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More Warnings Of Abuse After Rights Groups Urge End To Uzbek Use Of Rectal Exams


Rectal probes are still used as a common form of torture by police and other authorities in Uzbekistan, according to rights groups and some local officials. (file photo)

Local activists have warned of authorities' persistent use of compulsory rectal exams to abuse detainees and other suspects in Uzbekistan.

International rights groups last week urged President Shavkat Mirziyoev to immediately order officials to abandon such evidentiary procedures in prosecuting cases of suspected homosexuality.

Alone among post-Soviet states, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan still outlaw consensual same-sex relationships.

At least six men have undergone forced rectal examinations in Uzbekistan in the past five years, nine international rights groups said in a recent appeal to Mirzoyoev.

"Forced anal examinations are a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that can amount to torture," they said.

The complainants included Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Council for Global Equality, the International Partnership for Human Rights; and six other groups.

In a case decided earlier this year, the groups said, two men who formerly lived together were forced to undergo the exams before being convicted by a Tashkent court and ordered to spend two years under house arrest.

Sodomy can carry a three-year prison sentence under Uzbek law.

Investigators from the Uzbek Prosecutor's Office or Interior Ministry may order such exams in cases involving possible homosexuality.

The World Medical Association has urged medical professionals around the globe to stop conducting such exams.

Mirziyoev, who took power in 2016, has repeatedly pledged to reform Uzbek justice and end allegedly widespread torture in custody.

Rights groups and two Uzbek Interior Ministry officials with knowledge of the situation told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that rectal probes are still used as a common form of torture by police and other authorities.

Nadejda Atayeva, head of the Paris-based Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, said rectal exams have been used in at least three cases where the individual being tested was a minor, and in one of those cases the subject later attempted suicide.

International rights groups say Uzbekistan is one of only a very few countries around the world to use compulsory rectal exams as evidence in cases involving suspected homosexuality or sodomy.

HRW said in a 2016 report that the others were: Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Zambia and Syria.

The examinations are widely regarded as a means of torture.

Two Uzbek Interior Ministry officials who spoke to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity said rectal exams of male detainees are among the most common forms of abuse in Uzbek detention centers and prisons.

In a number of prominent cases, former detainees have spoken out publicly about being threatened with rape with a truncheon if they refused to confess to crimes.

The rights groups say men who engage in same-sex relationships "face arbitrary detention, prosecution, and imprisonment as well as homophobia, threats, and extortion."

They said the Uzbek government acknowledged earlier this year that at least 40 men had been convicted under anti-homosexuality legislation between 2016 and 2020.

They also noted that the Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office and other authorities recently drafted a proposed new Criminal Code "but have not proposed repealing Article 120," the article that prescribes up to three years in prison for homosexual behavior.

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