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UN Rapporteur On Torture Concerned By Uzbekistan

The UN special rapporteur Manfred Nowak (file photo) (AFP) PRAGUE, December 13, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Manfred Nowak, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, says he is "very concerned" by reports indicating that ill treatment and torture of prison inmates and police detainees remain widespread in Uzbekistan.

In comments made to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service today, Nowak said he had requested from Uzbek authorities permission to visit the country to assess the situation, but that so far he has not received an answer.

He said reports indicate that despite legal improvements made by the Uzbek government, the situation seemingly worsened after last year's military crackdown in the eastern city of Andijon.

"There are many recent reports -- not only in relation to the Andijon massacre, but also [to what happened] afterwards -- that torture is still practiced on a fairly widespread [scale]," he said. "And the problem, of course, is that there is not much monitoring on the [ground]. The OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), for instance, [which] was monitoring, is not able [to do so] anymore. The same goes for nongovernmental organizations, which monitored the trials that were held against persons for the Andijon [events]."

The Uzbek Foreign Ministry's Jahon news agency on December 12 reported that lawmakers and government officials had recently discussed how Tashkent is implementing the UN Convention Against Torture that it joined in 1995.

Participants said Uzbekistan had, in the past nine years, sent the UN three reports showing progress made in that respect.

However, Nowak said his predecessor, Theo van Boven -- who visited Uzbekistan in 2002 -- had found evidence of the "systematic practice of torture."

(RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Jahon)

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