01/21/2010, 00.00
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Torture in Uzbekistan: systematic and unpunished

Pro- rights groups denounced the systematic use of torture by police and officials to extract confessions or to "punish" opponents. Their complaints go unheard and the judiciary is not independent from the executive.

Tashkent (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In Uzbekistan serious and systematic torture is still carried out by police and authorities against detainees and citizens, particularly rights activists, opponents of the government and independent groups, with the complicit indifference of the authorities. There have been no improvements since , the UN High Commissioner Theo van Boven visited the country 7 years ago, and denounced the a systematic use of torture there. This is the conclusion of a report by the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, submitted to the 98th session of the UN Committee on Civil and Political Rights.

The report, drawn from information gathered by the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan and the Committee for the Liberation of prisoners of conscience, both located in Tashkent, states that numerous incidents occurred from January to August 2009 and belies the government assertion that torture is no longer practiced nor tolerated.

In 2008 and 2009, at least 9 people died in prison or during investigations. Among them, 6 are connected to events surrounding Andjian in May 2005 when the army fired on peaceful demonstrators, killing hundreds, perhaps thousands: Shokirjon Artykov, Abdurahmon Kuchkarov, Khoshimdjon Kadirov, Bahodirhon Nodirov, Ozodbek Djurayev, Shuhrat Khasanov. Tashkent has always rejected an international investigation into the massacre and has derided Western sanctions, strengthened by support from Russia and China. The others are: Nozim Mamadaliev, Ismat Khudaiberdiev, Muzaffar Tuichiev.

The report notes that "the use of torture is similar to that used during the Stalinist era, when confession was sufficient for conviction" and that the investigations frequently consist of systematic torture to extort confessions, such as beatings, burns and electric shocks to the body, deprivation of food or sleep or use the bathroom, suffocation with a plastic bag or gas mask, hanging the person by the hands in a very uncomfortable position, violent threats to friends and family.

Raykhon Soatova was apprehended by police as a minor for involvement in riots and raped May 9, 2009 at the District Police Department of Mirzo Ulugbek: December 18 she gave birth to a daughter, as a consequence of the abuse. The family has lodged 28 complaints to various authorities. Also on December 18 Svetlana Artikova, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General, told Radio Ozodlik that "investigations revealed no violations of rights or violence of any kind."

Among others, the dissident poet Yusuf Djumaev was tortured and convicted in December 2007 to 5 years in prison for criticizing the President of the State.  In prison Jaslvk was left for days without food or water, kept standing up until he collapsed from exhaustion, kept in solitary confinement for months without explanation.

The government says it rejects the use of torture, but no real investigation  is ever conducted into the many cases that are reported. The law says that the judiciary is independent, but in reality it is subordinate to the executive: the judges are elected by the Senate, but in reality they picked by the president's office, which controls parliament. The report lists 20 cases of torture to extract confessions, as identified in the last 6 months and reported to the Attorney General, the Minister of the Interior, the Ombudsman and the National Centre for Human Rights in Uzbekistan: There has been no response.

The violence is even greater because no-one speaks about it, it is not reported by local media and is denied by the government. So as to reinforce the belief that public officials may act as they wish, even violating civil and human rights, despite the fact that the Uzbek Constitution prohibits torture and the country has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the United Nations Convention against torture and cruel and inhuman treatment.

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