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UN: Committee Urges Kyrgyzstan To Treat Prisoners Better

A UN human rights committee has criticized Kyrgyzstan's treatment of prisoners. RFE/RL's Roland Eggleston reports from Geneva, where the United Nations is conducting a routine review of several countries' compliance with an international convention against torture.

Geneva, 19 November 1999 (RFE/RL) -- A United Nations committee has expressed dismay at the many reports of ill treatment of prisoners by police in Kyrgyzstan, and it urged the Kyrgyz authorities to take immediate steps to stop them.

The recommendation comes from the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva, after hearing a report by Kyrgyz government representatives and non-governmental organizations.

UN committees reviewing compliance with international conventions consider the governments' own assessments of their compliance, as well as reports from non-governmental organizations. All signatories to international conventions are monitored in rotation. The current session of the Committee Against Torture is considering Malta, Austria, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Finland, and Peru.

In its report, the committee said it is deeply concerned at the reports it received from non-governmental organizations about cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by law enforcement officers. It says that sometimes even children are the victim of mistreatment.

In the committee's words: "There is an apparent failure to make a prompt and full investigation into these allegations of torture and mistreatment." It says that in many cases, those responsible are apparently not prosecuted.

Our correspondent reports that much of the information on which the criticism is based was provided by the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights, which provided the UN committee with 30 pages detailing specific events, including several incidents involving police and militia mistreatment of children. The organization also described conditions in prisons as inhuman and degrading.

The UN committee report urges the Kyrgyz authorities to investigate the individual incidents and prosecute all those responsible for brutality or mistreatment. It also calls for reforms in the police, prosecution and judicial institutions, particularly toward the independence of the judiciary.

Apart from these criticisms, the UN report commends Kyrgyzstan for a number of measures in its new criminal code. Among them is a provision that allows a detained person access to a lawyer of his choice from the moment of detention. Another is a provision that requires the investigating officer to notify the family of a detained person as soon as he is arrested.

The UN commission also welcomed Kyrgyzstan's decision to appoint a special prosecutor to inspect detention centers and isolation facilities to ensure that the inmates are held in conditions that meet proper standards. And it approved measures to ensure that criminal justice personnel properly understand their obligations to respect human rights.

This was the first time that Kyrgyzstan has appeared before the Committee Against Torture. A spokesman for the committee said the country would appear again in four years to report on its progress.