• Home
  • >
  • Joint recommendations on improving efforts to eradicate torture in Central Asia

Joint recommendations on improving efforts to eradicate torture in Central Asia


document is presented by the following organizations: the NGO Coalitions
Against Torture in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the Turkmen
Initiative for Human Rights, the International Human Rights Association “The
Fiery Hearts Club” of Uzbekistan, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
(Poland) and International Partnership for Human Rights (Belgium)



An overview of concerns in Central Asia


Many problems and similarities of
today’s criminal justice systems in Central Asia stem from the legacy of the
USSR, when the rights of detainees were systematically violated.


Since the break-up of the Soviet Union
the five Central Asian countries have taken some steps to strengthen legal
safeguards against torture. They have all become parties to important
international human rights treaties, such as the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights and the Convention
against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
In 2008, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan were the first Central Asian
countries that became parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and have since adopted
legislation setting up National Preventive Mechanisms (NPM).


However, all Central Asian states have
yet to implement many of their international human rights obligations in the
area of torture prevention as well as crucial recommendations issued in this
area by UN human rights bodies such as the Committee against Torture, the UN
Human Rights Committee, under the Universal Periodic Review, as well as by the Special Rapporteur on torture.


While the
Special Rapporteur on torture has visited Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and
in recent years, Turkmenistan has never granted him
access to the country and a request for a visit to Uzbekistan has been
pending since 2006.


Torture is widely used across the
region and impunity for torture is widespread.
In all five
countries torture mainly takes place during the first hours of detention when
detainees are in many cases held incommunicado, without access to legal counsel
and medical personnel, but torture cases are also reported from later stages of
detention and imprisonment. T
hose detained or imprisoned on charges related to national
security or “religious extremism” are at particular risk. In Uzbekistan, for example, the health of
many prisoners serving lengthy sentences on such charges is known to have
deteriorated badly due to ill-treatment and deplorable prison conditions and
cases of deaths in prison have been reported regularly. In Turkmenistan the authorities continue to withhold information about
the whereabouts of dozens of people arrested and convicted in connection with
the alleged 2002 assassination attempt on former President Saparmurad Niyazov.
Many of them were believed to have been subjected to torture and some
reportedly died in custody.


To different degrees, all Central Asian
countries continue to use the criminal justice system as a means to control and
curtail opposition. For many within the criminal justice systems of these
countries the incentives to apply torture are greater than the disincentives.
For example, w
hile the risk of punishment for abuse is very small, torture
or other ill-treatment open up avenues for additional income
as law enforcement officers and prison
personnel frequently apply torture to extract money from detainees and
prisoners. In addition, Central Asian law enforcement officers continue to be
assessed – albeit unofficially – by the number of crimes they solve, a system
exacerbates the risk that police resort to torture to
obtain a confession to a hitherto unsolved crime.


rights defenders and lawyers defending torture victims are at risk of
repercussions, particularly when the detainees are held on charges involving
“religious extremism“, terrorism or undermining national security. In many
cases activists are closely monitored by the authorities; they are subjected to
excessive checks and in some cases NGOs have been threatened with liquidation
of their organizations as a result of their human rights work. In Turkmenistan no independent human
rights group is able to operate openly at all.


We are also concerned that in the name
of national security, security services of CIS countries, particularly of Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine, have forcibly returned
numerous suspected members of banned Islamic groups or parties to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Many of them were subjected to torture. Under
international human rights law, in particular the Convention against Torture,
states are prohibited from sending anybody against their will to another
country where there is a real risk that they will be subjected to torture or
other ill-treatment.





Below we outline what we see as the
most pressing steps that Central Asian OSCE participating States, all other
OSCE participating States and OSCE institutions should take in order to make
significant progress towards the eradication of torture in Central Asia, and to
ensure better coordination of efforts in this regard.


Recommendations to the governments of
the Central Asian OSCE participating States:


authorities of all Central Asian states should:


  • Promptly act
    on all complaints involving allegations of torture and ill-treatment by
    initiating thorough, impartial and independent investigations, punishing
    those found responsible, providing adequate and full compensation to
    torture victims, and reporting on the measures taken in mass media.

  • Provide the
    main safeguards of detainees against torture: a) Ensure that the right to access to a lawyer of the detainee’s
    choice from the moment of deprivation of liberty is fully implemented; b)
    introduce and strictly enforce police registration of a person’s detention
    without delay after the actual moment of detention; c) ensure that routine
    medical examinations of anyone arriving at a detention facility are
    carried out; and d) ensure that the remand hearing takes place no later
    than 48 hours after the moment of detention and that judges inquire into
    the legality and grounds of detention and the detainee’s treatment in

  • Elaborate and
    introduce in the legislation the institution of independent forensic
    medical examinations and increase the number of qualified medical
    personnel in police detention and pre-trial facilities. Ensure that
    medical personnel working inside detention facilities are truly
    independent of law enforcement agencies and are trained on the provisions
    of the Istanbul Protocol.

  • Introduce
    legislation to create an independent body that is endowed with sufficient
    authority and competence to conduct prompt, thorough and independent
    investigations into allegations of torture or other ill-treatment.

  • Ensure that human rights defenders are protected from ill-treatment,
    threats and repressions resulting from their anti-torture work and that
    law enforcement officers are punished for carrying out such measures under
    relevant administrative or criminal legislation.

  • Conduct
    regular and genuine consultations with civil society organizations, journalists
    and lawyers on necessary reforms of the criminal justice system as well as on
    policies regarding torture prevention and their implementation.


following recommendations are addressed to specific Central Asian OSCE
participating States:


  • The
    authorities of Kazakhstan
    should ensure that the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) is fully independent of the executive
    branch of power, including that it is financially autonomous.

  • The authorities of Kyrgyzstan should ensure that the National Centre for the Prevention of
    Torture, the country’s NPM, is provided with the necessary financial,
    human and material resources to fulfil its mandate independently and

  • The
    authorities of Tajikistan
    should grant prompt, independent and full access to the Monitoring Group established under the
    Ombudsman to all temporary detention facilities (IVS), pre-trial detention
    facilities (SIZO) and other places of deprivation of liberty to civil
    society activists, in order to conduct independent monitoring. The
    authorities should also
    promptly ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against

  • The authorities of Turkmenistan should publish comprehensive
    statistics on how many investigations and criminal cases have been
    instigated under the crime of “torture“, which was introduced to the Criminal
    Code of Turkmenistan in August 2012 (as Article 182-1).

  • The
    authorities of Turkmenistan and
    Uzbekistan should promptly accept
    pending invitations from the Special Rapporteur against torture.


to other OSCE participating States:


In accordance
with the principle that issues relating to human dimension commitments are
matters of direct and legitimate concern to all OSCE participating States,
participating States from outside Central Asia should:


  • Urge the governments of the
    Central Asian states to promptly implement all recommendations included in the
    section “Recommendations to the governments of the Central Asian OSCE
    participating States“ and make the topic of torture prevention a priority in
    bi-lateral meetings and human rights dialogues.

  • Provide
    comprehensive support to Central Asian human rights defenders working on
    torture, including by urging the authorities to put in place legal
    safeguards regarding freedom of association and by encouraging programmes
    that provide psychosocial support to lawyers and activists.

  • Make all programmes, where foreign
    governments provide training, support or cooperate in other ways with Central
    Asian government agencies, in particular those directly engaged with law
    enforcement agencies and the military, conditional on the observance of
    international human rights standards, particularly those regarding

  • Ensure that
    no one within their jurisdiction is returned to any country where they
    would be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.


Recommendations to the whole OSCE
community and OSCE institutions:


  • The Office for
    Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)
    should significantly step
    up its support of governments and civil society organizations in their work
    relating to the eradication of torture. It should increase its efforts to
    support governments in implementing international standards and obligations as
    well as recommendations of international human rights mechanisms and

  • OSCE institutions should pay special attention to the
    creation of favorable conditions for human rights defenders in OSCE member
    states, so that they can freely carry out their work on torture prevention.
    They should focus on enhancing the safety of human rights defenders and support
    programmes that provide psychosocial support to lawyers and activists. ODIHR should collect and promote
    examples of best practice and recommendations in this area.

  • OSCE offices in Central Asia should
    provide comprehensive support to all civil society organizations, lawyers
    and journalists working on torture prevention, including through engaging
    in regular consultations, providing financial and other support, and
    facilitating dialogue with relevant state institutions.

  • OSCE offices in Central Asia should
    ensure that torture prevention measures and civil society control are
    included in all relevant OSCE projects, such as those dealing with police
    reform and the fight against corruption.

  • The OSCE Centre in Kazakhstan should monitor the effectiveness of the new NPM and support the efforts of the NGO Coalition Against Torture in Kazakhstan to
    establish an independent torture complaints mechanism. It should also engage in
    monitoring trials to determine how the courts deal with torture complaints
    submitted during pre-trial proceedings.

  • The OSCE Centre in Kyrgyzstan should
    continue to support the independent monitoring of detention facilities. It
    should support NGOs to cooperate with the NPM and it should help NGOs clarify
    to the authorities and the general public the difference between the work of
    the Ombudsman on the one hand and the NPM on the other, and how these two
    institutions can complement the work of one another.

OSCE Office in Tajikistan should increase its efforts to facilitate dialogue
between the NGO Coalition Against Torture, other civil society organizations
and government agencies on the topic of independent monitoring of detention
facilities. In particular, the OSCE Office should support discussions between
NGOs and the Interior Ministry aimed at initiating monitoring of pre-trial
detention facilities. The OSCE Office should routinely raise individual torture
cases with the authorities and engage in improving legislation on torture

Leave a Reply