ASTANA -- Concerned about increasing incidents of terrorism and violent extremism in Kazakhstan, officials and analysts are discussing strengthening the rule of law and protecting human rights.
"The number of criminal offenses related to extremism and terrorism is continuing to grow in Kazakhstan," said Azamat Shambilov, Central Asian regional director for Penal Reform International.
"There were 154 [such cases] registered in 2014, 327 in 2015 and 554 in 2016," he told Caravanserai.
The rule of law and observance of human rights are integral to fighting terrorism and extremism, said Zhambyl-based lawyer and public defender Aidos Otorbekov.
"Experts across the world recognise that officials' violations of human rights, creation of loopholes in the law and violations of the law catalyse social radicalisation, which leads to terrorism," he told Caravanserai.
Kazakhstan is "taking measures to strengthen the rule of law as the core principle of law and order and improving means of combatting extremism and terrorism", he added.
As part of the country's 2017-2020 State Programme to counter religious extremism and terrorism, Astana hosted a two-day seminar earlier this month on strengthening rule of law as it pertains to terrorism.
More than 30 practitioners from the judiciary, law enforcement agencies and prison management participated in the October 4-5 seminar, according to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which organised the event with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Criminal justice scholars spoke about the legal parameters and practices that Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom, the United States and Kazakhstan have developed in this regard.
"It is no secret that the internet is a key channel for radicalisation, especially among youth," said Nail Akhmetzakirov, acting rector of the Academy of Law Enforcement Agencies under the General Prosecutor's Office of Kazakhstan.
"Therefore, we understand that the effectiveness of our fight against terrorism depends upon the level of co-operation of all law enforcement bodies and their ability to see the big picture in all spheres affected by terrorism," he said according to the OSCE.
"To effectively combat terrorism, governments need to employ a multifaceted approach that utilises all of the best practices for law enforcement, prosecution and the judicial process," said Colin McCullough, political officer at the OSCE Programme Office in Astana, according to the OSCE.
"This will best ensure that the rights of the innocent are protected, and it will instill faith in the public that the justice system will protect them and their rights," he said.
Speakers and participants stressed the need to develop effective prison and rehabilitation policy for convicted extremists, and also the importance of protecting all sides involved in terrorism cases.