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UN Rapporteur On Torture Urges Uzbekistan To Invite Him

Manfred Nowak (file) (AFP) November 11, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The United Nations' special rapporteur on torture has urged the Uzbek government to invite him to the Central Asian country.

The call by Manfred Nowak today comes as the United Nations' antitorture panel is holding hearings about prisoner treatment in Uzbekistan, and in the same week that a report by Human Rights Watch said torture was "endemic" to the country's criminal justice system.

"I have requested this already for quite a long time," Nowak told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service. "If the government is not responding positively, then this is a sign that they want to hide something. And that strengthens the conclusions of the report by Human Rights Watch and others."

Tashkent has rejected pervious comments by Nowak that the country's law-enforcement officers and security agents continue to systematically practice torture.

Uzbek officials have said Nowak did not have sufficient information to make such statements and had not even visited the country. They also pointed out that Uzbekistan had implemented recommendations made by Nowak's predecessor, Theo Van Boven.

But Nowak said he needed to visit Uzbekistan to independently assess the situation on the ground.

"It is very difficult at the moment to monitor on the ground what is going on," he said. "The fact that legal measures have been taken does not mean that torture has been eradicated. On the contrary, I think that we have [many] allegations and also evidence that torture is continuing."

Nowak expressed cautious optimism about an Uzbek invitation, saying, "There is something going on in the government toward better cooperation with international monitoring mechanisms. "

On November 9, the UN Committee Against Torture met with Uzbek officials, with another meeting due on November 12 in Geneva. The committee is expected to release its findings later this month.

In its report issued on November 7, Human Rights Watch urged the 10 independent experts making up the panel to condemn Uzbekistan for violating a global ban on torture.

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. 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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