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United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez
BISHKEK -- Some 30 relatives of Kyrgyz inmates on hunger strike picketed a pretrial detention center in Bishkek on December 15 to demand the prisoners' demands be met, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The protesters told RFE/RL that they want some of the inmates' cases to be reviewed. They have also slammed what they describe as torture in penitentiaries and called for such practices to end. They claimed some of the inmates holding a hunger strike in seven prisons in Kyrgyzstan have been sentenced for crimes they did not commit.

Officials at Bishkek's detention center No. 21 did not meet with the protesters.

Hundreds of inmates in seven Kyrgyz prisons have been on the hunger strike since December 13 to demand better living conditions and meals.

Some officials and politicians in Kyrgyzstan, including Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun, say the hunger strike has been orchestrated from outside by associates of former parliament speaker Akhmatbek Keldibekov, who resigned on December 12 amid accusations of having ties with criminal groups.

The United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, said on December 14 that he urged Kyrgyz authorities to prevent abuse, torture, and ill-treatment in jails and to end impunity by ensuring that alleged perpetrators are held responsible.

He said there is "a serious lack of sufficiently speedy, meaningful, thorough, and impartial investigations" into allegations of torture and ill-treatment in Kyrgyzstan, as well as a lack of effective prosecution of law-enforcement officials.

Mendez said some police, investigators, and prison guards use plastic bags to partially suffocate suspects in order to get answers or confessions.

He said electric shocks, gas poisoning, and severe beatings are used, especially in the first several hours after an arrest or during informal questioning by guards in prisons.

Read more in Kyrgyz here
Former opposition presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau in the dock during a court hearing in Minsk in April
MINSK -- The warden at a labor camp in eastern Belarus says that jailed former presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau's lawyer cannot visit his client because Sannikau's life has been threatened, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Human rights activist Paval Levinau told RFE/RL that when he asked warden Vital Ahnistykau at the Vitsebsk labor camp why Sannikau's lawyer was unable to see his client, Ahnistykau said Sannikau wrote a letter to the labor camp's administration when he arrived at the penitentiary stating that his life is under threat.

"Ahnistykau said that because of that letter, Sannikau has been fully isolated from any contact with other inmates and special inquiries have been sent to all the penitentiaries where [Sannikau] was imprisoned in the past, asking about any problems he faced," Levinau said. "The warden added that the check into Sannikau's security and safety could last at least six more months."

When Levinau told the warden that barring Sannikau from meeting with his lawyer is a violation of Article 62 of the constitution, which guarantees legal assistance to any Belarusian at any time, Ahnistykau refused to comment.

Sannikau was jailed for five years in May for his part in demonstrations following the controversial presidential election in December 2010 that returned incumbent Alyaksandr Lukashenka to power.

Read more in Belarusian here

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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