https://central.asia-news.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_ca/features/2018/08/15/feature-02
| Crime & Justice

Kazakhstan launches crime victims' compensation fund

By Ksenia Bondal

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Inmates in Almaty Province stand outside in March 2008. [Vladimir Tretyakov]

ALMATY -- Kazakhstan has launched a compensation fund for the victims of crimes, made up in part by contributions from convicted criminals.

Starting on July 1, individuals convicted of criminal offences began contributing to the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund, according to a July 26 statement from Kazakhstan's Prosecutor General's Office.

The fund is aimed at supporting victims who incur a financial loss as a result of a crime but are unable to receive reimbursement, either because the perpetrator is unknown or hiding from justice, said the statement.

Compensation from the fund will come in the form of a one-time payout to members of four high-priority groups: minors who are victims of sexual violence; victims of human trafficking or torture; those who incur serious harm to their health or become infected with human immunodeficiency virus as a result of a crime; and the legal representatives of deceased victims.

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Women in a prison colony in Karaganda Province perform work in July 2015 during an open house for journalists. [Vladimir Tretyakov]

Convicted criminals will be required to pay between 12,000 and 72,000 KZT ($34 to $207), based on the severity of their crimes.

Other income for the fund comes from fines for civil violations and from money deducted from the wages of convicts carrying out correctional labour.

The fund will receive more than 1 billion KZT ($2.9 million) each year, estimates the Prosecutor General's Office.

Although the Prosecutor General's Office developed the project, the Finance Ministry will implement it.

Collecting funds from convicts

The fund will be used to protect victim's rights, Amanjol Mukhamedyarov, an attorney with the Astana Bar Association, told Caravanserai.

"The Prosecutor General's Office authored the bill," he said. "Discussion began in 2016. In December 2017, the Senate ratified the document, and in January this year [President Nursultan Nazarbayev] signed the bill ... into law."

The first payouts will go out starting July 1, 2020, Mukhamedyarov said.

The state will not spend any money to support the fund, and it will not depend on the state budget, said Mukhamedyarov, adding that none of the funds will go into the state treasury; all funds will accrue toward victim compensation.

"At the initial stage, the Prosecutor General's Office needs to exercise particular oversight over all the work the fund does, meaning collecting money from convicts, making payouts and making sure that victims are promptly recognised as such," said the attorney.

Even after receiving compensation from the fund, a victim may sue his or her offender for full reimbursement for moral damages, as well as for the victim's legal expenses, added Mukhamedyarov.

Helping victims

Such compensation funds already exist in the United States and Australia for those hit by violent crime, according to Anna Gusarova, director of the Almaty-based Central Asia Institute for Strategic Studies.

"The idea of creating a crime victim compensation fund in Kazakhstan is a good one because the victims have to be helped," said Gusarova. "And making all criminals pay is logical because if funds were collected selectively, then questions would arise concerning the fairness of the measure."

However, the 2 billion KZT (almost $5.8 million) that the state intends to collect over the next two years might be insufficient to compensate the target groups indicated, she pointed out.

Nevertheless, it is very good that the Prosecutor General's Office will monitor all activities performed by the fund, she said.

"If, however, a given convict has no money to collect, the payments he [or she] fails to make will accumulate as a debt that later on [the convict] will have to pay," said Gusarova.

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