Uzbekistan called to end systematic torture
Uzbekistan has been called on to carry out the United Nations Committee Against Torture’s recommendations to end the “widespread, routine torture and ill-treatment”.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has vowed to improve Uzbekistan’s appalling human rights record and reform government structures, in particular, the powerful security services and Interior Ministry, since he came to power following the death of dictator Islam Karimov in 2016.
But Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the UN’s torture review claimed the steps taken to end torture had been insufficient. It called for a ban on evidence extracted by torture in court, the public opening of criminal trials and rehabilitation for torture victims.
“The UN committee findings are a wake-up call to the realities of human rights in Uzbekistan,” said HRW’s regional chief Hugh Williamson. “The reforms led by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev are important, but this report shows that key pillars of the country’s abusive, authoritarian system are still in place.”
Techniques including beatings with rubber truncheons and water-filled bottles, electric shocks, hanging by wrists and ankles, rape and sexual humiliation, asphyxiation with plastic bags and gas masks, threats to relatives and denial of food or water have continued since Mirziyoyev took power in 2016.
The UN committee said: “Complaints of torture received by the prosecutor’s office increased 10-fold from 2017 to 2018 [but] the number of cases in which officials were prosecuted for torture did not increase at a commensurate rate.”
The committee praised steps to “reduce incentives to perpetrate torture and make it mandatory for procuratorial authorities and courts to verify reports of torture”. Suspects should be asked if they suffered from torture, it recommended.
Criminal trials should be open to the public, the committee recommended.
It welcomed the release of “a substantial number of human rights defenders and journalists since September 2016”. But the government was criticised for describing allegations of torture as “unsubstantiated”.
The report welcomed the closure in August of the notorious Jaslyk prison but criticised its conversion into a pretrial detention centre. It called for an inquiry into Jaslyk, allowing victims to “obtain redress” and public access to the prison’s archives.
The report said rights defenders had been confined to psychiatric hospitals “to prevent them from conducting their work”. One example was Nafosat Ollashukurova who has been detained in clinics since September. On forced cotton harvesting, the UN study said “an estimated 170,000 adults were forced to work” in last year’s cotton harvest.
It also relayed reports that members of the LGBT community are tortured, including through “entrapment schemes”.
“As Uzbekistan is aware, the use of torture is completely banned under international human rights law,” Williamson said. “Uzbekistan needs to prioritise urgent action against torture in order to stop this terrible practice once and for all.”
Picture credit: Eurasia Times