Human Rights in Central Asia: Torture and repression worsen in Uzbekistan
“There is no progress in the field of human rights in Uzbekistan and the situation around tortures and repression is only getting worse,” Ms. Nadezhda Atayeva, the head of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, told a session in Geneva on 27 Mar. 2013. Representatives of civil society and foreign nations’ delegations were present at the session to discuss the situation in Uzbekistan within the framework of the Universal Period Review of human rights.
According to Ms. Atayeva, despite ratifying the Convention on Protection against Torture, introducing Article 235 (the prohibition of torture) into the Criminal Code, and numerous government reports to the executive committees of the United Nations speaking of the need to eradicate torture, the Uzbek authorities only limit themselves to training sessions for law enforcing officers, conferences on foreign nations’ experiences, and continuously request additional funding for penitentiary facilities. Three years ago, the Uzbek authorities reported nine criminal cases launched into torture allegations. Because this figure appears in the reports every year, it is quite possible that these are the same cases, Ms. Atayeva maintains.
Meanwhile, human rights activists claim the situation around tortures is getting worse. The authorities do not wish to investigate into torture allegations. On the other hand, judges accept testimonies obtained under torture, despite the fact that the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan ruled that such testimonies were unacceptable. Critics of the authorities for and disseminator of information about torture face repression and persecution.
Over 200 human rights activists and independent journalists were harassed and persecuted over the last five years. Of them, 16 are imprisoned, mostly charged with Article 159 (infringing upon the constitutional order), after they all underwent torture. Hundreds of civil activists were forced to emigrate for openly voicing their opinion; however, their migration did not prevent their relatives’ harassments and repressions.
Over the last four years, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia received more than 20 letters from prisoners and more than 150 reports of torture during interrogation and detention. They describe different methods of torture and the condition of suspects. The most common methods of torture are sexual violence, AIDS infection through sexual violence using batons, contracting the tuberculosis through being placed with infected inmates, starvation and punishment with thirst, limiting access to toilets (many can not stand this torture and are then placed in solitary confinement and subjected to public censure). In the Zhaslyk Prison, inmates are forced to memorize the books by Islam Karimov. The human rights activists write openly about these types of maltreatment, but the Uzbek government is not taking any notice of these facts and is busy making official reports on the supposedly positive changes in the country. However, at the same time, the government offers no explanation as to why they have been banning special UN rapporteurs from entering Uzbekistan. To top it all, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been evicted from Uzbekistan after 2005.
At the end of her speech, Ms. Atayeva brought up the recommendations the UN Committee for Human Rights drafted, which are still unfulfilled and, therefore, are still actual:
1) to ensure the investigation by an independent body in relation to each alleged case of torture;
2) to strengthen measures to combat torture and other forms of ill-treatment, to end them, to monitor, investigate as appropriate and bring the perpetrators to justice, to prevent impunity;
3) to pay compensation to the victims of torture and ill-treatment;
4) to provide an audio-visual recording of interrogations in all police stations and detention centers;
5) on suspicion of an abuse, to provide for special medical and psychological examinations in accordance with the Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Istanbul Protocol)
6) to review all criminal cases based on confessions allegedly obtained through coercive methodsand by the use of torture and ill-treatment, to check for appropriate consideration of these allegations in order to prevent impunity.