Corruption in Kyrgyzstan is entrenched in many sectors of the economy, yet since the popular uprising in 2010 and the election of a new government in 2011, there have been successful reform efforts to promote transparency.
Kyrgyzstan has functioning legal provisions on the protection of witnesses, victims, and persons reporting corruption, guaranteed by the 2006 Law on Witness Protection. The law “On corruption prevention,” in effect from August 2012, contains essential definitions and provisions relevant to identifying and preventing corruption in private and public sectors. The law “On counteraction of corruption” contains the list of law violations that may be identified as corruption and punished accordingly.
Protection of whistleblowers
The Kyrgyz law “On counteraction of corruption” contains the definition of the term ‘whistleblower’ and sets minimal protections for persons assisting with exposure of the facts of corruption. And on January 28th, 2019, the law “On the protection of persons reporting corruption-related violations” was adopted. In essence, it is a law aimed at the protection of the rights and freedoms of whistleblowers, setting the legal basis for the protection of whistleblowers against retaliation. The newly adopted law sets a reward for whistleblowers that varies depending on the amount of assets recovered thanks to the disclosure of information by a whistleblower. However, the mechanisms for the realization of all provisions contained in the law are not yet fully realized.
Case study: retaliation against a civil servant
Anara Mambetalieva worked as a press-secretary of the State Inspection on Ecological and Technical Safety. She lost her job after she publicly stated about corruption in the office of her immediate management. According to Mambetalieva, she had sufficient proof of bribing and appropriation of state funds at the Inspection. The public supported her online, and more allegations of corruption at the State Inspection followed. The case is ongoing, as the story received significant resonance in the media, and gained additional support from civil society activists.
Case study: corruption at borders
In November 2019 lieutenant colonel of Osh regional border control at the “Dostuk” checkpoint Talgat Alanov gave a press conference about corruption at the border control service in Kyrgystan. He told about positions and job transfers being sold, about incidents of corruption at “Irkeshtam” and “Dostuk” checkpoints, providing names of his corrupt colleagues including the head of the “Dostuk” checkpoint.
After the press-conference Alanov informed that he was being threatened by phone, while his management started to mistreat him at work. Alanov asked for President`s support and tried to meet with him. The President was out of the country, but Alanov managed to meet with the head of Security Council.
State border service filed to the military prosecutor`s office as they believed Alanov did not have the right to reveal the information at the press-conference as it is the violation of the military charter. Moreover, 5 colleagues of the lieutenant colonel, who were mentioned at the press-conference, filed against him to the court for the harm done to their honor and dignity.
The first court hearing happened on February 28, 2020, where Alanov defended himself in court as he didn`t have money to pay for the defender. Next hearing is scheduled for March 5, 2020. The head of Security Council of Kyrgyzstan promised to take control of Alanov`s allegations and provide him with support.
Police corruption in Kyrgyzstan
Former lieutenant colonel of police Tenizbay Asanov made a video where he revealed corruption in the police of Kyrgyzstan after he was pensioned out. He mentioned that the positions were being sold, many of his colleagues took bribes and the resources were misused. He believed that the management was scared of him as he didn`t take bribes and was an honest policeman and that`s why he was dismissed from the service to retirement. On July 23, 2019, the video was published on an online platform.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kyrgyzstan commented that all Asanov`s arguments were not proven and he was dismissed to retirement due to age. However, the information regarding the misuse of resources and corruption is being investigated by the State Committee on National Security.
Nepotism at Kyrgyz railroads
On February 26, 2020, a group of colleagues together with the ex-colleague Meder Kachiyev from the paramilitary security of the Kyrgyz railway roads company “Kyrgyz temir zholu” had a press-conference, where they demanded the dismissal of their head Nurlan Tamayev.
Meder Kachiyev claimed that since Tamayev was appointed as the head of security in 2018 the atmosphere in the company has become much worse: Tamayev started to force people to quit, and many people were dismissed, while he hired new people with no experience, requesting 500 USD per position. The whistleblowers said that they also addressed this issue to different structures including the Transport Prosecutor’s office, but their investigation resulted only in the Tamayev`s reprimand one month afterwards.
Tamayev called the whistleblowers “rigid violators” and said that Meder Kachiyev had resentment for his dismissal and that`s why he criticized the head of the paramilitary security. The workers of the paramilitary security hope that after the press-conference the new investigation regarding corruption of their head Nurlan Tamayev will start and they will be protected at the workplace.
Corruption amid the COVID-19 pandemic
Doctor Bektur Apyshev works in Ysyk-Ata Center of Family Medicine in Kyrgyzstan. On April 10, 2020, on his Twitter account, he posted a message about the absence of individual protection for doctors in the hospital and showed a photo of a face mask made from gauze, which is not enough for working with COVID-19 patients. He also informed about the absence of proper transportation for medical staff and about being pressured. After these tweets were published, the doctor had to go to the chief doctor of the hospital for a talk, and afterward, the tweets and then the account of Apyshev were deleted. Then, a video with doctor Apyshev apologizing for providing allegedly inaccurate information about individual protection appeared online.
Civil society activists and some Kyrgyz MPs believe that the whistleblower was pressured by the State Committee for National Security of Kyrgyzstan. Society supports the doctor and criticizes the pressure from the authorities on the medical staff during the COVID-19 pandemic as currently 79 out of 400 infected with COVID-19 in Kyrgyzstan are medical workers. Kyrgyz MP Dastan Bekeshev drafted the resolution ‘On the pressure on medical workers’, which will let the Prosecutor’s office check the activities of the State Committee for National Security in situations like with doctor Apyshev. Moreover, Mr. Bekeshev has already sent a request to the Prosecutor’s office regarding public humiliation of the whistleblower. In the meantime, Kyrgyz citizens continue to support doctor Apyshev by using the hashtag #BekTur in social media.
"They had to wash disposable protective suits": a case of gross neglect during a pandemic
Kyrgyz human rights activist Kamil Ruziyev published a post on his Facebook page on April 12, 2020, on behalf of the Karakol State Epidemiological Center staff, who claimed they were not given individual protection means.
Medical staff reported that they had to wash their disposable protective suits and use one respirator by rotation. The whistleblowers also said that the chief medical officer Nurkemel Bekturov was not issuing protective suits for staff members, who made disinfection, ignored their complaints and threatened them with dismissal, took 200 masks home and sold disinfecting liquid to private individuals.
Mr. Bekturov denied all accusations and said the center had everything needed for medical staff protection in stock. However, the Karakol Prosecutor`s office started the investigation as well as the Ministry of Health of Kyrgyzstan.
A worker reporting lack of PPE in Blagoveschenka
A policeman, whose name is not mentioned, from Blagoveschenka village, Suzak district, Kyrgyzstan, was fired in April 2020 after he made a video reporting about lack of protective suits for police officers at the checkpoints. In the video he said that they were given 1 disposable mask, a pair of gloves and a sanitizer per shift and also informed that instead of feeding them 3 times per day they are being fed only once.
Three days afterwards the policeman was called to the police administration office of Dzhalal-Abad region, where he found out that the internal investigation against him had started and he was dismissed. He didn`t receive a copy of investigation results and doesn`t agree with his dismissal. The whistleblower is planning to go to court.
The police administration refuted the information in the video and said that this police officer had a night shift, when there was minimal contact with citizens, so protective suits were not needed. Although by May 5, 2020, 27 police officers were diagnosed with COVID-19 out of 843 cases in Kyrgyzstan. Police representative said that the policeman violated the police charter and that`s why he was dismissed.
A doctor reports lack of PPE in Isfana
Minovar Kamilova is a doctor at the Family Medical Center #1 in Isfana, Kyrgyzstan. On April 13, 2020 she published a video on Facebook, where she complained about the lack of individual protection for medical staff in the hospital. The head of the Family Medical Center #1 Uchkun Ergeshov said that he had a conversation with Ms. Kamilova and she informed that the video was shot upon the request of Kamilova`s daughters, who work in a charity fund in the US and wanted to help. And in several days the hospital received 104 protective suits and 110 protective shields from the Kyrgyz community in the US.
The Ministry of Health, vice Prime-Minister Kubatbek Boronov and the authorities of the Bakent region refuted information about lack of individual protection, saying that all of the local hospitals are equipped with everything needed and if they lack something, they should ask the Ministry of Health for it. During the coronavirus situation meeting on April 18 Mr. Boronov also mentioned that they check all the complaints from doctors and eliminate these issues.
It is not the only complaint from doctors regarding the lack of protection, especially after more than 100 medical staff got infected with COVID-19 in Kyrgyzstan.
Misuse of PPE reported in Jalal-Abad
On April 4, 2020, 5 medical workers from Ala-Buka district hospital in Jalal-Abad region of Kyrgyzstan made a video, where they accused the hospital management of getting infected with COVID-19 at work. One of the whistleblowers Buvaida Temiraliyeva informed that on March 23, 2020, the hospital received several COVID-19 patients, who had just returned from the small hadj. She said that the masks and the suits they were given were not suitable for working with COVID-19 patients and they had to wash the same suits to wear them next day. When they asked the management for the proper protection means, they were told to ‘shut up and work’. Also they had to use the same restroom as the patients.
Another whistleblower Kalyskan Askaraliyeva claimed that the hospital was not ready for COVID-19 patients and she had to spend more than one hour with them before the separate room for them was ready. The third whistleblower Altynay Kurbanova said that she contacted with the patients for more than 3 hours in the suit, which did not correspond to safety regulations, and afterwards she was not allowed to change the suit for the dinner.
The investigation by the Ministry of Health of Kyrgyzstan has started. The head doctor of the hospital Baktygul Alibayeva was dismissed from her position. The vice Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov promised that all the infected medical workers would receive 200,000 som (approx. USD 2,700) of compensation, and in case of death the family would get 1 mln (approx. USD 13,350).
Exposing an outbreak of police violence
A woman from Kara-Suu town of Osh region Mukhayo Abduzhaparova made a video, where she referred to the President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Zheenbekov. She said that her husband Mamirzhan Tashmatov was beaten up by the police officers on May 2, 2020. He went to the small shop and saw that the policeman was verbally abusing the female seller, and Tashmatov shot it on his phone. The policeman noticed it and told his colleagues to take Tashmatov to the police station. On the way to the police station Tashmatov was beaten by the policemen, who forced him to delete the video. Afterwards they brought him home. The whistleblower claimed her husband recorded his beating on his voice recorder.
The next day Tashmatov went to the hospital, because he felt bad after being beaten up. The medical workers reported to the police about the patient being beaten. The policemen came to the Tashmatov family`s house and started questioning why he went to the hospital. The whistleblower was scared that her husband could be detained and he was the only breadwinner of the family with 4 small children. That`s why she made the video for the President, so this policemen’s arbitrariness would be stopped.
The representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Osh region Zhenish Ashyrbayev disproved any allegations against police officers brought by the whistleblower.