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UN Committee Says Torture 'Routine' In Uzbekistan

(RFE/RL) November 24, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- In a highly critical assessment, the United Nations' antitorture panel has concluded that torture and ill-treatment remain "widespread" in Uzbekistan.

The UN Committee Against Torture scrutinized Uzbekistan's torture record earlier this month, during its periodic review of that country's compliance with the UN Convention Against Torture.

In their resulting concluding observations issued on November 23, the 10 independent experts making up the panel noted a range of concerns about what the committee termed "numerous, ongoing, and consistent allegations concerning routine use of torture...committed by law enforcement and investigative personnel, or with their instigation or consent."

The committee called on Tashkent to "apply a zero-tolerance approach" to the problem and to the "practice of impunity."

It also detailed urgent measures the authorities should take to address the concerns, such as investigating the allegations of torture or bringing the authors to justice.

Agzam Turgunov, from the Uzbek human rights organization Mazlum, told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that the situation has worsened since the previous UN special rapporteur on torture visited Uzbekistan in 2002.

'Endemic' Torture

In a report issued on November 7, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said torture is "endemic" in Uzbekistan's criminal justice system.

HRW advocacy director for Europe and Central Asia Veronika Szente-Goldston called on the international community to make the implementation of the UN panel's recommendations a priority in their relations with Tashkent.

"Without the support of influential governments that can use their leverage to make the Uzbek government comply with these important recommendations we don't have much hope to see the recommendations implemented," Szente-Goldston said.

Earlier this month, two Uzbek men convicted of alleged membership of the banned Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir reportedly died after being tortured while in custody in the eastern city of Andijon.

Local rights activists told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that the bodies of Tohir Nurmuhammedov and Fitrat Salohiddinov showed signs of torture when they were handed over to their families.

In its conclusions, the UN Committee Against Torture expressed concern over allegations that Uzbek military and security forces used excessive force in Andijon in May 2005, where rights activists say security forces killed hundreds of protesters.

The government, which puts the figure at 187 dead, says many of those killed were security forces, and blames Islamic militants for instigating the violence.

The committee called for a "full, effective, impartial inquiry" into the violence, in which rights groups say hundreds of protesters died.

However, the committee did note several positive steps the Uzbek government has taken.

These include passing legislation abolishing the death penalty and introducing habeas corpus, or judicial review of detention.

RFE/RL Central Asia Report

RFE/RL Central Asia Report

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