In Kyrgyzstan, it is necessary to create legal and institutional barriers in order to stop the practice of using the State Committee for National Security by politicians as an instrument of political influence, mentioned Tansuluu Matieva, a member of the school of analytics CABAR.asia.
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A brief overview of the article:
- The State Committee for National Security of the Kyrgyz Republic possesses great powers.
- During the years of independence, attempts have already been made to reform the national security sector of the Kyrgyz Republic.
- However, all these attempts were unsuccessful, the security agencies of the Kyrgyz Republic remained as an instrument of political influence.
- It is necessary to reconsider the role and powers of the president in the system of security agencies and to resolve issues of accountability of power structures.
On December 24, 2020, during a press conference, Kamchybek Tashiev,
Chairman of the State Committee for National Security (SCNS) of the Kyrgyz Republic, announced the initiation of a criminal case against the Chairman of the Supreme Court Gulnara Kaliyeva on corruption in the development and implementation of the automated information system “Local Court”.
The fact that the State Committee for National Security has initiated a case against the highest official of the Supreme Court speaks of the degree of influence of this state power structure. Note that for many countries, including countries with developed democracies, such an event would be unprecedented. So, what is the State Committee for National Security in reality, the reform of which is so often discussed in Kyrgyzstan?
What is the State Committee for National Security?
The State Committee for National Security is the executive body of the Kyrgyz Republic. It is designed to prevent damage to the security of the Kyrgyz Republic and to fight against and prevent any encroachments on the constitutional order, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the country. The area of the SCNS’s activities includes intelligence and counterintelligence activities, the fight against terrorism, the anti-corruption service, information security, the border service, fight against highly dangerous forms of crime and other functions determined by the legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic.
The State Committee for National Security has the right of investigation and inquiry, it can carry out domestic intelligence activities and arrests in the measure established by law. Whatever functions and rights the SCNS has, its work should be based on the principles of legality, transparency, respect for the individual, rights and freedoms.
However, it is doubtful that the employees of the State Committee for National Security adhere to these principles in their work. The committee’s effectiveness in ensuring safety is also questionable.
However, no one doubts that the committee is a state structure, which is fully controlled by the president.
The State Committee for National Security needs reforms, personnel, structural, functional changes are needed. But most importantly, all these changes must comply with the democratic principles of state governance and should not counterbalance them.
Attempts to reform the national security sector.
During the years of independence, attempts have already been made to reform the national security sector of the Kyrgyz Republic. However, all these attempts were declarative and did not bring with them serious changes in the activities of the committee, except for new names. In 1991, by decree of President Askar Akaev, the KGB of the Kyrgyz SSR was transformed into the State Committee for National Security of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan (since 1993 of the Kyrgyz Republic). In certain years it bore the name of the ministry, the national security service, in 2010 it was again renamed to – committee.
More noticeable changes were introduced after 2010, when the new Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic was adopted. The role of parliament in overseeing the activities of the security agencies was strengthened, and parliamentary committees were established to oversee the work of the executive branch. In February, public councils were formed in state bodies, which were supposed to provide public control over the activities of security structures, and in 2014, public councils were legalized by the law “On public councils of state bodies”.
In 2011, by decree of President Almazbek Atambayev, an anti-corruption service was created under the State Committee for National Security, and a war on corruption was declared. In 2012, the border service was separated from the SCNS (in October 2020, the border service was again returned to the jurisdiction of the SCNS).
However, the reforms after the 2010 revolution also did not bring tangible results since they were only formally implemented. The power structures are still ineffective, secret, and not accountable to the public.
Why did the reforms fail?
During the Soviet era, security agencies were formed and developed as an instrument of supreme political power.
The main goals they pursued were the preservation of Soviet power and the elimination of any form of dissent, the suppression of anti-Soviet activities. They obeyed the Central Committee of the Communist Party and carried out its political orders, eliminating opposition forces.
Since gaining independence, the security agencies of the Kyrgyz Republic have remained an instrument of political influence of the ruling elite. During the time of the first two presidents Askar Akayev and Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the security organs were the main mechanisms of pressure on the opposition-minded part of the population.
Political persecution and arrests of oppositionists, journalists and civil activists have intensified during Bakiyev’s presidency. After 2010, regulatory changes were introduced to the principles of the SCNS, but in fact they remained the same.
Personnel policy based on personal interests.
Political actors, presidents, also created personnel barriers to the implementation of reforms. Since 1991, dozens of chairmen of the State Committee for National Security have been replaced. The average duration of their service did not exceed two years. The leaders of the State Committee for National Security have been changed for two reasons:
First, the security sector has a wide and rather large structure. Politicians feared that sector leaders would build a wide network of supporters and that such support would be used against their regime.
Secondly, the presidents quickly removed the chairmen of the State Committee for National Security, who began to resist and replaced them with new ones, more faithful and loyal.
The tradition of managing the security sector inherited from the Soviet Union and the abuse of their position as leaders of the state made it impossible to implement the necessary reforms in the State Committee for National Security.
What should be considered when reforming the work of the State Committee for National Security?
Security sector reforms in the Kyrgyz Republic have been unsuccessful so far.
Security sector reforms in the Kyrgyz Republic have been unsuccessful so far. They will be effective only if they are aimed at achieving two basic conditions:
- it is necessary to create legal and institutional barriers to end the practice of using the State Committee for National Security as an instrument of political influence.
- It is necessary to guarantee that the employees of the State Committee for National Security will follow the principles of legality, transparency, respect for the individual, rights and freedoms, not only formally, but also in fact.
To achieve the fulfillment of these two conditions, it is necessary to reconsider the role and powers of the president in the system of security agencies and resolve issues of accountability of the security forces. When it comes to the structural organization of security agencies, the President of the Kyrgyz Republic stands at the top. The powers of the president include the appointment of the heads of the security agencies. The President defines the main strategic tasks to be performed by the security agencies and exercises leadership over them.
First of all, it is necessary to ensure that any appointments to higher positions do not violate the principles of power-sharing and comply with the system of checks and balances. According to the legislation, the President of the Kyrgyz Republic appoints and dismisses the chairman of the State Committee for National Security.
But in world practice, appointment procedures are fundamentally different.
Since the security organs are state structures of the executive branch, they are appointed by the head of the executive branch, but at the same time they are approved only with the consent of members of parliament and representatives of the people.
In the United States, the heads of power structures are appointed by the president, since he is the head of the executive branch, but on a mandatory basis with the consent of the Senate. In France, which has a semi-presidential form of government as in Kyrgyzstan, the heads of the security forces are appointed by the president, but only on the proposal of a prime minister, who is loyal to the parliament. In Kyrgyzstan, on the other hand, the president is not the head of the executive branch, and for the appointment of the heads of the security agencies, submissions from the prime minister, who is the head of the executive branch, are not required for him.
Secondly, if the president defines the main strategies for the functioning of the security agencies, exercises leadership over them, then parliamentary and civilian control over the activities of the security agencies must be exercised. The accountability of security agencies to the public sector (parliament and civil society) is a prerequisite, which guarantees compliance with the principles of legality, transparency, respect for the individual, rights and freedoms. In Kyrgyzstan, it has traditionally developed that state security agencies are accountable to the institution of the president, and the control of the parliament and the civil sector over them is clearly insufficient.
There is a widespread misconception that national security policy is a natural task for the executive branch. Parliament is generally viewed as a less suitable institution for dealing with the security of a nation, especially given its often time-consuming procedures and lack of full access to the necessary expertise and information. But in fact, the participation of parliament in decision-making on national security is necessary for the transparency, openness, and legitimacy of the processes. Parliament must ensure that the activities of the security structures do not conflict with the state’s constitution. If we refer to world practice, the passivity of the parliament in ensuring control over the security agencies leads to a deterioration in the efficiency of their work, to the emergence of risks of corruption and nepotism in them.
According to the legislation, the parliament must oversee the activities of the security agencies in the Kyrgyz Republic. However, two factors prevent the representatives of the people from effectively checking the work of the State Committee for National Security.
The first factor, the Jogorku Kenesh, the parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic, does not pay due attention to its oversight functions. MPs of the Kyrgyz Republic are focused on initiating and promoting bills, as it is believed that the more bills a deputy initiates, the more effective their activities are.
The problem of quantitatively assessing one’s effectiveness, instead of qualitatively performing all three functions – representative, legislative, control – is a ballast that pulls parliament down.
The second factor is the absence of a committee in parliament that would be focused exclusively on overseeing the State Committee for National Security. Formally, there are two committees in the parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic that are engaged in the control of special services: The Committee on International Affairs, Defense and Security and the Committee on Law Enforcement, Combating Crime and Combating Corruption.
Nevertheless, according to experts, such a division only leads to a diffusion of attention, one committee shifts the responsibility of control to another. In 2018, several MPs initiated a bill to create a committee that would specialize in overseeing the State Committee for National Security, but this bill was never passed by the Jogorku Kenesh.
Control of the civil sector
Parliamentary control over the activities of security agencies is not enough. Security forces can be a source of protection for population and an instrument of stability, or a source of instability and abuse. Civil institutions are just needed in order to prevent abuse by security agencies. But in Kyrgyzstan, civilian control over the State Committee for National Security is not exercised due to the absolute secrecy of its work.
Surely, in every country there are certain limits on the openness of power structures for reasons of protecting national security. However, their excessive secrecy makes it impossible to exercise civilian control, which deprives these state bodies of recommendations for increasing productivity and efficiency.
The lack of access by the civil sector to issues related to national security is also due to the low trust of state structures in non-governmental organizations.
Non-governmental organizations are perceived as a threat to the country’s independence and sovereignty, and their activities are sometimes seen as espionage. In 2020, MPs initiated a bill to strengthen control over non-profit organizations, which received a flurry of criticism from the public. Experts believe that the bill was aimed at increasing pressure on nongovernmental organizations that monitor the public sector.
Additional recommendations for reforming the State Committee for National Security
In this article, only general principles were mentioned that should be considered when reforming the national security system of the Kyrgyz Republic and its main body, the State Committee for National Security. The national security sector needs more in-depth study and monitoring. Additionally, the principles of internal governance in the security bodies should be reviewed.
To date, the organizational structure of the State Committee for National Security and other security agencies is built on the basis of strong-willed, often personal management decisions of the leadership, which negatively affects the efficiency of work. The organizational culture of any government body should be based on the adopted strategic objectives and goals, and work on established principles.
However, even if the reforms are consistent with the basic principles mentioned in this article, then without the lack of independence of judges, it is impossible to guarantee their sustainability. An independent judiciary is the foundation for the sustainability of all reforms. But this issue requires a separate study with a more in-depth analysis.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project.
 Aizada Kadyrova, “European Union Support for Security Sector Reform in Kyrgyzstan,” EUCAM, July 20,2020, https://eucentralasia.eu/2019/07/eu-support-for-security-sector-reform-in-kyrgyzstan/
 Aida Alymbaeva, Almanac 2012: Governance and Security Sector Reform in Kyrgyzstan. Geneva-Bishkek: Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), 2013, https://dcaf.ch/sites/default/files/publications/documents/SDM_4RU_Kyrgyz_Almanac.pdf
 Analysis of the legislative activity of the Jogorku Kenesh of the VI convocation, Civil Platform, https://platforma.kg/our-priorities/parliamentarism-in-kr/analiz-zakonodatelnoj-deyatelnosti-zhogorku-kenesha-vi-sozyva/
 Nurzhan Toktonazarova, “It was proposed in Kyrgyzstan to establish parliamentary control over the State Committee for National Security,” Radio Azattyk, June 13,2018, https://rus.azattyk.org/a/kyrgyzstan_parliament_national_securite_committee/29288284.html
 Bakyt Torogeldi uulu, “Will there be more control over NPOs? The controversial law approved by parliament in the second reading,” Radio Azattyk, June 19,2020, https://rus.azattyk.org/a/30679046.html
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