13.8.18

US/EU: Press Tajikistan to Free Journalist

Government Should Respect Media Freedom

(London, August 13, 2018) –Diplomats and representatives of international organizations should press Tajik authorities to unconditionally set aside the conviction against a respected journalist convicted on politically motivated charges, the twelve undersigned human rights organizations said today. 

The diplomats and representatives of these groups should attend the appeal hearing for the journalist, Khayrullo Mirsaidov on August 15, 2018 in Khujand City Court. It is expected to last several days. 

Attendance by representatives of the diplomatic community throughout the appeal process will send a clear signal to the Tajik authorities that violations of freedom of expression in the country will not go unnoticed,” said Katie Morris, Head of Europe and Central Asia at ARTICLE 19. “Tajikistan’s international partners should emphasize that Mirsaidov’s continued detention will have implications for the country’s international standing and its bilateral relationships.

Mirsaidov’s conviction is in retaliation for his public allegations and criticism of corruption against local government officials in the Sugdh region, the groups said. Authorities brought the charges after he wrote a public letter in November 2017 to President Emomali Rahmon, calling upon him to address government corruption.

On July 11, Mirsaidov was sentenced to 12 years in jail on politically motivated charges of embezzlement and misuse of state funds, and false reporting to the police. His family was ordered to pay the local government 124,000 Tajik somoni (approximately 11,350 EUR or 13,000 USD] in financial damages, more than 10 times the average yearly salary in Tajikistan.

The Mirsaidov case follows an established pattern in which whistleblowers, journalists, and others find themselves in the authorities’ crosshairs after uncovering corruption, crime and other violations,” said Marius Fossum, Norwegian Helsinki Committee regional representative in Central Asia. “Democratic countries must no longer tolerate the Tajik government’s brutal crackdown on freedom of expression and should consider imposing targeted sanctions against officials complicit in blatant rights violations, such as the bogus prosecution of Khayrullo Mirsaidov.”

UN human rights experts  condemned the sentence calling it a  “clearly targeted measure against journalism and the public’s right to information.” They said that Mirsaidov’s sentence demonstrates that “‘[the Tajik] authorities are cracking down on reporting of corruption, rather than on corruption itself.” 

The criminal investigation and trial have been marred by serious flaws. Prior to his conviction, Mirsaidov was held in pre-trial detention for seven months following his arrest on December 5, 2017, although he posed neither a flight risk, nor a credible threat to public safety.

Mirsaidov’s work, including his stance against corruption, should be commended, not punished with a 12-year sentence on bogus charges,” said Steve Swerdlow, Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “If the proceedings against him and the outrageous sentence are allowed to stand, the small vestiges of freedom of free expression that exist in Tajikistan, are threatened with extinction."
Representatives of the Embassies of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the United States, and the EU Delegation in Tajikistan have condemned Mirsaidov’s conviction as extremely harsh, saying in a joint statement that his sentence “will have a negative impact on the freedom of media and expression in Tajikistan,” and may affect bilateral relations with the government of Tajikistan.

The international support shown thus far for press freedom in Tajikistan has been helpful and should be followed by continued pressure on the government to release Mirsaidov unconditionally,” said Gulnara Akhundova at International Media Support. “International representatives in the country should demonstrate their solidarity with Mirsaidov by attending his appeal and maintain pressure on the government throughout the appeal process to respect human rights and media freedom.



10.8.18

Uzbekistan Today: Mass revocation of citizenship is the continuation of repressive policy of Islam Karimov


Statement on the mass revocation of citizenship of Uzbek political refugees

For thousands of Uzbek citizens emigration became the only way to escape persecution for their views, avoid torture and death at home. The Andijan events, crackdown and repression of free expression of views, as well as mass discrimination on religious grounds became the cause of emergence of thousands of Uzbek refugees in the past 25 years.

Many political emigrants continued their public activities, in particular, they:

— Called for an international independent investigation of the Andijan events of 2005;

— Declared their support of the  claim of the US Department of Justice to confiscate funds received by the corrupt leadership of Uzbekistan as a result of the corruption schemes in the telecommunications sector and their return to the country of origin only on condition of reforming the political and legal system;

— Supported the abolition of the practice of child and forced labour in the cotton sector of Uzbekistan;

— Participated in campaigns against the practice of torture, as well as activities aimed at the release of prisoners of conscience and their further rehabilitation, etc.

The open and active civic position of citizens living in forced emigration led to pressure on their relatives who remained in the country and even began to threaten their safety through extraterritorial crimes. As soon as the country's leadership realised that such pressure on political emigrants does not have a tangible effect, under the pretext of the next reform of the passport system, Uzbek authorities began to revoke citizenship of critics of the regime living abroad and confiscated their property left at home.

The formal reason for the revocation of citizenship is one of the conditions of Article 21 of the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On Citizenship”: “if a person permanently residing abroad does not register with the consular department without valid reasons for 3 years”. Acts of revocation of citizenship of the citizens holding refugee status cannot be considered legitimate, since they could not visit their country of origin and diplomatic institutions of Uzbekistan for good reason, in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees and the administrative rules of the country providing international protection. Moreover, Uzbekistan still remains on the list of worst violators of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and many of the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Theo van Boven, submitted in 2003 are still not followed;

In addition to revocation of their citizenship, in violation of the guarantees of private property, the right to defence and the fundamental principles of justice, property of these citizens in their homeland is seized using trumped-up charges.

Article 16 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan states that “no law or other normative legal act can contradict the norms and principles of the Constitution.” Since Uzbekistan stated in its Fundamental Law that it is a fully legitimate subject of international relations, it must comply with international obligations under international agreements in the field of human rights. Therefore, all violations of the rights of citizens who are forced to reside abroad are a continuation of the repressive policy of the Republic of Uzbekistan in respect of critics of the regime.

The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia calls on the international community to pay attention to the fact that criticism of the ruling regime is still perceived as a serious crime in Uzbekistan. That is why all statements of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev inviting emigrants to return to the country are not credible.





8.8.18

On principles of responsible asset repatriation to Uzbekistan



Federal Assembly of Switzerland
Swiss Federal Council
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA)
Federal Department of Justice and Police
Task Force on Asset Recovery, FDFA
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, FDFA

ON PRINCIPLES OF RESPONSIBLE ASSET REPATRIATION TO UZBEKISTAN
Proposal by Uzbek civil society activists

We are a group of Uzbek activists citizens concerned about the future of our country. We write because we understand the Swiss government may soon negotiate the return of several hundred million Swiss francs that were stolen from the people of Uzbekistan through corruption in the country’s telecom sector and hidden in Swiss banks. We urge the government of Switzerland to ensure that these assets are returned responsibly to Uzbekistan. By responsibly, we mean in ways that provide remedy to the citizens of Uzbekistan as the true victims of grand corruption and that ensure concrete measures to eliminate systematic corruption in Uzbekistan.

The need for responsible repatriation of stolen assets

Repatriation of stolen assets is responsible if it contributes to the fight against corruption on global and national levels.

Grand corruption in Uzbekistan is endemic and penetrates all levels of the political, administrative, legal, corporate, and financial institutions. A clear correlation is seen between corruption at the highest levels and the gross violations of human rights.

Therefore, a cautious asset return policy should be pursued. There is a high risk that without anti-corruption mechanisms in place unconditional return of the proceeds of corruption will very likely lead to funds being stolen once again and recycled anew into western and offshore jurisdictions.

Unconditional return of the proceeds of corruption would violate both the word and spirit of the UN Convention against Corruption, international human rights law, and the global framework for fighting corruption. UNCAC requires the return of stolen assets to the countries of their origin. States however cannot selectively comply with UNCAC provisions; they must comply with all provisions, including those requiring the establishment of anti-corruption prevention mechanisms.

If asset-holding states fail to ensure that the return of the proceeds of corruption serves as a deterrence to future crimes, this must be considered irresponsible, if not complicit with perpetuating corruption in the requesting state.

Proposed principles of asset restitution to Uzbekistan

At the Global Forum on Asset Recovery in December 2017, representatives of the Swiss and other governments agreed to principles to guide asset return. Among other things, the governments pledged that the return should guarantee transparency and accountability in the use of the assets returned, benefit the citizens of the receiving country, strengthen the receiving nation’s ability to fight corruption, and ensure civil society participation in the return and use of funds.

Below we propose eight guidelines that emphasize and elaborate on these principles in the context of any return of stolen assets to Uzbekistan:

1. The asset return should be considered in the context of, and contribute to, the fight against corruption and human rights violations on global and domestic levels and meet standards of transparency and accountability.

2. Therefore, there should be no return of assets without sound conditions and mechanisms to prevent the assets being stolen again.

3. The asset return should serve as remedy for the victims of corruption, i.e., the entire population of Uzbekistan.

4. The best remedy for victims is not compensation – which would neither be practical (with Uzbekistan’s specific institutional environment) nor have any lasting long-term, systemic effect – but rather measures to reduce the scale of corruption and human rights abuse in Uzbekistan.

5. Asset return should be used as an incentive to reform those specific institutional conditions that were and remain driving factors for the original crimes – bribery and extortion in the telecom sector of Uzbekistan – and consequent money laundering. Below we identify five such institutional conditions.

6. Reforms cannot be implemented overnight, and will require several years. Therefore, the restitution process should be extended over time and follow a step-by-step approach, rewarding Uzbekistan for making benchmarked and measurable progress in realizing reform.

7. Provided the principles 1-6 are satisfied, the Government of Uzbekistan should have control and ultimate approval over the disposition of the assets, following a transparent process inclusive of consultations with relevant international stakeholders and Uzbek civil society. The implementation of these principles would create a completely new reality in Uzbekistan in terms of the governance system and, as such, give sufficient assurances that the assets are not re-stolen and re-laundered. 

8. In case the government of Uzbekistan rejects these guidelines, the Swiss government should keep the assets until the Uzbek leadership accepts the deal and has shown legitimate and verifiable progress.

Five institutional sectors to be reformed as prerequisite for asset return

1)  Establish a transparent and competitive tendering process, including in the spheres of allocation of frequencies and licenses, the public procurement of goods, public works, and contracted services. Publish all material related to public procurement and concession contracts in the public domain.

2)  Reform the public administration to make sure civil servants carry out the duties of their role, abide by the law, and work in the public interest instead of acting out of personal loyalty to high-ranking officials. With this in mind, implement a conflict of interest regulation for all civil servants and government officials in Uzbekistan and provide full transparency of their income.

3) Establish independence of judiciary and legal profession; enforce the rights for fair trail and due process;

4) Ensure transparency of public and corporate finance, including: obligatory auditing of state and its major corporate contractors by reputable international auditors and the full publication of such audit reports in the public domain; disclose government books to the public, with an emphasis on export revenues; and administer a transparent system of corporate disclosure, with a requirement that all corporate entities operating in Uzbekistan participate in a public register of beneficial owners.

5) Provide oversight including through the establishment of an independent public anti-corruption agency; and allow civil society and media outlets to freely operate and conduct journalist investigations without fear of harassment and repressions.

We note there are many widely recognized international indicators available that would measure governments’ progress in meeting these objectives (see annexed below discussion of Indicators for Gaging the Progress of Reform in Uzbekistan, prepared by members of the Working Group on Responsible Asset Repatriation).

Why specifically these five institutional conditions?

The complete absence of institutional integrity in the five sectors mentioned above were key enabling factors for the original corruption case. As such, these areas should be addressed as prerequisites for returning the proceeds of corruption to the Government of Uzbekistan.  But what is right for the telecom industry can also be applied to other sectors of economy. 

First, Uzbekistan did not at that time and still does not have an established system for transparent and competitive tendering processes, neither in allocating frequencies and licenses, nor in public procurement. Given the absence of transparent public procurement, it is very likely that unless appropriate reforms are implemented, the returned assets will be redistributed via opaque lucrative procurement contracts, a frequent practice if not the rule for use of public funds in Uzbekistan.

Second, Gulnara Karimova did not act alone in extorting bribes from telecom companies in exchange for issuance of operating licenses. Karimova would have been unable to carry out the original crimes without involvement of a number of government institutions. A number of high ranking officials were directly involved in issuing these licenses, and these individuals acted out of personal loyalty to herself and her father, former president Islam Karimov. This highlights the systemic impact of the patronage system upon how public office was and still is run, and the total absence of conflict of interest regulation in Uzbekistan. It also demonstrates the lack of a civil service which works in the public interest and can withstand pressure from high ranking corrupt officials.

Third, it is notable that from the very beginning, western telecom companies sought back-door deals with local officials, instead of relying on judicial measures and legal means to engage in and protect their business and property rights. We understand western companies were well aware of the absence of rule of law and independent judiciary in the country.

Fourth, the public and corporate finance systems in Uzbekistan are extremely opaque. Neither the state itself nor its major corporate contractors are under obligation to open their finances to scrutiny by reputable auditors. Additionally, the state budget does not reflect income from export revenues the government controls, such as revenues from the cotton sector – linked to forced labor and human rights violations. Instead, these revenues go into hidden extra-budgetary accounts controlled by a few individuals around the President, and are used at the discretion of political elites on expenditures unknown to the public. It is unfortunately very likely that an unconditional return of assets to Uzbekistan will leave the state susceptible to repeating such practices; with the funds remaining absent from the state budget.

Fifth, essential monitoring, oversight and compliance institutions are absent. Uzbekistan does not have an independent anti-corruption state agency capable of independently detecting and preventing cases of government corruption. Uzbekistan also lacks an independent organized civil society – following a large-scale crackdown between 2004and2007 – or an independent press that would be able, without fear of repression or reprisal, monitor, document and report on corrupt practices, especially on cases of grand corruption. Activists and journalists who tried in the past to report on such cases were detained, tortured and imprisoned. While some of these journalists and activists have been recently released from prison, which constitutes a positive sign, they are still subject to reporting requirements, harassment, and other conditions inconsistent with full rehabilitation by the state. Nor have they been compensated by the state for their unjust imprisonment. In fact, legally, these individuals are still considered criminals according to the judicial system of Uzbekistan, and the original miscarriage of justice has not been addressed.

Our demand for serious changes in these five areas as part of the process for returning assets to Uzbekistan should not be seen as confrontational towards the government. The Uzbek political leadership has itself committed to reforms in these areas and has even made a few steps forward. For instance, a draft law on public administration has already been published, which still needs to be adopted and, more importantly, implemented. There has been also one case of fair trial open to the public (in March-April 2018, trial of Bobomurod Abdullaev and two others). So far, this is a single such precedent. Besides, there are some indications of opening for Uzbek press to report on controversial issues, though the press does not still dare to conduct journalist investigations into corruption cases. These positive signs do not yet represent fundamental or irreversible change. What is needed in Uzbekistan is not promise and rhetoric of change, but a sustained pathway to reform and the adoption of standards of good governance.

It still remains to be seen whether the government will adopt a full package of anti-corruption reforms and, more importantly, implement new legislation into actual practice. We believe that each significant step and improvement in these five areas should be rewarded, with a corresponding portion of assets returned to the government. Such a sequenced, benchmarked approach to restitution would be perfectly in line with the course of reform to which the new Uzbek political leadership has publicly committed, notably within Uzbekistan’s Development Strategy (2017-2021). The return of assets should reinforce the process of reforms, offering a guarantee that they will become sustainable and, over time, irreversible.

Why not a Bota Fund-like solution?

We believe that the creation of the Bota Foundation in 2009 as a channel for restituting Kazakhgate money to the people of Kazakhstan was the right decision. The latest restitution by Switzerland to Kazakhstan of $48 million, in 2012, was, by contrast, much worse, from the point of view of principles of responsible return.

An investigation was conducted into USD 21.76m of the restituted assets earmarked for a Youth Corps Program. It revealed that the Project Coordinator for the Youth Corps Program is a consortium made up of Government Organized NGOs (GONGOs). The consortium is headed by the President’s eldest daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, who is a politician in her own right. This GONGO consortium will receive approximately USD 465,000 for its services as Project Coordinator. “From the limited available procurement data, - write the authors of the summary report, - examples have been uncovered of lavish spending on promotional material, awards to the ruling party’s youth wing, expenditure on materials that have a propagandistic function, and the selection of ‘host organizations’ that are predominantly GONGOs, some of which are run directly by public officials and politicians espousing strong commitment to the President’s national ideology.” [1] This resulted in restitution benefiting the ruling party and senior officials of Kazakhstan, but not the victims of corruption.

Under the current state of affairs in Uzbekistan, the Bota Fund-like solution cannot be applied without violating the principles of transparency and accountability and responsible return, because the conditions for operation of such a fund, independent from the government, do not exist.

First, the Bota Fund in Kazakhstan operated through allocation of grants to local NGOs which, in turn, delivered financial and technical assistance to low-income families. In Uzbekistan, such independent NGOs simply do not exist. Between 2004 and 2007, the relatively independent NGOs were suppressed, leaving Uzbekistan with no independent organized civil society. Due to repression inflicted by the Karimov regime, there are currently no stakeholders in Uzbekistan who could either provide Bota-like services to the population or conduct independent monitoring of how these funds are being used.

Second, in the current absence of a transparent tendering and public procurement process in Uzbekistan, there is a very high probability that the money will be channeled through lucrative contracts to cronies of political elites, and thus stolen once more. Examples of such shadowy deals on the allocation of contracts on construction and reconstruction in Tashkent are multiple nowadays. 

Third, without a transparent system of public finance, the government can manipulate the use of the returned assets. For example, it could cut funding it had planned to provide for health, education, and other social projects, divert these funds to private interests, and employ the returned assets to cover the gap in public funds. By shifting funds this way, the intended restitution would bear no positive effect for the people of Uzbekistan.

Finally, we believe that using the assets to reinforce anti-corruption reforms will be most beneficial for the victims of corruption and the development of Uzbekistan over the long term, supporting systemic, transparent institutional reforms with lasting effect.  

Umida Niyazova, on behalf of Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, Berlin, Germany

Nadejda Atayeva, on behalf of Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Le Mans, France

Jodgor Obid, Uzbek political refugee, resident of Austria

Dilya Erkinzoda, Uzbek political refugee, resident of Sweden

Ulughbek Haydarov, journalist, former political prisoner, resident of Canada

Alisher Taksanov, journalist, political emigrant, resident of Switzerland

Alisher Abidov, political emigrant, resident of Norway

A number of local Uzbek activists support these proposals, but their names are not disclosed out of concerns over their safety.



Appendix

International Working Group on Responsible Asset Repatriation

INDICATORS FOR GAGING THE PROGRESS
OF ANTI-CORRUPTION REFORM IN UZBEKISTAN

The Swiss and Uzbek governments are negotiating a return of Gulnara Karimova’s assets, stolen from the people of Uzbekistan and hidden in Swiss banks. Uzbek civil society activists are urging the agreement to include reforms of Uzbek institutions and ensure the assets are not again stolen, but are instead used to promote the welfare of Uzbek citizens.  The reforms they seek are similar to those the United Nations, World Bank, and other donors include when providing financial assistance to governments. 

The international community has developed a range of indicators to measure the progress a government is making in realizing such reforms.  The reforms Uzbek civil society collectively urge, along with some of the key indicators used to mark progress in achieving each, are listed below. We urge the Swiss and Uzbek governments to incorporate these benchmarks into the asset return agreement.  They should also agree on ambitious and realistic targets for improving Uzbekistan’s score on achieving genuine reforms, as funds are returned.

1) Establishing a transparent and competitive tendering process.

The World Bank’s annual Benchmarking Public Procurement reports how close national procurement systems come to agreed upon standards of openness and competitiveness.  Georgia’s Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information has, with other organizations in Eurasia and Eastern Europe, devised a method for measuring how open and competitive procurement systems in the region are. 

2) Creating a capable, independent, apolitical civil service.

Published annually, the World Bank Country Performance and Institutional Assessment rates how closely countries adhere to the principles of a merit-based, politically neutral civil service. Professors Peter Evans and James Rauch’s method for measuring the quality of a nation’s civil service is widely employed by scholars and policymakers alike to evaluate public service bureaucracies.   

3) Establishing an independent judiciary dedicated to enforcing fair trial rights and observing due process of law.

Gothenburg University’s V-Dem project rates countries annually on the extent to which the executive respects the constitution and complies with court rulings; and extent to which the judiciary can act in an independent fashion. The World Justice Project and the Bertelsmann Transformation Index both publish a yearly assessment of how closely governments adhere to rule of law principles.

4) Ensuring a transparent public financial management system and transparency in corporate ownership and finance. 

A partnership that includes the Swiss government, the European Union, and the IMF have developed the Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability Framework (PEFA), a now universally accepted system for assessing the transparency and effectiveness of public financial management systems.  The Open Budget Survey assesses the public availability of budget information and other budgeting practices that contribute to an accountable and responsive public finance system. The Financial Secrecy Index administered by the Tax Justice Network provides internationally recognized benchmarks for corporate and financial transparency and compliance.  

5) Strengthening accountability through establishing an independent anti-corruption agency and guaranteeing civil society and the media freedom to operate.

The World Bank gathers information from a variety of sources each year which it then compiles into a scale showing “voice and accountability,” the extent to which a country’s citizens can participate in selecting their government, how free they are to express their opinions and create private, voluntary associations, and whether the media faces restrictions on what it can publish.




25.6.18

International Anti-Torture Day: NGOs call on Central Asian governments to end torture


On 26 June, International Day of Support for Victims of Torture, the Coalitions against Torture in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA, Uzbekistan, based in exile in France), the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR, Turkmenistan, based in exile in Austria) the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland) and International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) call on the governments of Central Asia to redouble efforts to adopt a zero tolerance approach towards torture.

In recent months Central Asian governments have made some positive steps. For instance, the Prosecutor General's Office of Kazakhstan adopted a Plan of Comprehensive Measures to Counter Torture in early 2017 for the period until December 2018; in Kyrgyzstan as part of ongoing legal reforms, procedures were adopted to improve documentation of torture in line with the Istanbul Protocol; in Tajikistan civil society is included in discussions about a National Human Rights Protection Strategy until 2025; in Turkmenistan the National Plan of Action on Human Rights for 2016-2020 foresees inviting the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, thus potentially providing opportunities to conduct independent investigations into the use of torture and ill-treatment; and in Uzbekistan President Mirziyoyev signed legislation prohibiting the use in court of evidence obtained through torture and strengthening punishments for torture in November 2017 and April 2018 respectively.

However, despite these improvements, torture and ill-treatment remain pervasive in Central Asia. Statistics testify to this: in Kazakhstan the Prosecutor General’s Office reported 124 cases filed under criminal proceedings for the crime of torture as of April 2018, and the Coalition against Torture registers about 200 cases annually; in Kyrgyzstan the Prosecutor General’s Office received 435 complaints of torture or ill-treatment in 2017; in Tajikistan the NGO Coalition against Torture and Impunity registered 66 new cases of torture and other ill-treatment in 2017 (a significant increase in comparison with previous years). Due to the highly repressive nature of the regimes in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, due to lack of transparency NGOs are unable to keep meaningful statistics, but activists continue to receive credible reports of torture.  

The following critical issues need to be addressed urgently to ensure that torture becomes a thing of the past:

In Kazakhstan impunity is the norm. According to official statistics, between January and April 2018, 173 cases were closed including from previous years, and only nine reached court. The state fails to ensure the safety of detainees and prisoners who lodge complaints about torture, and victims of torture are warned that they will be held criminally liable for a false denunciation, which discourages many from lodging complaints.

Valery Chupin died in March 2017 in prison colony AK-159/7 after being punished for verbally insulting a teacher in the prison. He was tortured by six other prisoners, with the knowledge of the detention centre administration. Witnesses complain of pressure and blackmail from the administration of the pre-trial detention centre in Karaganda, where they were transferred after the investigation began. It should be noted that in Kazakhstan all institutions, both the system of execution of sentences and pre-trial detention since July 2011, are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The Kazakhstani authorities should: register all complaints of torture should where there are reasonable grounds to believe torture could have occurred; cease threatening people lodging complaints of torture with criminal prosecution if their complaint fails to be substantiated. They should also ensure investigations into torture complaints are carried out in an unbiased, professional manner and that the security of victims and witnesses of torture is assured.

Kyrgyzstan has not put in place crucial safeguards against torture for those in pre-trial detention. For example, domestic legislation does not provide for a Habeas Corpus procedure. The lack of effective investigatory mechanisms continues to block justice for torture victims. Only a few police officers have been convicted for the crime of torture (Article 305-1) since it was introduced in 2003. Kyrgyzstan has failed to fully implement any of the rulings by the UN Human Rights Committee in relation to victims of torture and other ill-treatment.

Nargiz Rajapova alleges that she was tortured by police officers from 23-25 March 2017 to pressurize her to incriminate her husband in the murder of a police officer. Rajapova reported that police officers beat her on the stomach with a bottle of water; put a bag over her head until she lost consciousness and inserted needles under her fingernails. Although the case involved serious procedural violations and a criminal case was opened into the allegations of torture on 28 March 2018, investigations have not progressed and the officers accused of torture continue to work.

The Kyrgyzstani authorities should create and fund an independent body endowed with sufficient authority and competence to conduct prompt, thorough and independent investigations into allegations of torture or other ill-treatment.

In Tajikistan legislation providing for safeguards against torture in pre-trial detention needs to be consistently implemented in practice as the risk of torture and ill-treatment remains particularly high in the early stages of detention. Investigations into allegations of torture and ill-treatment are rarely conducted effectively and there are no mechanisms in place to ensure prompt, thorough, impartial and fully independent investigations. This issue, combined with the fact that penalties under Article 143-1 (“torture”) of the Criminal Code of Tajikistan are not commensurate with the gravity of the crimes committed and perpetrators of torture often benefit from amnesties, serves to further perpetuate the problem of impunity. Compensation awarded for moral damages sustained through torture in recent rulings has been neither fair nor adequate, and domestic legislation does not provide victims with opportunities for rehabilitation, satisfaction or guarantees of non-repetition.

On 28 March 2018, Rasulchon Nazarov was detained by police in relation to suspicions of drug trafficking. Early the next morning, Rasulchon’s wife learned that her husband had been transferred from Sino-2 police station in Dushanbe to Karabolo hospital. The next day the family were informed that Rasulchon had died.

Rasulchon’s body was released to the family for burial - photos and video recordings of Rasulchon’s body show clear signs of beating including bruising and grazes on the face; knees, genitals and abdomen, as well as two identical round marks 0.5 cm in size 6cm apart on his right elbow which appear to be marks from a machine used to administer electric shocks. 

The lawyer from the Coalition against Torture and Impunity in Tajikistan took up the case in April 2018 and lodged complaints with the Dushanbe Prosecutor’s office and the office of the General Prosecutor.  The lawyer has faced persistent obstructions from the authorities in the course of her work on this case. She has not been allowed to see procedural documents in the case materials, and has not received timely responses to her requests and complaints.

The Tajikistani authorities should combat impunity by establishing a separate mechanism to investigate and prosecute torture or ill-treatment which is independent from those official bodies accused of perpetrating the crimes, and ensure that victims of torture and ill-treatment are able to access adequate compensation as well as rehabilitation and redress. 

In Turkmenistan, concerns persist over the lack of access to prisons and places of detention for independent monitors. Visits by international observers to prisons are tightly controlled by the authorities and, as noted by the US Embassy in Turkmenistan, it is not known whether the demonstrated conditions of detention of prisoners correspond to reality. In 2016, representatives of the diplomatic community applied to visit the prison "Ovadan-Depe", but were refused permission.

Thirty persons suspected of collaboration with Fettulla Gulen (alleged organizer of an attempted coup in Turkey in 2016) were detained and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. The group was mostly comprised of former teachers and students of Turkmen-Turkish lycees. Many detainees were sentenced to long prison terms after unfair trials, and at least two were taken to Ovadan-Depe prison. In November 2017, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention recognized that the arrest of 18 of these individuals was arbitrary, and urged the authorities of Turkmenistan to immediately release them and provide compensation.

The Turkmenistani authorities should: Implement the recommendations of the UN Council Working Group on 18 convicted persons on suspicion of cooperation with Fettulla Gülen and conduct an independent investigation into all allegations of torture and bring those responsible to justice and issue invitations to UN Special Rapporteurs including the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. 

In Uzbekistan, following Presidential criticism of the practice of torture, government representatives accused of torture have been brought to justice in recent months. However, their trials have been closed to public scrutiny, and the names of the perpetrators have not been made public. In many cases they have been charged with abuse of power (Article 301 of the Criminal Code) instead of the crime of torture (Article 235), which means that they are facing lighter penalties.

For example, several officials were found guilty in closed court hearings of abuse of power, rather than torture, in relation to allegations that they tortured the independent journalist Bobomurod Abdullayev. Although the trial was mostly open to the public, closed sessions were held relating to the actions of officials who were subsequently found guilty of abuse of power (Article 301 of the Criminal Code), rather than torture. The verdict was based on a medical examination that concluded that Bobomurod Abdullayev had not been tortured, although he showed injuries sustained through torture in court.  

In a recent positive development, on 22 June 2018, the Military Court of Uzbekistan found seven former law enforcement officials guilty of torturing Ilhom and Rakhim Ibodov in September 2015. Ilhom died in detention. Six of the officials were sentenced to between 14 and 18 years‘ imprisonment after they were found guilty under Articles 235 and 301 part 3. One official was fined 70 million soms (equivalent to 7,600 Euros). In a first for Uzbekistan, four prisoners were also found guilty of torturing the Ibodov brothers on the orders of prison officials, and were sentenced to between 16 and 18 years‘ imprisonment. Concerns remain in this case regarding the transparency and independence of forensic medical examinations as the forensic examination found that Ilhom Ibodov died of a heart attack.  

The Uzbekistani authorities should ensure that all court cases on torture are open and transparent; allow independent forensic medical examinations; and ensure that torture investigations are carried out by independent mechanisms.