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Rights Group Urges UN To Condemn Torture In Uzbekistan

(RFE/RL) November 7, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging the United Nations' antitorture panel to condemn Uzbekistan for flagrantly violating a global ban on torture.

The call by the international rights watchdog comes as the UN Committee Against Torture prepares for a two-day hearing into prisoner treatment in the Central Asian country.

In a 90-page report issued today, "Nowhere to Turn: Torture and Ill-Treatment in Uzbekistan," HRW accuses the Uzbek government of using a wide range of torture methods against detainees, ranging from beatings with truncheons and water bottles to asphyxiation with plastic bags and gas masks, electric shocks, and sexual humiliation.

HRW Geneva Director Juliette De Rivero told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that ill treatment in Uzbekistan is "endemic." "The main point of this report is to show that [torture] is a systematic practice and to show that at all stages of the judicial process, detainees are put under pressure and put in situations in which they are likely to be tortured," De Rivero said.

The report details the cycle of abuse that starts at the time of an individual's detention and continues through to conviction or beyond to force confessions or other testimony. It says police and security agents also threaten witnesses, detainees' families, and sometimes lawyers to deter them from pursuing accountability.

It also finds that torture and ill treatment are ignored and overlooked by investigators, prosecutors, and judges. While the Uzbek government has given examples of police being held accountable for torture, De Rivero said that in the cases documented by HRW the organization has seen no evidence of accountability.

"In all the cases that Human Rights Watch has documented, no authority has been respond to the accusation of torture. And there is general impunity and complicity of the state in these kinds of practices," she said.

The 10 independent experts making up the UN Committee Against Torture will meet with Uzbek officials on November 7 and again on November 10 in Geneva. The committee is expected to release its findings later this month.

The Uzbek government has also come under international scrutiny for its crackdown on dissidents, which intensified after the May 2005 violence in the eastern city of Andijon. Human rights groups say hundreds of people died, but the government put the figure at 187, and blamed Islamic militants for instigating the violence.

RFE/RL Central Asia Report

RFE/RL Central Asia Report

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