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Azerbaijan: UN Asks About Police Brutality Accusations

The United Nations Human Rights Commission began a week of hearings in Geneva today to review progress made toward ending the mistreatment of persons in police custody in several states. Countries under review include Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.

Geneva, 15 November 1999 (RFE/RL) -- A United Nations committee today asked Azerbaijani officials what they are doing to prevent prisoners suffering ill treatment or torture while under detention.

Azerbaijan's deputy prosecutor general, Fikret Mamedov, was asked by the United Nations committee against torture in Geneva to comment on accusations presented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other non-governmental organizations, including some from inside Azerbaijan.

These organizations say they have evidence that prisoners are often beaten in detention, that prisoners are often not permitted to see attorneys until long after their arrest and that complaints about brutality by police investigators or prison officials are often ignored.

There are also complaints that there is no requirement for a temporarily detained person to be brought promptly before a judge. The complaints state that in some cases, detainees may be held for days or weeks before this is done. Members of the UN committee asked several questions about how judges reacted when told that confessions and other prosecution evidence had been obtained through torture or ill treatment.

The Azerbaijani deputy prosecutor general and other members of his delegation will respond to the comments tomorrow afternoon.

Today, Mamedov presented on oral report on new laws intended to improve the rights of those in detention and to crack down on police brutality. He also discussed new laws and regulations to improve the selection and training of judges and ensure their independence.

The Azerbaijani deputy prosecutor-general acknowledged that there were individual instances of ill treatment by police or prison officers but denied that this was common. He said this year 64 police officials had been sent to trial for violence. He said many others had been dismissed.

Mamedov also said that there had been no prosecutions for torture in recent years. Several members of the UN committee responded that Azerbaijan's current criminal code does not explicitly make torture a criminal offense.

Today's hearing came within the context of a regular review of the situation in all countries which have signed the UN convention against torture. Other countries under review at the current session include Finland, Malta and Austria as well as Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Azerbaijan signed the convention two years ago and today was its first appearance before the review committee. The questions put to the delegation were based on a report prepared by Azerbaijan a year ago. In his oral address today, the deputy Prosecutor-General reported on developments since the report was submitted in December 1998.