30 October 2013
The Committee against Torture today concluded its consideration of the fourth periodic report of Uzbekistan on its implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Presenting the report, Akmal Saidov, Chairman of the National Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan, spoke about democratic reform to liberalize the legal system and implement the Convention against Torture in Uzbekistan. The problems of prison overcrowding had been solved by decreasing the prison population to 80 per cent of full capacity, while juvenile detention facilities were only 10 per cent occupied. Uzbekistan’s earlier closed and inaccessible prison system had become open and transparent to a degree unknown before. The death penalty had been abolished in favour of life imprisonment, a mediation system had been developed, while more than 147,000 persons had been granted amnesty. Uzbekistan fully supported the recommendations and conceptual approaches of the Committee against Torture.
The Committee expressed grave concerns about multiple reports from various sources, including United Nations mechanisms, that torture was widespread in Uzbekistan. Experts also expressed serious concerns about reports of repercussions against civil society members, human rights defenders and lawyers, such as torture, imprisonment or forced exile, and in general severe curtailment of the non-governmental sector. Torture and ill-treatment of detainees and prisoners in Uzbekistan was reported to be wide spread and pervasive. Experts asked why the International Committee of the Red Cross had decided to end its visits to detention places in Uzbekistan. Forced labour and the use of child labour for cotton harvests was also raised, as was the very strict regime for prisoners serving a life sentence, which allowed them only one visit per year.
Mr. Saidov, in concluding remarks, said he would provide answers in writing to all outstanding questions, and thanked the Committee for a fiery dialogue that was hopefully ultimately constructive.
In concluding remarks, Claudio Grossman, Committee Chairperson, underlined that the Committee was a supervisory body of the United Nations. It was important for the legitimacy of the Committee that it asked the questions it needed to ask, then assessed the answers.
The delegation of Uzbekistan included the Chairman of the National Human Rights Centre, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Deputy Minister of Justice, Head of Department at the Office of the Prosecutor General, Head of Division for United Nations and other international organizations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and members of the Permanent Mission of Uzbekistan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will reconvene on Thursday, 31 October at 10 a.m. when it will start its review of the combined third to fifth periodic report of Latvia (CAT/C/LVA/3-5).
Presentation of the Report
AKMAL SAIDOV, Chairman of the National Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan, said he would focus on the recent most tangible results achieved by Uzbekistan in liberalizing its legal system and implementing the Convention against Torture. Democratic reforms had been conducted, the results of which would be presented to the Committee.
Over the past 10 years, the prison population in Uzbekistan had decreased by 2.5 times, and the country’s prisons were only 80 per cent full as of today. The juvenile facilities were only 10 per cent occupied, which meant that there were no problems of prison overcrowding in Uzbekistan, unlike in many European countries. The following specific measures had been taken in recent years: liberalization of the legislation process; decriminalization of certain acts; abolition of the death penalty and the introduction of life imprisonment instead, both in war and peace; development of the system of mediation, which spared some 150,000 persons from prison punishments; and issuing of amnesty, which had benefited more than 147,000 persons.
There had been systemic work for social adaptation of people released from prisons, including through mahalas, citizens’ self-management bodies. According to the data of the non-governmental organization Penal Reform International, there were 152 prisoners for every 100,000 citizens, while in the United States it was 716 per 100,000 and in Russia 475 per 100,000 citizens. The shrinking of the prison population had made it possible to improve conditions in prisons and bring them closer in line with the international standards.
Another major achievement included the strengthening of the independence of courts, primarily by increasing technical and financial support to both courts and judges.
Uzbekistan had, furthermore, established an intra-governmental group to address and answer inquiries by international bodies. The group regularly followed recommendations issued by the Committee against Torture and the Human Rights Council.
Uzbekistan had built basic elements of the national preventive mechanism, including granting the rights to the Ombudsman to coordinate prison monitoring; monitoring by non-governmental organizations; coordination with international organizations, with the view of ensuring that prisons were transparent and open; and education and training of those working in penitentiaries. Uzbekistan’s earlier closed and inaccessible prison system had become open and transparent to a degree unbeknown before. Since 2008, there had been more than 300 prison visits by representatives of foreign embassies, non-governmental organizations and others.
Significant work had been done on the implementation of relevant norms of international law in the national legislation. Over the past five years, the Government had prepared and provided answers to 39 different inquiries by United Nations special mechanisms and independent experts, including to questions posed by the Special Rapporteur against Torture.
Uzbekistan fully supported the recommendations and conceptual approaches adopted by the Committee against Torture, and was prepared to enter into an open and interactive dialogue with the Committee Members.
Questions by the Committee Experts
FELICE GAER, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for the report of Uzbekistan, said she appreciated the opportunity to interact with the delegation, and recalled the latest discussion with the State party in 2007. In 2007, there had been a number of Uzbek non-governmental organizations present in the room, which was not the case this time. The reason appeared to be that the non-governmental sector had been severely curtailed in Uzbekistan, with some civil society leaders having gone into exile or having been imprisoned. Other activists were reportedly afraid of punishment or repercussions, including lawyers. International non-governmental organizations did not seem to be present in Uzbekistan, unlike in 2007. Ms. Gaer noted that the report had placed an emphasis on cooperation with civil society, which was not in line with what the Committee had heard from the representatives of the civil society sector.
Regarding the definition of torture, what was the status of bringing article 235 of the Criminal Code into full conformity with article 1 of the Convention against Torture? The Committee had a problem with amnesty or statute of limitations for torture crimes.
Could the list of 45 punishments for torture, which had taken place since 2010, be provided? How much prison time had each of the perpetrators received, and how many among them had benefited from amnesty?
Torture and ill-treatment of detainees or prisoners in Uzbekistan was reported to be wide spread and pervasive. The Committee on the Rights of the Child had also expressed its concerns in the same regard earlier in the year. In the absence of investigations, the Committee wanted to hear more about the discrepancies regarding the prevalence of torture.
At the moment, detainees themselves could not request medical examination or family visits, and somebody else had to ask for that on their behalf and receive an official permission. Would the State party consider abolishing such provisions?
Could rationale and more details be provided on the disbarment of lawyers, which was taking place routinely, as lawyers now had to be recertified by the State?
Regarding the monitoring of safeguards, the State party had reported no violations. Had there really been no cases where officials had failed to provide safeguards? Who was in charge of implementing such safeguards? Were video recordings used during investigations?
Judges were allowed to order medical examinations, but had no power to conduct preliminary investigations. Non-governmental organizations had reported problems with the habeas corpus law, including that the presence of detainees’ lawyers was not mandatory during pre-trial hearings. There was also a problem with the 72-hour detention before issuing charges, which had reportedly often been exceeded.
Ms. Gaer listed a number of individual cases, and asked what actions had been taken in their aftermath. Had there been any examples when it had been effectively proven that detainees had been tortured? The State party had not replied to some of the questions on the list of issues.
Regarding the inadmissibility of evidence obtained under torture, had there been any such cases? Had any confessions been extracted under torture?
The State party had reported that there had been no cases of sexual violence among detainees, which was contrary to the information obtained by the Committee. Ms. Gaer asked if there had been any investigations in several particular cases.
The Committee wanted to know more about forced sterilization, which the State party had said did not exist as a problem.
Had anyone been held responsible for firing against civilians in the 13 May 2005 events, when State troops had fired into a crowd of protesters in Andijan? The victims’ families deserved to know what had happened. What had been found in the course of the 2011 State investigation?
GEORGE TUGUSHI, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for the report of Uzbekistan, raised the issue of 38 asylum seekers, who had been extradited from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan. Some of them were reported to have been held in incommunicado detention, and had had serious obstacles of ensuring the services of private lawyers. Several among them were reported to have been tortured.
Regarding the issue of redress, Uzbekistan’s current legislation seemed not to be in line with the Committee’s recommendations. Even though the State party referred to civil lawsuits, there were no effective remedies available to victims of torture.
How effective was the training provided to the country’s law enforcement authorities?
Were any reports of local monitoring bodies and independent human rights monitors of prisons available? Information received from some alternative sources indicated the inadequate health services provided to inmates and the inhuman treatment of prisoners. The number of visits stipulated in the report left much to be desired.
Some suspected Islamists, coming from movements prohibited in Uzbekistan, were reported to have been kept in difficult conditions and for extended periods of time. Could the State party provide more details on a number of such allegations?
Mr. Tugushi listed a number of alleged cases of torture reported in 2013.
Having a penitentiary system under the Ministry of Interior was an exception, while having it under the Ministry of Justice was a widely accepted international norm. Was Uzbekistan planning to modify this?
The Red Cross had stopped its monitoring of prisons, and Human Rights Watch had closed its country office. Could the State party provide some explanation for these developments? Would the Government consider ratifying the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture?
Had there been any outcomes on investigations which had started as a result of complaints received by the Ombudsman’s office? The number of such complaints had shown a decrease over the last years.
Mr. Tugushi raised the issue of forced labour, especially during the cotton harvest. There had been numerous allegations of the use of child labour – had anyone been investigated or punished for that? Recently, the International Labour Organization had been allowed to monitor the process of harvest, which was a step forward.
The judicial system of Uzbekistan was reported to still rely to a large degree on confessions from detainees. Were there any plans to abolish administrative detention and imprisonment?
An Expert asked if there was indeed reluctance from the side of Uzbekistan to ratify the Optional Protocol. Was there a plan for its ratification, and when?
Uzbekistan’s prison rules subjected life prisoners to strict regime, allowing for one visit and one telephone call per year. The Expert considered it an inhuman treatment, and wondered if there was a possibility to abolish that kind of cruelty.
The Red Cross said that prisoners and detainees in Uzbekistan were rarely allowed to talk to their legal aides without the presence of law enforcement officials. Was that indeed the case?
Another Expert asked about the strengthening of the judiciary. What efforts were being made to ensure its independence? Was the discretionary power on the transferal of warrants being moved from the Ministry of Justice to the courts?
Why was Uzbekistan not considering ratification of the Geneva Convention of 1951 on the status of refugees? The ratification of the Convention would clarify a number of situations which were occurring on a daily basis. Uzbekistan had also not signed the Convention on Statelessness – how was the Uzbek nationality given?
What were procedures for receiving exit visas, and who decided that? The right of free movement of persons was ensured by international documents.
An Expert asked about the medical forensic officers who conducted medical check-ups of detainees and prisoners who might have been tortured.
The decrease of the prison population was highly appreciated, another Expert added.
What was needed for Human Rights Watch to re-open an office in Uzbekistan? Could the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees establish its presence in the country? What was the State party planning to do to re-establish the visiting system by the Red Cross?
The guarantees for free speech seemed to be problematic in Uzbekistan. What could the Government do about that?
On domestic violence and the protection of women exposed to it, were there plans to make both marital rape and domestic violence crimes? How many women were there in shelters and support centres? Had any support been provided to women who had been sexually violated in prisons?
Another Expert expressed concern over the fact that the State party’s report was contradicted by a wide range of information, provided both by non-governmental organizations and other United Nations agencies.
Repressive actions had reportedly been taken against religious extremists. What exactly was happening in that regard? Many of those individuals were simply exercising their religion and could not be considered extremists.
Regarding the definition of torture, the one provided by the Convention was broader than the one in the Uzbek Criminal Code and should prevail. The Supreme Court, which had oversight functions over lower courts, should have regulatory powers over them. Why were those courts not applying the definition of torture as provided in the Convention?
Was amnesty applicable to torture? Would the State party consider making the crimes of torture always punishable and not subject to amnesty?
An Expert expressed his belief that judges in Uzbekistan were in a rather precarious professional situation, and asked what the State party would do to ensure the security of tenure of judges.
Was there an incommunicado regime being applied in Uzbekistan and what were the conditions for it, another Expert asked. What conditions were in place for it?
The system of mediation existed for criminal law, which the Expert found odd, and asked for further clarifications. The execution powers of courts belonged to courts, not to the Ministry of Justice, as was the case in Uzbekistan, which was another oddity, according to the Expert.
If Uzbekistan’s judicial and penitentiary system were so successful, why had the country not allowed it to be scrutinized by either local or international independent bodies? Why were the doors to non-governmental organizations closed?
Another Expert asked about the criteria for the abolition of the death penalty.
There were allegations that numerous human rights defendants and journalists had been subject to inhuman treatment and illegal detention. Could the delegation provide more details on a list of such cases?
An Expert asked for clarifications about reissuing of licences of lawyers, including human rights lawyers, every three years, which was a very serious matter for the Committee.
Why had there not been any public statements by the Ombudsman on the prison system?
The International Labour Organization had established in 2012 that there was systematic and continuous forced labour in cotton harvests, imposed on more than one million children every year. Were children indeed mobilized without any consent?
Response by the Head of the Delegation
AKMAL SAIDOV, Chairman of the National Human Rights Centre and the Head of the Delegation, made a substantial speech in which he said the Committee showed a clear preference to the information provided to it by certain politically-biased non-governmental organizations to the information provided by the Government of Uzbekistan. Mr. Saidov said that the Committee’s findings had been corrupted by politically-motivated non-governmental organizations. The Committee could not ignore the voice of a Government in favour of the voices of non-governmental organizations.
Mr. Saidov said he had the impression that the members of the Committee were condemning Uzbekistan, and he did not want a politically motivated assessment. The Committee Members ought to be ashamed of what they had said. The Committee was not using official sources and it did not appear to take into account what the Government was telling it. The Committee could do a great deal of damage to the international image of Uzbekistan by continuing with those assertions.
The Head of the Delegation listed several documents from United Nations sources which he said contradicted assertions by the Committee. The documents related to Uzbekistan’s Universal Periodic Review, in which many States favourably assessed the human rights situation in Uzbekistan. He also referred to documentation from various United Nations human rights treaty bodies, such as the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women which positively welcomed Uzbekistan’s efforts and national action plan for women.
Mr. Saidov also referred to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) figures that he said showed that in 2012 Uzbekistan had reduced the number of children working in cotton harvests by thousands, contrary to statistics quoted by the Committee. The Committee also said that the cotton harvest lasted several months, when in fact it took just five days. Furthermore the European Union had also produced a report on combatting child labour in Uzbekistan, and the Government was working with the International Labour Organization to tackle the issue.
Regarding the Committee’s comment that the numbers and freedoms of civil society and non-governmental organizations in Uzbekistan were decreasing, Mr. Saidov said there were more than 6,500 national and 30 international (of which 22 were from the United States) non-governmental organizations operating in Uzbekistan today. Over the past five years over 120 non-governmental organizations had received financial grants and support from the State.
Uzbekistan was an Asian country and was not a member of the Council of Europe, so why had the Committee quoted its lack of compliance with Council of Europe rulings? The jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights had nothing to do with Uzbekistan, which was not even entitled to ratify the European Convention on Human Rights.
Allegations of the systematic use of torture had been made using outdated statistics. There was no international definition of the use of torture. The lower and upper chambers of parliament demonstrated their monitoring of the implementation of the Convention.
Mr. Saidov asked the Committee on what basis it said Uzbekistan legislation was incompatible with international law, and was a common law system, when in fact Uzbekistan’s legal system was a civil system comparable to Germany. International treaties had primacy over domestic legislation. Over the past five years prisons had been opened up, and had received more than 3,000 monitoring visits by the Ombudsman and international organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Response by the Delegation of Uzbekistan
The delegation said it did not agree that the definition of torture in the Criminal Code was incompatible with the Convention. The definition had been decided following extensive multi-stakeholder consultations and was in line with the definition used by the United Kingdom and other countries.
Referring to individual cases of alleged torture, a delegate mentioned two cases in which improper interrogations were carried out and the perpetrators were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. Regarding legal independence, the Head of the Delegation said that lawyers recently formed their own body that handed out licences to practice law.
A member of the delegation answered questions relating to prison conditions and rights for prisoners. In accordance with the Criminal Code, women prisoners were held separately from men and juvenile convicts were held separately from adults. Repeat offenders were separated from people serving their first prison sentence. Every prisoner was guaranteed their own bed, clothing and food.
All convicts had unimpeded access to medical care in prisons, despite the Committee’s information to the contrary. Since 2001 Uzbekistan had worked with the World Health Organization on the ‘Health Care in Prisons’ programme. The result of that cooperation was that 100 per cent of detained persons received medical care, including a medical check-up every six months at the prison dispensary. There was also a central hospital for prisoners, called Sang Or. The penitentiary system had more than 13 qualified medical personnel. Morbidity had dropped by 50 per cent, as had mortality rates. Uzbekistan also worked with the Global Fund on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and tuberculosis rates had been decreased, including the rate of recurrence, as by 2012 cases of repeat tuberculosis had been reduced to 10 per cent.
Access to a lawyer was guaranteed by law for people held in preventative detention. Convicts and detainees had the right to legal advice without restriction, and no special authorization was required for that. The detainee merely had to ask for a lawyer to be assigned, and then they would be given access. The concept of habeas corpus, as raised by the Committee, had been in operation since 2008, a delegate confirmed.
Regarding training on the prevention of torture, a delegate said that with the help of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, a training course on signs and forms of torture had been carried out for all staff working in the penitentiary system, including medical and non-medical workers. Staff were also trained on how to report suspected cases of torture.
Regarding pre-trial detention, a delegate asked if there was a country in the world where a person accused of a crime was not held in prison before the trial. If there was, he wanted to know about it. According to the Criminal Code a person may be detained if they were arrested at the site of the crime, if they were ‘caught red handed’. That seemed logical, why would you release that person. Furthermore, if there were eye witnesses to the crime, the suspect should be detained. Since 2008 the right to detain a person was decided at a strictly regulated court hearing process.
In 2010, 11,000 suspects were held in pre-trial detention, and in 2011 the figure was 8,500. During the first six months of 2013, 3,394 people were in pre-trial detention, which was 15 per cent of the prison population. That should be a source of satisfaction for the Committee.
The period of pre-trial detention was 72 hours, during which the investigators had to press charges and bring a person before a court. The 72 hour custody period was never violated, the delegation confirmed, and there were no statistics showing that a person had been held for longer than 72 hours without charge. There was no case of a violation of the 72 hour custody rule. The only cases that could be heard without the presence of the suspect were when the suspect had disappeared and could not be found, so the hearing would be held in their absence.
Regarding forced sterilization, a delegate said that Uzbekistan was focused on improving maternal and sexual reproductive health care. Every year more than 30,000 women decided to have an abortion. Prior to independence in 1990, abortion was the only way of ending a pregnancy as there was no contraception available. Up to 80,000 Uzbek women ended their pregnancies every year by using abortion methods, and there was a corresponding high maternal mortality rate. Today if an Uzbek woman wanted to terminate her pregnancy she could use the most modern methods of surgical abortion and sterilization, as used in many other countries, including the United States and Muslim countries.
The maternal mortality rate had dropped by 19 times since the use of those modern methods, it was surely only a good thing. Surgical contraception operations only took place on a voluntary basis, with the signature of the husband, the wife and the doctor. There had been no cases of forced sterilization, the Head of the Delegation said, adding that if the Committee wanted to give him details of individual cases he personally would investigate them. He noted that the birth rate had not changed dramatically, but the average life expectancy had risen to 75 for women and 72 for men, and the population had increased from 22 million to 30 million in the last 10 years.
Concerning violence against women and domestic violence, a delegate said there was criminal responsibility for those crimes, as well as sexual attacks on women, violations of sexual freedom, attacks on the dignity of women and trafficking in persons. There were several services to protect and support women victims, including shelters and psychological, legal, health and social care, as well as help to women victims to find employment. The delegate also referred to the growth of mediation services, which especially had helped thousands of families to avoid divorce and in particular prevent repetitions of domestic violence.
The Criminal Code for crimes of violence against women also provided sentences of 15 to 20 years for the rape of a close relative within the family, and unnatural sexual relations with a close relative, and also for forcing women to have sexual relations.
A delegate said the economic and legal systems of Uzbekistan were not yet mature enough for it to ratify all the international conventions it would like. To date it had ratified more than 70 international human rights documents, including 10 mandatory United Nations conventions, including the Convention against Torture. All of those had been ratified by the Uzbek parliament without reservations, unlike many other countries.
Regarding the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture, the delegate noted that it granted a wide range of powers, such as to monitor places of deprivation of liberty. The Government had now created a legislative basis for a national preventative mechanism that would grant rights to an Ombudsman to monitor all places of detention, and other bodies had already been created to monitor prisons.
Follow-Up Questions by the Experts
CLAUDIO GROSSMAN, Chairperson of the Committee, answered some of the complaints by the Head of the Delegation. He thanked him for the documents and information sources he had provided, and reminded the State party that today’s dialogue was a chance for a fluid dialogue in which the delegation could answer all questions raised.
FELICA GAER, Vice-Chairperson and Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur, said the mandate of the Committee, the first of the human rights treaty bodies, was to “make such comments on the report as it considered appropriate”. The purpose was to assess the measures that gave effect to the Convention. That was what the Committee did, and that was why they asked questions. Committee members were independent experts, not Government members. The delegation had expressed concern that the Committee had not consulted United Nations mechanisms, but the Committee based its questions on many difference sources of relevant information, including United Nations mechanisms and non-governmental organizations.
Systematic torture was well defined by the Committee and its definition was used by the Special Rapporteur on Torture and credible bodies globally. Ms. Gaer said her comment had been that torture was widespread in Uzbekistan, not even that it was systematic, and she reiterated her position. She also expressed concern that the right to habeas corpus was denied to many individuals. Ms. Gaer also referred to a BBC documentary on forced sterilizations in Uzbekistan saying that the BBC was not an inconsiderable source.
Ms. Gaer referred to the reports of several United Nations human rights mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur on torture, the Working Groups on enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention and other bodies, and the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. She also referred to a resolution by the General Assembly that dealt exclusively with Uzbekistan, and there were not many resolutions that dealt exclusively with one country. In it the General Assembly expressed its concern about the “continuous and severe human rights violations in Uzbekistan”. That document was written by the international community.
There may be thousands of non-governmental organizations in Uzbekistan, but since 2007 the international non-governmental organization sector of credible bodies such as Human Rights Watch had been silenced, said Ms. Gaer. The Committee had asked about 48 individual cases of alleged torture, and appreciated some of the answers given today, but would appreciate responses to the outstanding questions.
Of course Uzbekistan was not a party to the European Court of Human Rights, but its ruling in a case that the return of one individual would almost certainly lead to his being tortured was certainly a credible source of information. If the delegation looked at its rulings it would see that the European Court of Human Rights did deal with Uzbekistan.
The Committee dealt with the facts, and as the saying went ‘If you can’t cite the facts, you cite the law, and if you can’t cite the law you bang the table’, recalled Ms. Gaer, saying the Committee had seen a demonstration of that today.
GEORGE TUGUSHI, Committee Member acting as Co-Country Rapporteur, emphasized that the Committee very carefully researched many credible sources prior to drafting its list of questions. He referred to individual cases, including one where the accused was not informed about his own court hearing, was not allowed to attend, and was not told about his own appeal hearing. He then was disappeared from the trial.
Regarding prison monitoring, the Rapporteur said that the Government’s Country Report did not prove that any independent mechanisms for the monitoring of places of detention had been formed. Yes, the Ombudsman had the right to visit, and had made five visits to prisons. Some foreign Ambassadors had been allowed to visit foreign nationals who were incarcerated, although their visits were limited. There was not one single report, beyond the response of the Government, which described monitoring of prisons. There was not even a report from the non-governmental organizations that the Government said conducted prison monitoring. If the Government had any reports, would they please provide the Committee with them.
The domestic legislation of Uzbekistan was not in line with the requirements of the Convention, Mr. Tugushi said. Numerous other issues were raised about the harsh prison conditions. The Rapporteur said he commended the decrease in the number of prisoners, but that did not mean that all of the prisoners who remained in the system were now being treated with dignity and had their human rights respected in practice.
The Committee appreciated that there had been a great deal of legislative change in a short period of time in the State party, but nevertheless there were clear signs and allegations of torture and ill treatment, as well as impunity among perpetrators. Uzbekistan was not the first nor the last country to be reviewed by the Committee, Mr. Tugushi commented, and he assured Uzbekistan that its long list of alleged cases of torture in Uzbekistan had substantial groundings.
The granting of amnesty was tantamount to impunity, and granting amnesty to officials who had committed the crime of torture was not acceptable. Torture was one of the most serious crimes, and should not be tolerated. There were said to be 150,000 refugees on Uzbekistan territory, an Expert said, and asked how they were being treated. Were they kept in refugee camps?
An Expert repeated his question about the regime of life imprisonment, which he said went below minimum standards and amounted to cruel treatment and asked again for a response from the delegation. There was a flood of information about the practice of torture in the Jaslyk prison, which civil society and non-governmental organizations named “The House of Torture”. The descriptions of torture from that prison amounted to horror stories. Could the delegation please comment on that. The Expert also quoted the words of the Director General of the International Committee of the Red Cross, who said “We have to terminate our visits to detention places in Uzbekistan because we cannot work as our institution would like to do. The dialogue with the detention authorities must be constructive and this is not the case in Uzbekistan”. Could the delegation respond to that statement.
Response by the Delegation
In response to these questions and comments, the delegation of Uzbekistan said the Jaslyk prison was located in the northern part of Uzbekistan and was the only prison located in that region, so there was no question of closing it. The conditions in the Jaslyk prison fully complied with international norms. Before applying the law on the conditions of life detention, the Government had studied many other countries. Yes, they underwent a strict regime for the first 10 years. If they complied with that period, they would go to a different regime. Fifteen years after that they went to a ‘lighter regime’ which allowed one longer visit by relatives every week.
The Government had not prevented the International Committee of the Red Cross from carrying out its activities, it was the International Committee that decided to stop visiting places of detention. Today the Government was working with the International Committee of the Red Cross on other areas, such as an international conference on human rights recently held in Uzbekistan. The decision by the Director General of the International Committee was a politically motivated one made just days before the Universal Periodic Review of Uzbekistan and designed to damage its review.
Pre-trial detention was only provided in two cases: deliberate murder with aggravating circumstances, and for terrorism.
The Head of the Delegation took the floor to say Uzbekistan was being accused of having a system that did not work. Could the Committee show where the systematic failure was? Did it think the United States system worked? Unlike the United States, Uzbekistan had abolished the death penalty. The Committee said the prison system did not work, but Uzbekistan had a system of habeas corpus. It seemed that the Committee was accusing a sovereign Head of State of being responsible for systematic failure: how could a State accept that? Today’s dialogue undermined the mutual trust between them.
Uzbekistan was carrying out prison monitoring itself. The Ombudsman kept everybody informed by his annual reports to the Parliament, which were published in the newspapers. The Ombudsman also published a magazine on human rights.
AKMAL SAIDOV, Chairman of the National Human Rights Centre and the Head of the Delegation, said they would provide answers in writing to all of the outstanding questions by 5 p.m. tomorrow. He thanked the Committee for the dialogue, which was a fiery discussion, but hopefully constructive in the end.
CLAUDIO GROSSMAN, Committee Chairperson, referring to the end of prison visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross, noted that bodies, including Special Rapporteurs and the United Nations human rights treaty bodies, could only go to places where they were invited. He said he appreciated the professionalism of everybody today. He noted that the Committee was a supervisory body of the United Nations. It was important for the legitimacy of the Committee that it asked the questions it needed to ask, then assessed the answers. The Committee was happy to grant the delegation more time to answer the outstanding questions and would welcome their responses in writing tomorrow.
For use of the information media; not an official record