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UN human rights experts concerned about trial of alleged organizers of Andijan events

The following statement was issued today Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Martin Scheinin, the Independent Expert on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Leandro Despouy, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; and Manfred Nowak, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment:

The Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; on human rights and counter-terrorism; on the independence of judges and lawyers, and on the question of torture express their concern regarding the conduct of the executive and prosecutorial authorities and the legislative framework in relation to the ongoing trial of 15 men before the criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan in Tashkent in connection with events in the Uzbek city of Andijan last May.

The defendants are accused of being the main organizers of the Andijan events. A report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of July 2005 found that consistent, credible eyewitness testimony strongly suggested the military and security forces committed grave human rights violations while curbing demonstrations. The crimes with which the accused have been charged include premeditated murder and terrorism, which are punishable by death. Over 100 others are still in detention in connection with the Andijan events and are expected to face trial on similar charges.

The Special Rapporteurs are concerned about allegations of irregularities in preparation of the trial and of defence procedures that are inadequate to ensure a fair trial. They also fear that the crime of terrorism is not defined in national law in a manner compatible with the requirements of articles 6 and 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in relation to crimes subject to capital punishment.

Moreover, as little evidence has been presented during the trial, apart from confessions; since the defendants admitted their guilt on the first day of the trial reciting the prosecutors’ accusatory text and asking for the death penalty; and in light of the fact that they were not cross-examined by independent lawyers, the Special Rapporteurs express concern that the defendants’ confessions may have been obtained by means of torture. The previous Special Rapporteur on torture, in his report on a visit to Uzbekistan (document E/CN.4/2003/68/Add.2) wrote that, “torture or similar ill-treatment is systematic as defined by the Committee against Torture [and that] torture and other forms of ill-treatment appear to be used indiscriminately against persons charged for activities qualified as serious crimes such as acts against State interests, as well as petty criminals and others.”

The Special Rapporteurs emphasize that General Assembly Resolution 59/191 stresses that, “States must ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism complies with their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law”. They also underline that, in line with the urisprudence of the Human Rights Committee, Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on the obligations of States parties to observe rigorously all the guarantees for a fair trial in capital punishment cases, admits no exceptions.