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Kyrgyz Republic: UN Special Rapporteur on Torture calls for an end to impunity

BISHKEK / GENEVA (14 December 2011) – The UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, urged* the Kyrgyz Republic Government to prevent abuses, torture and ill-treatment, and to put an end to the prevalent impunity in such cases by promoting accountability and ensuring that alleged perpetrators are held responsible according to international law.

“Kyrgysztan needs to revamp the framework of procedural safeguards against torture, among other things by creating a meaningful and transparent system of access to assistance of counsel from the moment of arrest, and to ensure that it is implemented in good faith,” Mr. Méndez said at the end of his nine-day fact-finding mission to the country.

“A key element of my visit was interviewing persons held in various types of detention facilities as well as victims of torture and ill-treatment -who I met in Bishkek, Osh and Djalal-Abad- and reporting on their treatment and conditions”, noted the human rights expert, who also met with senior State officials, representatives of civil society, lawyers and human rights advocates.

Torture and ill-treatment
“The use of torture and ill-treatment is a widespread phenomenon, usually committed by the operative investigative officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs during the first hours of apprehension and interrogation for the purpose of extracting confessions,” Special Rapporteur said in his statement to the press.

“I have received multiple allegations of torture that share the same pattern of being subjected to asphyxiation through plastic bags and gas masks, punched, beaten with police truncheons and applied electric shock committed by police officers during arrest and first hours of informal interrogation,” he explained. “The use of torture by the criminal investigation police is exacerbated by the reliance placed on confessions in the judicial system.”

Investigation of torture allegations
“I am concerned also that there is a serious lack of sufficiently speedy, meaningful, thorough and impartial investigations into allegations of torture and ill-treatment, as well as lack of effective prosecution of law-enforcement officials,” Mr. Méndez said. “I heard multiple allegations of corruption in the administration of justice which demonstrates how deeply ingrained it is in the criminal law system.”

Administration of justice
“Almost all detainees indicated that they were subjected to mistreatment or beating since the moment of apprehension and delivery to a police station for the purpose of extraction of confessions by means of torture,” the expert said.
“Other allegations were that the judicial system is slow, inefficient and corrupt, which leads to a situation where many persons are deprived of their liberty in places of detention that are completely inadequate for long term detention and held in pre-trial detention for up to a year.”

Conditions of detention
Conditions in detention centres visited by the Special Rapporteur varied from adequate to dreadful, with unsanitary conditions, almost no ventilation, no windows or daylight. “In the basement of SIZO N 1 and Colony N 47, inmates serving life sentences live in dreadful conditions, confined in virtual isolation and solitary confinement, because of the absence of penal colonies designed for them. These cells are designed for detention lasting no more than 24 hour. Their conditions are unacceptable.

This was the first mission to the Kyrgyz Republic by an independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council with monitoring and reporting on the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in all countries, irrespective of whether a State has ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Juan E. Mendez (Argentina) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on 1 November 2010. He is independent from any government and serves in his individual capacity. He is currently a Professor of Law at the American University – Washington College of Law and Co-Chair of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement by the Special Rapporteur: http://www.ohchr.org/RU/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11712&LangID=E

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/torture/rapporteur/index.htm

Check the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cat.htm

OHCHR Country Page – Kyrgyzstan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/KGIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Shushan Khachyan (Tel: +41 79 444 6129) or Ms. Nuriana Kartanbaeva (Tel.: + 996 312 38 82 49; email: nkartanbaeva@ohchr.org.kg.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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