Time to tackle torture in Tajikistan

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Torture and ill-treatment ‘often practiced across Tajikistan’, finds UN anti-torture expert. Tajikistan should take ‘concrete measures to speed up’ the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.  

The UN’s top expert on torture, Juan Méndez, has described torture and ill-treatment as a regularly occurring phenomena in Tajikistan. This critical assessment was reached after the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture’s week-long visit to the country in May 2012. During the visit the UN expert inspected 17 different detention facilities, speaking with numerous detainees about their experiences – good and bad – in detention. 

In particular, Méndez described people arrested by the police as being ‘extremely vulnerable’ to abuse during their initial period in police custody. Various reasons were cited in the report for this lamentable state of affairs, including the failure of police to register persons held in detention, lack of access to a lawyer and refusal of the right to be brought before a judge.

In one instance, in the city of Khujand, the UN expert received numerous allegations “that pointed to a pattern of incommunicado detention, the use of electric shock and of cold and hot water with the purpose of extracting confessions, incriminating other defendants or obtaining information about accomplices.” 

Positive changes noted

In other respects, however, the report highlighted various positive changes, especially in respect to legislation and conditions of detention. For example, in temporary and pre-trial detention centres, as well as open regime prison colonies, food and material conditions varied from acceptable to ‘good and decent’.

Among his three pages worth of recommendations Méndez has made many important proposals aimed to combating abuse. In the light of the absence of any regular independent oversight of places of detention in the country Méndez has recommended the speedy ratification of the torture prevention treaty, OPCAT, and the establishment of an effective national preventive mechanism. He also has urged the Tajik government to grant the ICRC and independent NGOs access to all such places of detention.

The APT hopes that the Tajik authorities will build on the positive aspects contained in the report and implement Juan Méndez’s recommendations across-the-board, including the ratification of the OPCAT.