Kyrgyzstan: High Time to Act against Torture

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The time has come for Kyrgyzstan to take decisive steps to counter acts of torture, a newly published report by one of the UN’s top experts on torture has revealed. During a nine day fact-finding mission to the country the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Mr. Juan Méndez, concluded that the use of torture and ill-treatment remains widespread in Kyrgyzstan.   

Persons in police and pre-trial detention are said to be especially vulnerable. In these settings Mr. Méndez heard "multiple allegations of torture that shared the same pattern", including asphyxiation with plastic bags and gas masks, punches and beatings with truncheons, the application of electric shock, the introduction of foreign objects into the anus, or the threat of rape. These highly disturbing findings were unearthed during a mission conducted as recently as December 2011.

Conditions of detention in most places of detention visited were also described as generally inhuman and degrading. In one particular case conditions were so poor that they were described as "appalling". Detainees can spend long periods of time, often months, held in cramped, unhygienic conditions with little access to natural daylight, ventilation and heating. Food is also reportedly of very poor quality, consisting mostly of just one serving a day.    

Among his numerous concerns Mr. Méndez found "a serious lack of sufficiently, speedy, thorough and impartial investigation into allegations of torture and ill-treatment", resulting in a situation of impunity for perpetrators of abuse.

Moreover, there exists no regular and effective oversight of places of deprivation of liberty, despite efforts to establish a National Preventive Mechanism. The establishment of such a mechanism is therefore "imperative", Mr. Méndez argues in his report.

Since 2004 the APT has been working in Kyrgyzstan to help establish such a preventive body. Encouragingly, the country ratified the OPCAT in December 2008 and a highly promising NPM draft law has been developed, involving civil society. The draft law currently lies before parliament.

Echoing the sentiments of Mr. Méndez, the APT believes that this draft NPM legislation should be expedited as a matter of urgency. In addition, Kyrgyzstan should ensure that the NPM is furnished with the necessary financial, human and material resources to enable it to function effectively.      

The APT is set to return to Kyrgyzstan in the very near future to continue its work in relation to the establishment of an NPM. In addition, the organization aims to reinforce the crucial importance for the Kyrgyz authorities to swiftly act on Mr. Méndez' many recommendations. These activities are taking place in the context of a two-year torture prevention project kindly supported by the Open Society Institute.