of corruption, and the impact on the public budget of the wide-spread corruption.  On equal rights of men and women, what was being done to address the low level of salaries in the important sectors of education and health, where women represented the majority of employees?

Another Committee Expert recognized the efforts to create a framework for the protection of human rights institutions and asked about coordination between various initiatives.  The delegation was asked about resources provided to the Institution of Ombudsman and how much of the needs it covered, how the independence of the Ombudsman was guaranteed and which steps were undertaken to bring it up to status A.  What was the purpose of the Law on Foreign Agents, which was important because it kept the non-governmental organization community as alive and active as possible?

With regard to gender equality, the delegation was asked about the priority areas contained in the National Strategy for Gender Equality and whether combatting violence against women was therein included, the Inter-Agency Working Group for the implementation of the National Action Plan for Gender Equality 2012-2014, and if the prohibition of discrimination included grounds of sexual orientation.

Although Kyrgyzstan did not have a comprehensive law prohibiting discrimination, the principle of non-discrimination was included in the Constitution, noted another Expert and asked about the new bill in discussion in the Parliament concerning same sex unions.  What targeted measures were being taken in regions which were falling behind in terms of economic development and how were resources being used to address regional disparity?

WALEED SADI, Committee Chairperson, asked about the extent of awareness about the Covenant among law and policy makers.

About 90 per cent of workers did not have work contracts which meant that they did not enjoy labour protection and social security.  There were also concerns about the situation of external migrants who might not be adequately protected.  People did not contribute to social funds because of mistrust, which meant that funding for the benefits was not available; what were the reasons for this mistrust?  The budget for monthly allowance for low income families with children was being reduced and it seemed that funds were being allocated to the construction of boarding schools – was this the correct setting of priorities?

The delegation was asked how more informal workers could be brought into the formal employment system, and about the pension system and how pensions were set, unemployment rates in the country, social protection of families of external migrants, trade unions, the 2014 amendments to the Criminal Code which allowed the imprisonment of directors of important companies for failure or stoppage of production, and the system of quotas for the employment of persons with disabilities.

ASLAN ABASHIDZE, Committee Expert acting as Country Rapporteur, took up the issue of the right to work and noted that refugees and foreigners with permanent residence permits were allowed to work.  What was being done to help former prisoners adapt to labour market and find work, and what compensation was provided for occupational diseases?

Response by the Delegation

There were eight Expert Working Groups in the country which were in charge of analyzing the situation in various areas of the law in the process of legislative harmonization.  Those Working Groups were also considering the inclusion of the definition of discrimination in the law in order to implement the recommendation made by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  The provisions of the Covenant were part and parcel of the legal system and judges reached decisions on the basis of laws and international treaties ratified by Kyrgyzstan; the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was being considered.

There were three human rights institutions in the country, namely the Institute of Ombudsmen, the Coordinating Council and the National Centre for the Prevention of Torture.  The current law on Ombudsmen was not in line with the Paris Principles; the draft law had been prepared by the Ombudsmen and was now before the Parliament.  Ratification of the Optional Protocol did involve financial implications and the State needed more time to consider their ratification. 

Law enforcement had been increased and had led to the decrease of corruption in State enterprises, and there was less incidence of bribe offering.  Appropriate legislation and policies had been adopted, including the Law on Combatting Corruption and the National Action Plan, while the whole section of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development was dedicated to fighting corruption.  In 2014, a total of 1,803 verifications had been undertaken: 800 complaints, 361 warnings and 200 criminal and disciplinary cases, and 540 other judicial cases.  Disciplinary action had been taken against more than 300 persons; 192 verifications had been carried out on the Law on State Procurement, leading to administrative and disciplinary actions against more than 60 persons.  Most of the corruption cases were found among local authorities, and involved a number of very diverse sectors.

The draft Law on Foreign Agents provided for the registration of foreign entities and aimed to provide for transparency of non-governmental organizations.  During the first reading it had been assessed that this law could have negative implications on non-commercial organizations, including on humanitarian non-governmental organizations.  The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons draft law had been tabled in March 2014, aimed to put an end to propaganda among minors who had not yet formed an opinion about this issue; the draft law did not aim to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. 

The Labour Law dealt with employment and was implemented through regional divisions of the Ministry of Labour.  Programmes were in place to promote the employment of the population and to address external migration.  The economically  active population was over two million, while the unemployment rate was eight per cent.  A State-funded programme was in place, supporting a great number of people to access vocational training or temporary jobs, while others created their own jobs.  The increase of minimum wage was based on the principle of the incremental increase to allow it to reach minimum living wage.  Kyrgyzstan had ratified 53 International Labour Organization conventions, including those relating to migrants who had the same rights as nationals with the exception of the right to vote.  There were programmes to support the integration of refugees in local communities, and one of the measures was to offer an opportunity to take Kyrgyz citizenship.

Questions from Experts

A Committee Expert expressed concern about the lack of access to justice for victims of domestic violence, who were also discouraged from reporting the violence to the police, and asked about the law on domestic violence. 

Only 28 per cent of registered patients with HIV/AIDS received anti-retroviral drugs, noted another Expert, asking why this rate was so low and whether there were intentions to switch to generic drugs which were much cheaper. 

The delegation was asked about the intention with regard to the adoption of an adequate housing policy which would take into consideration the specific needs of vulnerable groups, rural communities and internal migrants, and if it planned to set up a national programme to address the increasing phenomenon of homelessness; the mechanism of redress for medical malpractice; measures to address forced evictions and bring them to the standard advocated by the Committee, and in particular when minority groups were involved; actions to reduce maternal mortality;  and to comment on the rising poverty rates and the reasons behind this.

Child poverty had been increasing since 2010 and was now at more than 40 per cent; the monthly allowance covered only a small number of families and did not allow adequate addressing of the problem.  Children were increasingly institutionalized because their parents were poor.  How did Kyrgyzstan ensure that placement and institutional care were used as measures of last resort and how were these institutions monitored?  About 14 per cent of the population were food insecure and 43 per cent of the children below the age of five suffered from anaemia: what would the State Food Security and Nutrition programme change in this regard and how would funds be ensured for this?

Bride kidnapping was a widely spread practice in rural and urban areas, noted an Expert, welcoming the harsher sentence for the act: how many persons had been arrested and convicted for the crime in 2013 and 2014 and how was the law enforced?  The Code of Administrative Liability was applied for light bodily harm, while the Criminal Code was applied in cases of grave bodily harm – would domestic violence, physical and psychological be criminalized, and would it cover also unmarried couples?

Response by the Delegation

Gender-based discrimination, including in salaries, was prohibited in the Labour Law and in other pieces of legislation.  Most women tended to work in social sectors, where salaries were lower than in the mining sector for example, where most men worked.  Since 2010, salaries in the social sectors had seen a three-fold increase.  There was also no discrimination between men and women in ownership of land and land titles.  As for the informal economy, Kyrgyzstan aimed to ensure that employees received regular wages and minimum social standards, for which they needed to sign a contract.  A number of measures were being undertaken to increase health and safety at work, particularly in preventing work place accidents.  The International Labour Organization supported Kyrgyzstan in providing safe and decent work.  The activities of the trade unions were set in the International Labour Organization Convention 98 which dealt with the question of collective bargaining, which was applied in Kyrgyzstan.  In additions, citizens could establish political parties, trade unions and other associations to fulfil their economic, social, cultural and political interests.

A law on the rights of people with limited capabilities was in place and provided for medical, educational, social and labour assistance.  All companies with more than 20 employees had an obligation to fulfil a quota for employment of persons with disabilities; more than 700 jobs were available through this scheme, which were occupied by over 150 persons with disabilities. 

In 2006, 63 per cent of workers were employed in the informal economy, generating more than half of the gross domestic product; in 2013, 59 per cent were in the informal economy.  Measures to reduce the size of the informal economy included reducing barriers to entrepreneurship, assessing the impact and size of the informal economy and raising awareness.  A programme was in place to increase accessibility to long-term mortgage loans and so create a favourable environment in which people could acquire adequate housing; some persons would be allocated free housing.  Land was being made available for construction of multi-storey buildings, often in public-private partnership. 

Measures to combat corruption were coordinated by a secretariat in charge of local government executives and the prevention of corruption.  The drafting of a policy for the prevention of corruption started in 2014, and relevant articles of the United Nations Convention against Corruption were being applied.  Public prosecutors and the Ministry of Internal Affairs were working on implementing the 2013 Law on the Protection of Family, and 53 cases of domestic violence had been filed in courts.  Kyrgyzstan had opted for humanization of the criminal legislation in keeping with international recommendations: if domestic violence was not excessive,  administrative penalties were handed down; if certain thresholds were exceeded, then criminal sanctions were put in place.  In June, the work would start on establishing a help line for victims of violence, led by the Ombudsmen.  Violence was considered domestic violence even if couple was not officially married.

A law had been adopted on the protection of breastfeeding and the reduction of the marketing of infant food.  All children from grade one to grade four received food from school cafeterias; $10 million had been earmarked for this activity.  A United Nations World Food Programme project started to support the transition of 250 schools to the provision of hot meals; currently, 134 schools provided hot meals.

The 2012-2016 State programme to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS provided methodological support to health centres, social workers and people living with HIV/AIDS and their families.  The Law on HIV/AIDS stipulated the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS and aimed to remove stigma against them; the violation of medical secrets was sanctioned by the Criminal Code.  Children with HIV/AIDS received monthly allowances.  The 2014 Law guaranteed confidentiality to children with HIV/AIDS by considering them in the same group with children suffering from other diseases, such as cerebral palsy, and considered them all as children with restricted abilities.  The law also changed the procedure for requesting the monthly allowance.  Maternal mortality was due to poverty, migration and non-qualified medical assistance.  The Ministry of Health was carrying out initiatives to reduce anaemia amongst women and children, but those programmes were underfunded.  A programme 2013-2017 planned improvements in 11 boarding institutions; it was also planned to reduce by 3 per cent per year the number of children in those institutions and to ensure that they went back to their families.

Kyrgyzstan was not in a position to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the moment, but the commitment was there and it would be done eventually.  Kyrgyzstan had developed the National Strategy for Gender Parity 2020 and the National Action Plan which aimed to ensure the equality of rights for all without distinction, through appropriate education, eliminating gender discrimination, access of women to courts and promoting gender mainstreaming in decisions concerning political and public participation of women.  The Ministry of Social Development was the body in charge of gender equality. 

Questions from Experts

In a further series of questions and comments, a Committee Expert asked about the situation of unregistered marriages, in particular with regard to the dissolution of the union and access to social services for the children if the father emigrated.  Were there any intentions to establish social protection floors and were there contacts with the International Labour Organization in this regard? 

The delegation was asked about education and access to school for foreign children, the pollution, definition of family, poverty and regional disparities in development, and why only 40 per cent of the population with disability received general social benefits but not disability benefits. 

Response from the Delegation

Measures were in place to improve inter-ethnic relations based on the principle of the commitment to democratic values and the sense of statehood and territorial unity, recognizing diversity in unity, and cultural diversity and heritage of all.  The Constitution said that the State language was Kirgiz, and Russian could be used alongside it; all ethnic minorities had the right to use and be educated in their mother tongues.  Kirgiz, Russian, Uzbek and Tajik were the languages used in schools.

Women had the same rights in registered and unregistered marriages.  It was at the discretion of the court to decide whether to allow divorce proceedings for the dissolution of unregistered marriages.  With regard to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, the delegation stressed that discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation was prohibited.

Concluding Remarks

ASLAN ABASHIDZE, Committee Expert acting as a Country Rapporteur, emphasized that all the questions aimed to understand the situation and how improvements could be made in compliance with the Covenant.  Those questions should be discussed in Kyrgyzstan, which had an open and engaged society.

BAKTYBEK ZHEKSHENOV, Official Secretary of the Ministry of Social Development of Kyrgyzstan, thanked the Committee Experts for their understanding and support and said that the Committee’s concluding observations would provide new impetus in pursuing the work in the country.  The dialogue would be an important landmark on its path to improve the human rights system and Kyrgyzstan would continue to provide a follow up: this was a long and complex process which required involvement of all levels and groups in the society.  Unfortunately, the time available for replies was not sufficient and this should be taken into consideration by the Committee for future reference.  Kyrgyzstan was ensuring to bring its legislation and practices in conformity with the letter and the spirit of the International Covenant.

WALEED SADI, Committee Chairperson, also thanked the delegation for their efforts in explaining Kyrgyzstan’s commitment under the Covenant.  The majority-women delegation was a signal about the situation of women in the country, which was an important aspect for the Committee.  The concluding observations should be carefully considered by the Government at all levels and made relevant because they would point out the lingering omissions in the system. 

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