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Kyrgyz Protesters Demand That Inmates' Rights Be Respected

United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez
United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez
BISHKEK -- Some 30 relatives of Kyrgyz inmates on hunger strike picketed a pretrial detention center in Bishkek on December 15 to demand the prisoners' demands be met, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The protesters told RFE/RL that they want some of the inmates' cases to be reviewed. They have also slammed what they describe as torture in penitentiaries and called for such practices to end. They claimed some of the inmates holding a hunger strike in seven prisons in Kyrgyzstan have been sentenced for crimes they did not commit.

Officials at Bishkek's detention center No. 21 did not meet with the protesters.

Hundreds of inmates in seven Kyrgyz prisons have been on the hunger strike since December 13 to demand better living conditions and meals.

Some officials and politicians in Kyrgyzstan, including Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun, say the hunger strike has been orchestrated from outside by associates of former parliament speaker Akhmatbek Keldibekov, who resigned on December 12 amid accusations of having ties with criminal groups.

The United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, said on December 14 that he urged Kyrgyz authorities to prevent abuse, torture, and ill-treatment in jails and to end impunity by ensuring that alleged perpetrators are held responsible.

He said there is "a serious lack of sufficiently speedy, meaningful, thorough, and impartial investigations" into allegations of torture and ill-treatment in Kyrgyzstan, as well as a lack of effective prosecution of law-enforcement officials.

Mendez said some police, investigators, and prison guards use plastic bags to partially suffocate suspects in order to get answers or confessions.

He said electric shocks, gas poisoning, and severe beatings are used, especially in the first several hours after an arrest or during informal questioning by guards in prisons.

Read more in Kyrgyz here

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