TASHKENT -- A prominent Uzbek rights activist says a new law aimed at regulating treatment in pretrial detention in Uzbekistan is unlikely to change the "grim" situation in the country's penal institutions, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.
Abdurakhmon Tashanov of the Tashkent-based Ezgulik (Goodness) human rights center told RFE/RL on October 6 that the actual situation in Uzbekistan's hundreds of pretrial detention centers and jails has always been very bad.
He added that it is taboo to discuss the abysmal conditions.
Tashanov said Ezgulik has "information about the existence of special torture cells that are extremely cold and in which the guards and interrogators put cold water on the floors to increase the suffering of the inmates."
International rights watchdogs have repeatedly reported widespread human rights violations and the torture of detainees and prisoners in Uzbekistan. They also have dozens of reports of unexplained or unusual prisoner deaths.
Tashanov added that even though most Uzbeks do not know the real conditions in detention centers, they do occasionally hear bad reports about them.
He said officials therefore decided to adopt the new law in an attempt to show that the situation is under control and the rights of suspects and detainees are protected.
President Islam Karimov signed the new legislation on September 29. It prohibits any form of torture, discrimination, and harassment in pretrial detention centers and jails.
Tashanov said the Uzbek authorities have tried in the past to implement projects that would help prevent the abuse of human rights in detention centers and jails, but said nothing has changed.
He said in many cases it is impossible to get any information on the situation in the pretrial detention centers or jails in Uzbekistan as such details are kept secret by both inmates and guards -- who fear for their safety and their lives if caught revealing such information.
Consequently, Tashanov said, the protections for inmates in the new law are likely to remain only on paper but not in practice.
Read more in Uzbek here