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UN Official Hopes Kazakhstan Will Improve Prison System

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak in Astana on September 29
UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak in Astana on September 29
ASTANA -- UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak says he hopes Kazakh authorities will stop "window dressing" the situation regarding the country's penitentiary system, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Nowak took part in a briefing in Astana on September 29 after a session called "Public Control over Kazakhstan's Penitentiary System."

Prominent Kazakh rights activist Vadim Kuramshin, who has worked on human rights in Kazakh jails, asked Nowak if he was aware of the extent of the preparation that took place in the prisons on the eve of visits by international observers.

"When you, Mr. Nowak, visited jail 166/10 in Astana last year, I was an inmate there," Kuramshin said. "Do you know how the jail's administration prepared for your visit then?"

Nowak said he had some information about the situation in the Kazakh jails and labor camps he visited last year.

He said he spoke to some inmates at the time and was told that they were forced to paint the walls, doors, windows, and gates in the prisons ahead of his visit.

Nowak added that he was aware of the fact that new beds, mattresses, pillows, and blankets were brought to the prisons and the inmates were not allowed to lie on the beds until the international delegations' visits ended.

He told RFE/RL that his mission in Kazakhstan last year was the hardest of all his missions. Despite attempts by the jails' administrations to conceal the real situation, he said, "I managed to talk to some inmates separately and they told me about beatings and abuse."

He added that he hopes Kazkahstan will stop playing games with me when we are working to prevent torture in prisons.

Sultan Kusetov, the chief of Kazakhstan's Committee for Control Of Penitentiaries (KUIS) who was present at Nowak's briefing, told journalists he sees nothing wrong with attempts by Kazakh prisons to "look better" for international delegations.

"Even when you expecting guests at your home, you clean your house and make it more attractive," Kusetov said. "So what is wrong with getting new furniture and cleaning the premises in jails."