COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE CONCLUDES CONSIDERATION OF REPORT OF KYRGYZSTAN
13 November 2013
The Committee against Torture today concluded its consideration of the second periodic report of Kyrgyzstan on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Presenting the report, Ulanbek Khaldarov, Deputy Prosecutor General of Kyrgyzstan, said the existence of the practice of torture in Kyrgyzstan had been acknowledged at the highest political and governmental levels, which demonstrated the political will to eliminate it in all its manifestations. Over the past two years the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and the Special Rapporteur on Torture had visited Kyrgyzstan and their recommendations were being implemented via a national action plan. Kyrgyzstan had taken significant steps towards the elimination and prevention of torture at the legislative and institutional levels, and in practice, including by new legislation, prison reform, training and work with civil society.
Committee Experts commended Kyrgyzstan for the reform of national legislation and the Criminal Code, but said although fundamental safeguards were enshrined in law there were constant reports that they were not upheld in practice. The Committee raised many individual cases of alleged torture and spoke about reported forms of torture used to extract confessions. Experts expressed serious concern about prison conditions, including cells that were one square metre in size, which constituted inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment. They also spoke about the reliance of the criminal justice system on confessions, deaths in custody, bride kidnapping and forms of violence against women and violence against children.
In concluding remarks, Mr. Khaldarov said Kyrgyzstan recognized that torture existed in the country and was a problem. It was unwavering in the fight against this negative phenomenon and looked to the Committee for support.
Claudio Grossman, Committee Chairperson, in concluding remarks, thanked the delegation for sharing their view of what was going on in their country and for their presence at the Committee today.
The delegation of Kyrgyzstan included a judge of the Supreme Court, the Chief of the Internal Security Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and representatives of the Permanent Mission of Kyrgyzstan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 15 November, at 10 a.m. at the Palais Wilson to consider follow up to Article 19 and 22 of the Convention. On the same day at 11.30 a.m., it will meet in public with the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and the Special Rapporteur on Torture.
The second periodic report of Kyrgyzstan can be read here: CAT/C/KGZ/2
Presentation of the Report
ULANBEK KHALDAROV, Deputy Prosecutor General of Kyrgyzstan, said the existence of the practice of torture in Kyrgyzstan had been acknowledged at the highest political and governmental levels, which demonstrated the political will to eliminate it in all its manifestations. Over the past two years the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture had visited Kyrgyzstan. Their recommendations were being implemented via a national action plan. During the period covered by the report (1999 to 2011) and the presentation (2011 to date), Kyrgyzstan had taken significant steps towards the elimination and prevention of torture at the legislative and institutional levels, and in practice.
Legislative and administrative reform included the establishment of a National Preventative Mechanism and National Centre for the Prevention of Torture in June 2012 in accordance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention. An independent body, it had unrestricted access to places of detention without prior notice and maintained direct contact – in confidence if necessary – with the United Nations Sub-Committee against Torture. The Constitution established that nobody should be subject to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The definition of torture in the Criminal Code was in 2012 made consistent with that of the Convention, and it was now impossible to terminate a criminal case on torture simply because of the victim’s failure to support the charges.
Following past human rights violations, including the events of 2010, Kyrgyzstan had launched radical reforms to ensure the fair administration of justice by reforming the courts and law enforcement agencies, and adopting new laws and strategies. The number of registered complaints on the use of torture for the first nine months of the year (208 complaints) had decreased compared to the same period last year (304 complaints) by 31.5 per cent, which indicated that measures taken to combat torture were having positive results. A State programme for the development of the judicial system was adopted in 2013 to achieve fair trials by independent courts, with a primary objective of restoring public confidence in the court system. The previous requirement that an accused person could only access a lawyer if a prosecutor or a court provided them with written confirmation of their criminal case had been eradicated, as it was found to violate the right to defence. A further reform was that police officers accused of committing a crime were now suspended from their work, as historically and in practice most cases against police officers were terminated when the victim purportedly changed his mind about prosecution.
In May 2012 the Development Strategy of the Correctional (Penitentiary) System of Kyrgyzstan 2012 to 2016 was adopted to implement prison reform. The situation in detention facilities had greatly improved in recent years. Surveillance cameras had been installed in almost all facilities to identify and prevent torture. Some major repairs had been carried out to buildings, but unfortunately, due to the national budget deficit, construction of the first prison for life prisoners in Kyrgyzstan, as well as three separate buildings for prisoners with tuberculosis, in penal colony No. 19 in the Zelenoe village of the Chui region, was stopped. In August 2013 a standard medical examination of prisoners, including those in temporary detention, based on the Istanbul Protocol principles and developed by members of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders of Kyrgyzstan for the prevention of torture, was approved. Human rights education had been introduced into schools and universities, and was a compulsory study at the academies of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Human rights training was regularly conducted for employees of the Prosecutors Office, prison officers and judges, as well as doctors and paramedics.
Kyrgyzstan was in the process of forming a parliamentary form of Government and a democratic infrastructure was developing dynamically. Since independence the country had been developing conditions for the further positive development of civil society, and there were currently more than 10,000 non-governmental organizations and human rights activists, as well as the Ombudsman Institute and international agencies including the Regional Office for Central Asia of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which opened in 2008. Kyrgyzstan was a member of the Human Rights Council from 2009 to 2012. Kyrgyzstan was committed to the United Nations Charter, the rule of law, human rights and democratic principles, and had ratified seven of the nine United Nations international human rights treaties, and was in the process of ratifying the eighth treaty, on persons with disabilities. The delegation expressed its gratitude to non-governmental organizations of Kyrgyzstan and other countries for their attention to the report and additional information provided.
Questions by the Experts
GEORGE TUGUSHI, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur, commended Kyrgyzstan for the reform of national legislation and the Criminal Code, and asked whether shortcomings identified by the Committee, including on the definition of torture, had been rectified. He noted that the prohibition of torture in legislation was in compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However the Committee was deeply concerned by the over-reliance of the criminal justice system on confessions, despite the fact that the Constitution and Criminal Code required collaborative evidence in the case of a confession and could not base a verdict solely on a confession.
The Committee had received systematic evidence of means of torture by which confessions were extracted, including reports of beatings by metal bars and bottles filled with water, asphyxiation, electric shocks, use of stress positions, threats of rape, threats of force against family members, and exposure to freezing temperatures. What had been done to address those serious allegations?
Victims of torture and ill-treatment were mostly of ethnic Uzbek origin. It was a matter of concern that the investigation of crimes of torture was prioritized to ethnic Kyrgyz rather than ethnic Uzbeks, although the latter group made up the majority of victims, the Rapporteur said.
The Committee was concerned by prolonged detention in police custody and the lack of safeguards to challenge that, one being the lack of information given to detainees on the reasons for their detention. Often people detained by the police were not notified of their rights at the outset of their detention, but at their initial interrogation.
Committee Experts noted the reform of the medical examination procedure of detainees, but were concerned that the examination often took place in front of police or prison officials, and were also concerned about the independence of the medical staff. Furthermore, forensic examinations were only performed upon certain requests and often after a lapse of time, during which bodily evidence of torture could disappear.
The Committee had received positive reports that members of civil society and international organizations were able to enter places of detention and report back on prison conditions to the Committee, which was to be commended. However, the Committee was seriously concerned that the conditions in a number of detention facilities amounted to cruel and degrading treatment. There were a number of solitary confinement cells in temporary detention facilities (known as IVS), many of which were located underground without access to natural light, ventilation and with poor hygiene conditions. Persons detained there were provided with only one meal a day and depended upon their relatives to bring them food. Juveniles were often placed in cells with adults. The practice of prolonged periods of police custody in appalling conditions was a further concern, and amounted to inhumane treatment. Was negligence in health and safety, especially when it led to a death in custody, a criminal act?
Conditions for prisoners serving life sentences were usually deplorable, and could be considered inhumane and degrading. Their regime was even more severe than that received by other prisoners. What was being done to address their situation? Conditions for remand prisoners could also be regarded as inhumane and were a very serious concern. Prisoners reportedly had to spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in their cell. Cells were often in complete darkness, either very high humidity or freezing temperatures.
The Committee appreciated the honesty of the State party when it acknowledged in the report that prison facilities needed to be reformed, but it could not afford the repairs. It also appreciated that the State party had inherited its penitentiary system from the old Soviet Union and that the facilities had not been updated since that time. However, that was no excuse to keep people in inhumane and degrading conditions.
The Special Rapporteur on Torture recommended that all detention facilities declared unfit for human habitation should be closed down, among others. The State party had an action plan to implement his recommendations: how was that plan being put into practice, an Expert asked. The Special Rapporteur also condemned that in addition to the very poor conditions, each detainee had only one square metre of space to live in; that certainly constituted inhuman and degrading treatment. He reminded the State party that international law held that it was vital that any inmate had a minimum of four square metres in the cell.
Regarding health care in detention facilities, the Rapporteur said that prisoners often had to pay for medical facilities in prisons and for their own medicines. The one national hospital serving prisoners had poor insanitary conditions, a lack of heating, over-worked and under-paid staff and a lack of mental health specialists. There was a high death rate of detainees at the hospital because of the lack of medical treatment.
The Committee appreciated the honesty of the State party when it said the work of the Ombudsman was not yet in line with the Paris Principles, and asked if legislation on that office, and capacity to inspect penitentiary facilities, was to be reformed.
FELICE GAER, Vice-Chairperson and Committee Member acting as Co-Country Rapporteur, asked if there was a seven year statute of limitations on the crime of torture. How many law enforcement officers had been convicted of crimes of torture? The Committee had received worrying information from Special Rapporteurs and non-governmental organizations that prosecutions were very rare, that only five officials accused of torture had been punished, and even then they only received suspended sentences.
Ms. Gaer spoke about deaths resulting from torture and ill treatment. She said there were cases of very young people who had died either in detention or afterwards when freed on probation, as a result of torture. There was no investigation into those cases, the allegations were not checked. The Expert named specific cases of torture resulting in a death and asked whether any security officers implemented in the deaths were convicted, and for what offence. In one particular case she asked about a person said to have committed suicide, who reportedly actually died as a result of being tortured by police officers, asking whether prosecutors took into account a message written in blood on the wall of his cell as evidence of his torture.
Ms. Gaer raised several individual cases of persons who had allegedly suffered torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, including those of Azimjan Askaraov, Zulhumor Tohtonazarova, Mahamad Bizurukov, Dildor Baimurzaev, Dilmurat Khaidarov and others.
The State party, in the report, denied that there had been any complaints of torture in the last five years. The Special Rapporteur on Torture said that meant the complaints system was ineffective and lacked credibility – not that there had not been any cases of torture in the past five years. How was the complaints procedure being improved and the ability to initiate prosecutions, as per the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation? In 2012 two non-governmental organizations in Kyrgyzstan filed 233 cases of torture. The same year the Prosecutor General’s office accepted over 100 cases of torture, but of those 17 were filed and only 12 ended up being considered by a court. Could the State party explain that huge discrepancy between cases filed and cases tried? What protection did a person who complained about an act of torture have from reprisals? Conversely, if an official refused to carry out an act of torture was he or she also protected from reprisals?
Violence against women and domestic violence was widespread, as said by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which in 2008 criticized the Government for saying that ‘domestic violence was just hooliganism’ and for the inept response by the authorities. The Committee took domestic violence very seriously, and assured the State party that it was not considered ‘just hooliganism’; on the contrary it was a human rights abuse. The number of temporary restraining orders given had jumped from a mere 30 a few years ago to over 2,000 in 2009. Could the delegation provide an update on those figures, and any other relevant information?
How many complaints of sexual violence and rape had been made against police officers and other law enforcement officials? Ms. Gaer noted that the International Commission on Kyrgyzstan had identified over 10 cases of gang rapes against women.
Bride kidnapping and forced marriage had been extensively reported on in Kyrgyzstan, not least in an article published this week in Newsweek magazine. A United Nations report said there was widespread impunity for the crime of bride kidnapping. Women reported being beaten, stabbed, sexually assaulted and then forced not only to reconcile with their abusers but to live with them and marry them. As many as 30 per cent of all marriages were a result of forced abductions. Only one in 700 cases was prosecuted. Some 12 to 15,000 women were abducted annually, and a study by the non-governmental organization Open Line indicated that 23 per cent of those women were raped before being forced to marry their rapist. The Committee noted that bride kidnapping was now considered a public crime, rather than a private crime. How many recorded cases, investigations and prosecutions had there been for bride kidnapping, was it a crime to aid or abet a bride kidnapping, and what were the penalties?
There were high levels of serious abuse, threats, persecution and harassment against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, and of harassment of sex workers by police officers. The non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch documented at least 31 cases of extortion and torture against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, an Expert said. She said it was reported that a State official recently said lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons “would never be permitted in Kyrgyzstan, not like in the United States, and would have to continue hiding in basements” He also reportedly said if he saw two men walking hand in hand he would beat them. Was that the official position of the State party?
An Expert thanked the State party for the ample information it had provided and asked questions about judicial reform. There was an impressive array of judicial training, the Expert said. He asked whether judges were trained on Article 15 of the Convention, which established that any statement established to have been made as a result of torture could not be invoked in any proceedings, except as evidence against the torturer. Were there any examples of a judge applying Article 15 as a result of the training?
An Expert referred to the State party’s 2012 report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in which it candidly said that there were very high incidents of violence against children. A 2009 survey of children aged 7 to 17 found that almost three quarters had been subject to abuse, with significant numbers being subject to sexual abuse, mental abuse, corporal punishment, domestic violence and other abuses. Corporal punishment was only prohibited in care homes, not family homes. The use of corporal punishment in alternative care homes for children was very serious. The Expert also spoke about very serious conditions in psychiatric hospitals for children, where children suffered corporal punishment, no water, no medical treatment and were not allowed outside. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Pornography held a press conference about the growing number of children being exposed to sexual crimes in Kyrgyzstan with growing impunity.
An Expert said the whole range of legislative, judicial and administrative measures taken by the State party in recent years was very impressive. There were very positive developments and should be welcomed. However, good laws were only the beginning: the real test was their implementation. Would the State party consider conducting regular evaluations on the results of all their good measures?
Incidents of the abduction of foreign nationals from Kyrgyzstan territory and across the region was so widespread, the non-governmental organization Amnesty International reported, that it had become a region-wide phenomenon. Could the delegation please comment on that assertion, and also on the expulsion of foreign nationals in general, as well as the practice of trafficking in persons in Kyrgyzstan.
Responses by the Delegation
The Head of the Delegation recalled that Experts had said that Kyrgyzstan’s definition of torture was not fully in line with the definition in the Convention, and that there was no definition of discrimination in the Criminal Code. The Government felt their definition was already in line with that of the Convention, and had now reclassified the crime of torture as either a ‘serious offence’ or an ‘especially serious offence’, as per the Convention. There was a draft law to bring the Office of the Ombudsman in line with the Paris Principles; this had been positively assessed by United Nations agencies. That law would next be discussed by parliament.
Regarding prison inspections, a delegate said there were State and independent monitoring mechanisms for detention facilities, including pre-trial detention facilities. On the State side, inspections were carried out by the Prosecutor’s Office, by the Office of the President, the Ombudsman, the Prime Minister and other bodies. Many non-governmental organizations already had the right to carry out inspections following a Presidential Memorandum of Cooperation. Furthermore there was an agreement to provide access to places of detention to many international organizations including the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. There was now a ‘spot-check’ system to investigate all places of detention, including State penitentiary institutions, psychiatric hospitals, police cells and more. The spot checks looked at the condition of facilities and cells, searched for signs of physical harm and examined medical reports. Investigators had to carefully investigate all allegations in a timely way and scrupulously check for signs of torture.
The National Centre for the Prevention of Torture was an independent body led by the Ombudsman, whose staff included eight human rights activists. The centre was currently being established; its budget had not yet been adopted but it was hoped it would soon have its building, staff and equipment in place.
Any detainee had the right to be informed of the grounds for his detention. His rights must be assured from the moment of deprivation of liberty, including the right to a medical check-up by a doctor, and the right to have a qualified lawyer and a defender. Amendments to the law on persons detained in custody meant that lawyers could now meet with their client at any moment in time, and in private. The right for a detainee to meet his relatives was also set out in the law.
Pursuant to the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, the General Prosecutor’s Office had established an inter-departmental group to develop measures to prevent torture. Those measures included the revision of the standards for evidence obtained without the presence of a lawyer to make it now inadmissible by courts. Many more innovations were to be introduced in the near future. It was also intended to install a prohibition on censorship of any correspondence between a detainee and his lawyer, or an international organization.
Regarding confessions, the delegate said that previously proof or evidence that confessions had been coerced was required. Now legislation had been changed so that no person could be condemned, or found guilty, on the basis of his or her own confession. Additional evidence was required. Evidence found to have been obtained in a way that transgressed the Criminal Procedural Code on ways of gathering evidence, such as by use of torture, was inadmissible.
Regarding temporary detention facilities (known as IVS) the delegation acknowledged the Committee’s concerns. They informed them that the Government had decided to build new facilities in three districts: Jalalabad, Balykchy and Karakol.
Medical reports were mandatory for all detainees. The Ministry of Health had signed an order on the conduct of training sessions for medical experts on the Istanbul Protocol, and further signed a Memorandum of Cooperation on human rights and freedoms with non-governmental organizations and law enforcement agencies. There was now constructive cooperation for the conduct of independent medical inspections. If there was any complaint of the use of torture of a citizen then a State medical inspection would be carried out.
The number of recorded complaints of torture in the first nine months of 2013 was 208; which was 30 per cent less than the number of complaints made in the same period of 2012 (304). The decrease showed prevention measures against torture were bearing fruit. In 2012, 31 cases of torture were referred to a court, and in the first five months of 2013 eight cases were referred to the courts.
The General Prosecutor’s Office had conducted analysis into the drop of the number of criminal cases of torture. He found it was the result of a number of checks. Sometimes the case was brought after the alleged torture and there was no medical report, making it impossible to confirm the person had suffered bodily harm. In other cases people made allegations of torture in order to escape their criminal responsibility for a crime. Awareness-raising campaigns by the Prosecutor’s Office had been successful, as had the increase in punishment and recategorization of the crime as “especially serious”.
There were no figures for 2011 to 2012 for persons sentenced for the crime of torture because at that time there was still the possibility of “amicable settlement” for those cases which were judged ‘less serious’. Today, since the crime had been reclassified, even if there was an amicable settlement the case was pursued.
In the case of Azimjan Askaraov, who was currently serving a life sentence in Kyrgyzstan and who had made allegations of torture, a delegate said that inspectors had investigated the allegations but felt there was a lack of evidence of signs of torture to bring about a criminal case. However, following the many appeals made by Mr. Askaraov, his representatives and international bodies, the most experienced and high-level officials of the General Prosecutor’s Office were currently re-examining the circumstances for further evidence or facts that may have been missed in the first investigation. If grounds were found, the Criminal Court would reopen and re-examine the case.
Concerning the case of Zulhumor Tohtonazarova that was brought before the Prosecutor General's Office in 2007, she said she saw for the first time a statement that she was alleged to have written, in a language she did not speak and could not read. Further investigation found that Ms. Tohtonazaro had not written the statement, it had been written by someone else. A judicial and medical examination determined she had not suffered any harmful treatment. Ms. Tohtonazaro confessed her guilt. She was later convicted on the basis of her confession. The allegations that she had been tortured, became pregnant as a result of rape, then held in custody while pregnant and restrained while giving birth in custody, were not confirmed. The delegate noted that Ms. Tohtonazarova afterwards gave birth to a healthy child.
An investigation into the case of Mahamad Bizurukov found his injuries could have been inflicted by a cell mate. It was not possible to establish his injuries had been inflicted by the police, so the case was closed. The argument that he had written a message in blood on the wall of his cell and that was evidence of his torture was not backed up. An investigation of his cell did not find any evidence of the writing in blood.
Following the death in custody of Dildor Baimurzaev, four staff were held criminally responsible. The case went to a regional court, but in order to ensure objectivity was referred to a different regional court. The case was currently under consideration and a judicial judgement should soon be handed down. The four staff members were all relieved from their duties and jobs.
In the case of Dilmurat Khaidarov, information was posted on an internet website that said he was beaten up by relatives of victims. On September 15 2010 a Prosecutor found that was true. A medical investigation concluded that no injuries were found on his body, and that he had not asked for medical care while he was in custody. The delegate noted that since 2010 Mr. Khaidoraov or his relatives had made no further complaints.
A member of the delegation who introduced himself as the Chief of the Internal Security Unit of Kyrgyzstan answered a cluster of questions on standards of detention facilities. Kyrgyzstan recognized that not everything was going well in detention centres and that conditions were less than ideal. Non-governmental organizations played a large role in ensuring that monitoring of temporary detention cells and remand centres was carried out. Widespread monitoring had been carried out in Kyrgyzstan for the first time. The very fact that monitoring had happened showed that State structures were concerned by the situation. There were concrete examples in the report.
All cells in all 47 temporary detention facilities (IVS) in Kyrgyzstan had been fitted with video cameras, which were also in corridors, communal areas, entrances and other areas. Video recordings were kept from one to six months, depending upon the technical specifications of the video camera. The video cameras were a great addition to prevention mechanisms and meant that allegations of torture could be proven. Furthermore temporary detention facility (IVS) staff carried out checks at least twice a week, which was also a real step to help prevent torture.
The Chief of the Internal Security Unit said in 2010 the budget for improving the conditions in temporary detention facilities (IVS) was 8.3 million Kyrgyzstani som. In 2011, it was over 15 million som, and in 2012, it was 11.6 million som. Over the first nine months of 2013, over 127 million som had been spent; the budget had been increased over ten times. Today, at 1 p.m., it was announced that the reconstruction of two anti-tuberculosis hospitals had been completed and the hospitals would open on 15 November. The overall area of the hospitals was 200 square metres.
Regarding deaths in custody, a delegate said that in 2011, 95 people died in custody: 76 died from disease or old age, four died from poisoning, 10 from suicide and five as a result of injuries suffered. Of those eight criminal cases were started, six of which came before the courts, and two of which were suspended. In 2012, there were 81 deaths in custody: 51 from illness, eight from suicide and five from injuries. Of those five criminal cases were brought, all of which came before the courts. In the first six months of 2013, there were 50 deaths in custody: 45 from disease, three from poisoning and two from suicide. Cases for the two deaths from suicide had been brought before a court. The statistics showed that there were improvements, the delegate commented.
Concerning disciplinary proceedings against law enforcement officials, a delegate said that in 2011 there were 101 cases resulting in 24 officials being fired, 15 released from duties and 72 subject to other penalties. In 2012, there were 127 staff subject to disciplinary actions, 24 were fired, 30 released from duties and 73 subject to other penalties. So far in 2013 there had been 60 cases. He noted that in addition to criminal investigations, if there was enough evidence an official could also be subject to disciplinary penalties.
Turning to violence against women and domestic violence, a delegate recalled the 2003 law on protection against violence which was revised in 2005 to include administrative liability. There were 55 women’s centres throughout Kyrgyzstan that were staffed by civil society and had been used by over 200,000 people. The centres also catered to men, such as alcoholics and drug addicts. The Government acknowledged that there were problems with domestic violence and had identified several cases, including of sexual violence. In 2012, 137 cases of domestic violence were brought to the courts.
Kyrgyzstan was trying to combat the phenomenon of bride kidnapping. In the last four years there had been 141 cases of bride kidnapping, or of forcing a woman into marriage, including cases of minors not yet of marriageable age. Of those 107 went to court and 157 individuals were found to be criminally responsible.
Kyrgyzstan recognized that there was a great deal of work to be done to reduce levels of violence against children. In 2012 two cases were brought to court and there had been three so far in 2013. The Government was carrying out awareness-raising and dissemination of information. Various proposals had been made, such as to strengthen punishments for crimes against children, including castration for paedophiles. Every school had a designated person for children’s well-being, and boarding schools had an assigned person whom children could write to if they had a concern.
Regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, Kyrgyzstan did not make distinctions based on sexual orientation; it based its work on specific crimes, irrespective of sexual orientation. If a person was tortured or beaten it was dealt with under that article and a person’s sexual orientation was not taken into account. The same principle applied to sex workers: if a sex worker was attacked they were a victim of a crime, and the fact that they were a sex worker was irrelevant.
Following the tragic events of June 2010 it was alleged that law enforcement agencies were the first to use firearms, a delegate said. That allegation had not been substantiated by any investigation by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The delegation saw the Committee’s concerns, and noted that a Social Council had been established that worked with civil society to carry out oversight of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
A delegate spoke about refugees, and said Kyrgyzstan’s laws were in compliance with international standards. There were currently approximately 1,300 refugees in the country.
Follow-Up Questions by Experts
GEORGE TUGUSHI, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur, commended the State party for making progress in several areas. It had many new laws and action plans and was trying to be open. However, there were so many allegations and complaints of torture that it was impossible to ignore. Fundamental safeguards were enshrined in Kyrgyzstan’s law but there were constant reports that they were not upheld in practice. People were held by the police for long periods, could not access a lawyer, could not notify their next of kin upon detention, medical examinations were insufficient and so on. Although the law prohibited a conviction based on a confession, in practice many judges and police officers did still rely on a confession in sentencing.
There were serious allegations of prevalent corruption in the system. Not only in penitentiaries, but unfortunately also in the police and in the judiciary and legislature. High numbers of cases relating to torture or ill-treatment were dropped before they came to court. The numbers of death in custody were very high. The Committee understood that Kyrgyzstan had many challenges to overcome and could not make all reforms overnight; improvements in legislation were positive, but there needed to be indications that things were working in practice.
To hear that persons were not classified based on their belonging to minority groups, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, was understandable, but the Committee’s question was actually why those persons were subjected to excessive measures, including intimidation, beating and subjective justice.
FELICE GAER, Vice-Chairperson and Committee Member acting as Co-Country Rapporteur, said she was perplexed by the delegation’s response as there was a significant disconnect between the report, the responses and allegations made. The report led the Committee to pay attention to non-governmental organization reports, as it made statements such as “there were no reports of torture or ill-treatment since the ratification of the Convention” and “there have been no cases of ill-treatment by staff in the last five years”. However, in the delegation’s presentation of its report it describes “outrageous conditions” and “high numbers of death in custody”. The report stated that there was currently “no independent system for the monitoring of places of detention” but the delegation had said otherwise. Some things just did not make sense, Ms. Gaer said.
Referring to individual cases Ms. Gaer said the Special Rapporteur on Torture said the case of Azimjan Askaraov was an example of the highest levels of the judiciary failing to act on allegations of torture. Mr. Askaraov was a well know human rights defender of Uzbek ethnicity. He was alleged to be repeatedly beaten, abused and denied medical treatment. He and his lawyer suffered reprisals and attacks during the trial. The trial itself was said to be unfair, with people screaming and Mr. Askaraov’s lawyer being beaten by protestors during it. Mr. Askaraov was sentenced to life imprisonment and remained in prison today. In 2012 two renowned United States medical experts from Physicians for Human Rights examined him and found he had been examined by a State doctor, but only for ten minutes, and in the presence of prison guards who intimidated the doctor. Since then access to him had been very limited.
Why had the case of Farrukh Gapirov been suspended, when it was found that people had indeed tortured him? Why was the case of Dilmurat Khaidarov not investigated; Amnesty International had told the Committee that there were numerous witnesses of his ill-treatment. Regarding Khairullo Amanbaev who died in custody, the delegation said he fell out of a window. The Committee often heard that, and rarely accepted it; people did not just ‘fall out of windows’, they were usually trying to escape, or thrown out, said Ms. Gaer. She understood the family had appealed the case and asked what the criminal investigation had found. Ms. Gaer also asked about the 999 cases of alleged torture that the President of Kyrgyzstan had said should be reviewed again. Have any prison officials been convicted for negligence for the deaths in detention?
An Expert returned to the point that a number of prison cells were no more than one square metre in size. That was asserted in the report of the Ombudsman. That condition certainly constituted inhuman treatment. The report contained a lot of ‘dynamite’ another Expert said, referring to serious cases of torture and how they were being followed up, and it would be important to keep the Committee informed on what happened with those cases.
Further Responses by the Delegation
The Head of the Delegation said he would not say that torture was used frequently or was systemic in nature, nor that all law enforcement officials carried out torture. There were many examples of law enforcement officials who carried out their work with dignity. Unfortunately there were staff who used methods such as torture to carry out their work, to make their work easier for themselves.
It was mandatory to investigate every death in a place of detention from disease, suicide, poisoning, and so on. A forensic analysis or autopsy had to take place in every case and if there was criminal liability the case was brought to court.
It was a judicial decision that Azimjan Askaraov was guilty of certain crimes, he was found guilty not only from his initial confession but also from other evidence. Judges at all levels of court found him guilty. Nevertheless a further investigation into the case was being carried out, a delegate reiterated. He noted that Mr. Askaraov was a defender of the Uzbek population, but said his status did not release him from responsibility for the acts he carried out; if he carried out a crime then he must be punished for it.
Khairullo Amanbaev had died after falling from his second floor while meeting with his lawyer. His fall was witnessed by a neighbour, who confirmed that during his attempt to flee he fell. The delegate said he could not say how many people fell from windows, but it was not a frequent occurrence.
The finding of cells of one square metre by the Ombudsman was true, a delegate said. As the Committee knew, a bed could not be put in a cell of one square metre: at least two square metres were needed to fit a bed. Things were not great everywhere, but the situation was changing and budgets had been allocated to renovate and repair places of detention.
CLAUDIO GROSSMAN, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for sharing their view of what was going on in their country and for their presence at the Committee today.
ULANBEK KHALDAROV, Deputy Prosecutor General of Kyrgyzstan, said he hoped his delegation had highlighted the steps being taken at all levels to root out and prevent the practice of torture. Kyrgyzstan recognized that torture existed in the country and was a problem. It was unwavering in the fight against this negative phenomenon. Kyrgyzstan looked to the Committee for support. Unfortunately it was not receiving support from donors, but continued its constructive engagement with international and national human rights mechanisms and all non-governmental organizations working in the field.
For use of the information media; not an official record