Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Kyrgyzstan: Stop widespread torture and arbitrary detentions of Uzbeks

Source: Human Rights Watch (HRW)

International Police Force and International Inquiry Urgently Needed

(Osh) - The Kyrgyz authorities should take urgent steps to stop the widespread torture and arbitrary detentions of Uzbeks suspected of participation in the violence that erupted in June in southern Kyrgyzstan, Human Rights Watch said today. These violations undermine the investigation into the events and increase tensions, threatening to further destabilize the situation, Human Rights Watch said.

"While the Kyrgyz authorities have an obligation to investigate the June violence and prosecute those responsible, they must do so without violating international or Kyrgyz law," said Anna Neistat, associate director of program/emergencies at Human Rights Watch, who is in Osh. "Coercing confessions through torture discredits the investigation and fans the flames of the ethnic conflict."

Human Rights Watch researchers on the ground in southern Kyrgyzstan have received numerous, credible reports of arbitrary arrests in Uzbek neighborhoods in Osh Province and of severe beatings and other forms of ill-treatment, including torture, in custody. Human Rights Watch documented the death of one man and dozens of injuries as a result of abuse by Kyrgyz security forces. Human Rights Watch called on the Kyrgyz authorities to put an immediate end to ill-treatment and arbitrary arrests, and to unite around a call for sending an international police force to the region.

Human Rights Watch has received information about ill-treatment, including torture, in more than 30 cases connected to the investigation of the June violence. In six cases, Human Rights Watch researchers were able to interview recently released victims who told Human Rights Watch that they had been severely beaten and subjected to torture such as asphyxiation and burning with cigarette stubs. In other cases Human Rights Watch saw photos of injuries from beatings or obtained testimony from lawyers, family members, and other detainees who saw the victims while they were still in detention.

Lawyers and relatives told Human Rights Watch that the authorities repeatedly harass them, prevent access to the detainees, and threaten them not to complain about ill-treatment.

Human Rights Watch previously documented the denial of due process guarantees and allegations of torture in the case of Azimzhan Askarov, a local human rights defender who is still in detention in the southern town of Bazar-Kurgan.

Human Rights Watch expressed concern about indications that ethnic Uzbeks are disproportionally targeted for detention and warned that continued arbitrary arrests and widespread abuse, including torture, might further destabilize the already tense situation in southern Kyrgyzstan. Agitated by arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment including torture, and altercations between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, large crowds of Uzbek men and women gathered in the streets on several occasions over the last week to prevent or protest new arrests and the ill-treatment of detainees, sometimes leading to confrontations with local law enforcement officials.

On July 10, 2010, the Prosecutor General's Office of Kyrgyzstan issued an order calling on the law enforcement agencies to observe the law scrupulously during the security operations.

Human Rights Watch urgently called on the Kyrgyz authorities and the international community to send international police forces to the region to stabilize the situation and to open an international investigation into the June violence.

Foreign ministers of the 56 participating states of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which includes Kyrgyzstan, are to meet in Almaty, Kazakhstan on July 16 and 17 for an informal summit.

"Urgent deployment of an international police force to Kyrgyzstan should be at the top of the agenda for the OSCE's meeting this week," Neistat said. "The investigation into the June violence is marred by widespread human rights violations, which can be prevented by an international police force helping Kyrgyz authorities to do their work in compliance with the law."

Roza Otunbaeva, interim president of Kyrgyzstan, has requested international police forces from the OSCE, but deployment has been delayed because of disagreements about the mission's mandate.

Serious problems with the objectivity and the methods of the national investigation also underscore the need for a prompt establishment of an independent international commission of inquiry into the June violence, Human Rights Watch said.

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