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U.S. Department of State
1997 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, March 1998

United States Department of State

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs


Europe and Central Asia

UZBEKISTAN

I. Summary

Uzbekistan is part of an important transshipment route for Southwest Asian narcotics heading for Russia and Europe. While the government continues to profess its commitment to the fight against drugs, it made virtually no progress on counternarcotics legislation or a counternarcotics master plan in 1997. Law enforcement agencies seized some two and a half tons of illicit narcotics, but their efforts are hampered by limited resources and a lack of coordination among the various agencies assigned counternarcotics responsibilities. The Government of Uzbekistan (GOU) is talking about devoting additional resources to demand reduction, but education programs are in their infancy and treatment has not advanced beyond Soviet methods. A party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, Uzbekistan is trying to expand cooperation with the United Nations, the United States, and other western countries.

II. Status of Country

Uzbekistan is part of an attractive and increasingly important transshipment route for opium and cannabis products moving from southwest Asia toward Russia and Europe. Precursor chemicals which originate in Russia, Ukraine, and east Asia also move through the country to heroin laboratories in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Uzbekistan was formerly a moderate producer of opium poppies, but government programs have all but eradicated the crop in recent years.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

Policy Initiatives/Accomplishments. Uzbekistan took no significant counternarcotics policy initiatives in 1997. The country also made no progress in developing a counternarcotics master plan. Amendments to narcotics-related sections of the criminal codes as well as a separate "law on narcotics," remain in the drafting stage. Current Uzbek legislation meets the basic requirements of the 1988 UN Drug Convention, in that illicit cultivation, production, sales distribution, and transport are properly criminalized. However, money laundering legislation and extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties are non-existent, and asset seizure regulations are vague. Moreover, Uzbek counternarcotics laws, like much of the criminal code, fall short of international standards on such issues as due process.

There are currently three UNDCP projects operating in Uzbekistan. The first is a regional project (also involving Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) attempting to improve interdiction along a key trafficking route into Uzbekistan's Fergana Valley. The second is an institution-building project, attempting to establish a separate National Drug Intelligence Unit. The final project is providing support to Uzbekistan Institute of Genetics efforts to create an effective opium-poppy-specific pathogen.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Uzbekistan's various law enforcement agencies seized 2.5 million metric tons of illicit drugs in 1997, roughly three-fourths of it opium. This represents a considerable decline from the more than seven tons seized last year, but the decline is probably attributable more to the absence of any one large seizure than to any decline in trafficking activity or effectiveness in Uzbek law enforcement efforts. The closure of the Uzbek-Afghan border at Termez because of fighting in northern Afghanistan may also have contributed to the decline.

Three separate agencies--the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), the National Security Service (NSS), and the State Customs Committee--have responsibilities for various aspects of counternarcotics activities. Each of these agencies has a professional cadre of officers and sections that focus on narcotics. In the MVD, for example, 150 officers work in the counternarcotics department. Interdiction efforts are mostly at border inspection points. Authorities use dogs, and have military helicopters available to assist in interdiction and eradication efforts.

However, all of these entities suffer from resource constraints, and, since none actually specializes in counternarcotics operations--the NSS is a National Intelligence and Security Service, the MVD, a National Police Force, and Customs concentrates more on collecting taxes and duties and preventing the import of illegal food, alcohol, and tobacco than on drugs--counternarcotics efforts rarely receive sufficient funding. Also, outside of the counternarcotic-specific subsections, many law enforcement officers have multiple responsibilities and lack adequate knowledge of drug control procedures.

Moreover, couternarcotics efforts are sometimes hamstrung by rivalry, mistrust, and lack of coordination among these agencies. A National Drug Information Analytical Center, established to coordinate these diffuse efforts, has not been able to compel the other agencies to cooperate, and has at times become merely a fourth competing counternarcotics entity.

In August, the Customs Service received an increase in status with the establishment of an independent State Customs Committee. Previously, Customs had been under the State Tax Committee. In early 1997, the Customs Service opened its own dog training center in Tashkent. The center has so far trained a handful of GOU dogs and their handlers. Eventually, the Uzbeks would like the center to serve the entire region.

Corruption. Uzbekistan has laws against corruption, but none specifically targeting narcotics-related corruption. There were no major narcotics-related corruption cases in 1997. Customs and, to a lesser extent, the MVD have reputations for corruption. Law enforcement officials' low salaries--which are often received several months late--make them susceptible to bribery and other forms of corruption.

Agreements and Treaties. Uzbekistan is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Uzbekistan and the United States signed a Letter of Agreement for provision of USG counternarcotics assistance in December 1997. The United States has no Extradition or Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with Uzbekistan, but a precedent has been established for cooperation in the apprehension of Uzbek fugitives in the United States. One case involved an FBI task force which targetted a Russian organized crime group and identified two Uzbek fugitives involved in visa fraud. Further investigation revealed that the two were fugitives from justice in Uzbekistan where they were wanted for more serious crimes. Police officials from Uzbekistan traveled to the United States to observe the arrest, and to participate in court proceedings.

The GOU did not sign counternarcotics agreements with any other countries in 1997. An EU/TACIS delegation traveled to Uzbekistan in the Spring of 1997 to explore opportunities for counternarcotics assistance. Although no agreements have yet been reached, some EU counternarcotics programs are likely to begin in 1998. A narcotics liaison officer from the German Federal Police arrived in Tashkent in October; he will be the first professional narcotics liaison officer from any country to be based in central Asia. The United Kingdom also appears likely to step up its counternarcotics assistance.

Cultivation and Production. Until the mid 1990's, Uzbekistan produced a moderate opium crop, mostly in the Samarkand region near the border with Tajikistan. GOU eradication efforts have been very successful in recent years, and today only small, scattered plots remain. Uzbekistan's "Operation Black Poppy-97" eradicated 3.7 hectares of opium poppy and 0.5 hectares of cannabis.

Drug Flow/Transit. Uzbekistan sits astride several routes through which southwest Asian opium and cannabis reach Russia and Europe. The level of drug trafficking remained steady, or perhaps even increased slightly, in 1997.

Currently, the key route from Afghanistan is via the Gorno-Badakhshan region of Tajikistan, through Osh in Kyrgyzstan, and on into eastern Uzbekistan's Andijon region. A secondary route from Afghanistan, but one of growing significance, is through Turkmenistan, with the drugs generally entering Uzbekistan through the lightly guarded Bukhara region. The direct route across the Afghan-Uzbek border through the city of Termez has become less appealing to traffickers now that the GOU, driven by concerns about fighting in northern Afghanistan, has tightened security along that border, effectively closing it. However, the concentration of resources along the Uzbek-Afghan border has left the other border crossings even more vulnerable. All of these drug trafficking routes continue from Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan and Russia.

In addition to this southwest Asian traffic, narcotics grown in Tajikistan also transit Uzbekistan en route to Russia. The main growing area in Tajikistan is located just across the border from Uzbekistan, and there have been numerous seizures along that border, particularly near the towns of Urgut and Sariasia. In addition, Uzbek transport police regularly apprehend drug smugglers on the Dushanbe-Moscow train.

In recent years, a reverse traffic in chemical precursors has begun to appear in Uzbekistan. These chemicals transit Uzbekistan en route from plants in Russia, Ukraine and east Asia to laboratories in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Demand Reduction. Although GOU officials have begun to publicly call for increased attention to be paid to the problem of drug abuse, Uzbekistan has been slow in establishing effective demand reduction programs. There is currently no anti-drug program in Uzbekistan's public schools, although service-oriented organizations like the Red Crescent and the Muslim Religious Board have been active in this area. Uzbekistan continues the Soviet practice of forced treatment of registered drug addicts. There is no accurate data on the number of drug abusers in Uzbekistan: there are roughly 17,000 addicts registered, but the UNDCP estimates that there are at least 200,000 users in the country.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. The United States continued its counternarcotics cooperation with Uzbekistan in 1997. In June 1997, the Uzbek Minister of Internal Affairs visited DEA headquarters and was briefed on regional narcotics production and trafficking activity. The USG provided audio-visual equipment to the dog training center. The Department of Agriculture signed an agreement with the Institute of Genetics providing support for its research into an opium-destroying pathogen.

The DEA conducted a basic drug enforcement seminar in Tashkent which was attended by 40 GOU officials, including representatives from all of the key counternarcotics agencies, in March. Another edition of this course, featuring 10 attendees each from four different central Asian states, was held in Budapest in May. Uzbek officials also attended DEA-sponsored Narcotics Management and Forensic Chemists' Seminars in Washington. Finally, the United States made earmarked contributions for Uzbekistan to the UNDCP.

The Road Ahead. The USG will continue to provide training and, where appropriate, equipment to the GOU to assist in its counternarcotics efforts. The USG will urge the GOU to improve the legal and legislative framework in this area. We will also, in concert with the UNDCP and other western donors, push the GOU to cooperate more closely with its central Asian neighbors and establish regional counternarcotics initiatives.

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