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International Anti-Torture Day: NGOs call on Central Asian governments to end torture

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On 26 June, International Day of Support for Victims of Torture, the Coalitions against Torture in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA, Uzbekistan, based in exile in France), the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR, Turkmenistan, based in exile in Austria) the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland) and International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) call on the governments of Central Asia to redouble efforts to adopt a zero tolerance approach towards torture.

In recent months Central Asian governments have made some positive steps. For instance, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Kazakhstan adopted a Plan of Comprehensive Measures to Counter Torture in early 2017 for the period until December 2018; in Kyrgyzstan as part of ongoing legal reforms, procedures were adopted to improve documentation of torture in line with the Istanbul Protocol; in Tajikistan civil society is included in discussions about a National Human Rights Protection Strategy until 2025; in Turkmenistan the National Plan of Action on Human Rights for 2016-2020 foresees inviting the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, thus potentially providing opportunities to conduct independent investigations into the use of torture and ill-treatment; and in Uzbekistan President Mirziyoyev signed legislation prohibiting the use in court of evidence obtained through torture and strengthening punishments for torture in November 2017 and April 2018 respectively.

However, despite these improvements, torture and ill-treatment remain pervasive in Central Asia. Statistics testify to this: in Kazakhstan the Prosecutor General’s Office reported 124 cases filed under criminal proceedings for the crime of torture as of April 2018, and the Coalition against Torture registers about 200 cases annually; in Kyrgyzstan the Prosecutor General’s Office received 435 complaints of torture or ill-treatment in 2017; in Tajikistan the NGO Coalition against Torture and Impunity registered 66 new cases of torture and other ill-treatment in 2017 (a significant increase in comparison with previous years). Due to the highly repressive nature of the regimes in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, due to lack of transparency NGOs are unable to keep meaningful statistics, but activists continue to receive credible reports of torture.

The critical issues, which need to be addressed urgently to ensure that torture becomes a thing of the past, are listed in the full version of the statement.

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