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Committee against Torture considers Tajikistan's report

Committee against Torture

7 May 2018

The Committee against Torture this afternoon concluded its consideration of the third periodic report of Tajikistan on the efforts made by the State party to implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture.

Introducing the report, Yusuf Rahmon, General Prosecutor of Tajikistan, underlined that the Government of Tajikistan paid great attention to the implementation of its international obligations in the field of human rights, and to the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations.  Accordingly, on 15 August 2013, the authorities had come up with a plan for the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations, as well as the recommendations made by United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, following his visit to the country in February 2014.  The prevention of torture was one of the main priorities of the Government’s National Strategy for Human Rights, and the Government was currently studying the possibility of ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.  With respect to the monitoring of detention places, a Monitoring Group consisting of members of the Office of the Ombudsman, civil society and independent experts had been formed, and between 2014 and 2017 it had carried out 63 visits.  In terms of legal safeguards while in detention, changes had been made to the Criminal Procedure Code in May 2016, guaranteeing access to a lawyer, mandatory medical examination upon arrest, and contact with family members.  Statements obtained under duress were not admissible in courts.  In addition, legal changes had allowed for the granting of compensation to victims of torture and ill-treatment.

In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts reminded that the Committee had previously expressed concern about how the legal changes had been implemented, and about consistent allegations of routine use of torture and ill-treatment of suspects, principally to extract confessions to be used in criminal proceedings.  They further highlighted torture allegations made by a number of high-profile political figures following their arrest in September 2015, intolerant treatment of dissenting voices, incommunicado detention, coerced confessions, inappropriately low sanctions for torture and eligibility for amnesties, proportionality of compensation for acts of torture, domestic violence, deportation and return of refugees and asylum seekers, training for judges, prosecutors, court officials, lawyers, law enforcement and prison personnel on all provisions of the Convention, monitoring of places of detention, access to a lawyer, medical examination and access to a doctor, application of the Istanbul Protocol, video and audio recording in detention facilities, use of force and weapons, detention conditions, solitary confinement, harsh prison conditions for those sentenced to life imprisonment, the juvenile justice system, corporal punishment, hazing, torture and ill-treatment in the army, and occurrence of tuberculosis and HIV in prisons.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Rahmon said that the delegation had taken note of all of the questions and comments, and he reiterated Tajikistan’s commitment to upholding human rights and fighting torture and ill-treatment.

Committee Chairperson Jens Modvig thanked the delegation for having participated in the dialogue, and reminded of the option of submitting the remaining answers in a written form within 48 hours.

The delegation of Tajikistan included representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, and the Permanent Mission of Tajikistan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.


The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 8 May, in the afternoon to hold a meeting with the Chair of the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture, and discuss the Subcommittee’s annual report.

Report

The third periodic report of Tajikistan can be read here: CAT/C/TJK/3.

Presentation of the Report

YUSUF RAHMON, General Prosecutor of Tajikistan, underlined that the Government of Tajikistan paid great attention to the implementation of its international obligations in the field of human rights, and to the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations.  Accordingly, on 15 August 2013, the authorities had come up with a plan for the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations, as well as the recommendations made by United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, following his visit to the country in February 2014.  Finally, in order to better coordinate the activities of Government bodies to implement the country’s international obligations with respect to human rights, the Government had formed a relevant commission in April 2017, to work together with the Ombudsman and representatives of civil society.  The prevention of torture was one of the main priorities of the Government’s National Strategy for Human Rights.  Furthermore, changes to the Constitution made in 2016 aimed to strengthen the independence of the judiciary.  In June 2017, the Government had come up with a new programme to reform the juvenile justice system 2017-2021, which focused on building a juvenile system based on humane and dignified treatment of juvenile offenders, social reintegration, and enhanced social and psychological services.  In cooperation with UNICEF and civil society, a series of training sessions had been organized for judges, lawyers and other judiciary personnel on human rights and legal issues.  The Government was currently studying the possibility of ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.  In 2013, the Government had set up a working group to study that question, consisting of the Prosecutor General, members of the Supreme Court, Parliament, the President’s Office, academia and civil society.  The working group was also analysing national legislation, studying various models of national preventive mechanisms, and consulting with regional countries on that question.

With respect to the monitoring of detention places, a monitoring group consisting of members of the Office of the Ombudsman, civil society and independent experts had been formed, and between 2014 and 2017 it had carried out 63 visits.  In terms of legal safeguards while in detention, changes had been made to the Criminal Procedure Code in May 2016, guaranteeing access to a lawyer, mandatory medical examination upon arrest, and contact with family members.  Statements obtained under duress were not admissible in courts.  In addition, legal changes had allowed for the granting of compensation to victims of torture and ill-treatment.  In cooperation with the police and prosecutors, the Office of the Ombudsman had carried out 31 information sessions for 1,056 State officials about relevant legal changes.  In 2014, a change to the Criminal Procedure Code introduced a ban on the extradition of persons to countries where they faced a risk of torture.  The provisions of the Istanbul Protocol had been incorporated in the country’s legislation, and in 2017 the Government had organized several seminars on the implementation of the Convention in cooperation with civil society.  Tajikistan had also implemented the Committee’s recommendation on the non-granting of amnesty for crimes of torture, and it had published a manual to help army investigators prevent torture and hazing of soldiers.  Finally, the Government had adopted a general strategy with a view to improve the treatment of detainees, reduce repeat offences, humanize conditions for custody, and improve guarantees for human rights.  It had also increased the budget for correctional facilities.  In terms of human trafficking, the Government had adopted several measures, laws and regulations, including a decree on a list of offences related to human trafficking.  

Questions by the Country Co-Rapporteurs

FELICE GAER, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Tajikistan, reminded that the Committee had previously expressed concern about how legal changes had been implemented, and about consistent allegations of routine use of torture and ill-treatment of suspects, principally to extract confessions to be used in criminal proceedings.

Ms. Gaer noted a great deal of change taking place in the State party since 2012, such as the development of a national action plan to implement the Committee’s recommendations, and enacting legislation consistent with various obligations under the Convention.  Tajikistan had also allowed a visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture in February 2014.  However, the Special Rapporteur had then reported that torture and ill-treatment continued to be a problem in the country.  Furthermore, in March 2016 Tajikistan had accepted a visit by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, who had observed the intolerant treatment of dissenting voices, which he had attributed to the challenging security environment.  Ms. Gaer emphasised that under article 2 of the Convention, no exceptional circumstances whatsoever could be invoked as a justification of torture.

Who in Tajikistan had the competence to address human rights?  What was the role of the Ministry of Security in the implementation of the Convention?  As for the prosecution and investigation of torture, the percentage of complaints that resulted in criminal investigations remained extremely low (six out of 80 complaints).  Could the State party provide details on cases in which law enforcement officers had been sentenced to imprisonment for torture?  Could the State party provide any data on cases during the reporting period involving allegations of torture or other forms of ill-treatment under the charges of incitement to suicide, abuse of authority, exceeding official authority, negligence, violating the code of military conduct, or abuse of authority or duty?  Did Tajikistan collect data in a way that could ensure that it was able to keep track of all the torture and ill-treatment complaints and investigations that its authorities had received?

Ms. Gaer then drew attention to the case of Mr. Umar Bobojonov, who had been detained and beaten in custody by police in Vahdat on 29 August 2015 so severely that he had gone into a coma and had died several days later.  Could the delegation provide any information about that case and on the status of the criminal investigation?  Had any redress been provided to Mr. Bobojonov’s family?

Ms. Gaer noted that she had not seen information to suggest that the Office of Ombudsman was capable of satisfying the State party’s obligations under the Convention to carry out independent and effective investigations into allegations of torture.  How many investigations into allegations of torture had the Ombudsman carried out during the reporting period?  How many complaints forwarded to the Ombudsman had actually resulted in criminal prosecutions and convictions?  What recourse did the Ombudsman have in cases where the prosecutor declined to open a criminal investigation into a complaint of torture?  Would Tajikistan consider making any further efforts to strengthen the independence and effectiveness of the Prosecutor General’s office in investigating claims of torture and ill-treatment, or to create a separate official mechanism with the capacity to carry out such investigations?

Turning to monitoring of places of detention, Ms. Gaer inquired about the number of visits carried out by the Monitoring Group since 2014, and about the authorities’ plans to provide additional resources to the Office of the Ombudsman to make visits.  Would the Government consider allowing non-governmental organizations to visit places of detention outside the context of the Monitoring Group?  Had the Government taken any measures to ensure that all persons in detention could complain confidentially about allegations of torture and ill-treatment without going through the prison administration?

As for the investigation of torture allegations made by a number of high-profile political figures following their arrest in September 2015, Ms. Gaer reminded that all of them were associated with the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan and arrested for a coup attempt.  Even though the files had been classified secret, could the State party indicate whether the torture claims had been formally investigated and by which authorities?

With respect to incommunicado detention, the Committee continued receiving reports that the police and personnel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs continued to engage in the practice of holding people suspected of committing crimes in incommunicado detention and subjecting them to torture in order to elicit confessions.  One such case was of Mr. Djovijon Khakimov.  What efforts had been undertaken to examine the allegations of incommunicado detention in his case?  Had any measures been taken to curb the practice of incommunicado detention and torture?  Had any perpetrators been prosecuted?

As for access to an independent lawyer, would the State party consider modifying or repealing the amendments to the Law on Lawyers, which gave the Ministry of Justice undue influence over the commission responsible for licensing lawyers and could lead to a dramatic drop in the number of lawyers?  In addition, lawyers seemed to have been subjected to arrest and detention on trumped up charges after agreeing to represent clients in detention who appeared to face a particularly acute risk of torture, such as political dissidents.  Ms. Gear referenced the case of the following lawyers: Shuhrat Kudratov, Buzurgmehr Yorov, Nuriddin Mahkamov, and Dzhamshed Yorov.  Would the State party consider inviting the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers to visit, and annulling the verdicts against the mentioned lawyers, given that their cases did not appear to meet fair trial standards?  Was the State party taking any other measures to strengthen the ability of public bodies to receive and effectively investigate claims of retaliation by officials against victims of torture, their family members, their lawyers, and journalists and human rights defenders?

Sanctions provided for torture were inappropriately low and perpetrators were eligible for amnesties, Ms. Gaer underlined.  Another concern was the fact that the crime of torture was subject to a statute of limitations.  What was the timeline for the expected adoption of the amendment to the Criminal Code that would increase the penalty for the crime of torture?  Would the amendment specifically clarify that convicted persons were not eligible for amnesty?  Would prosecutors, investigators and other officials retain the ability to terminate investigations on the ground that the perpetrator had repented or on ground of reconciliation with the victim?

Ms. Gaer raised concern about the inadequate response by the Government to domestic violence, and about favouring of reconciliation over criminalization.  Had the designated working group begun formulating draft legislation on domestic violence?  Was there a timeline for it to reach a decision on whether to pursue such legislation?  How did Tajikistan deal with underreporting of domestic violence?  What training was provided to law enforcement officials, medical personnel and others to identify victims of domestic violence?

How much funding was provided for rehabilitation and support services for victims of trafficking?  What was the number of victims of trafficking benefitting from assistance programmes?

What was the number of deportations and returns other than through extradition?  How many individuals had returned to Afghanistan and had they all received access to UNHCR and been given the opportunity to submit an asylum application?  What was the number of persons deported as a punishment for having violated decrees 325 or 328, which placed residency restrictions on refugees and asylum seekers?  To which countries had they been deported to?

As for coerced confessions, Ms. Gaer asked about the cases in which judges had deemed confessions inadmissible on the ground that they had been elicited through torture and ill-treatment?

ANA RACU, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Tajikistan, commended the fact that torture prevention had been incorporated into the curricula of institutes and centres that dealt with the improvement of qualifications of judges and officials of all law enforcement agencies.  Was training for judges, prosecutors, court officials, lawyers, law enforcement and prison personnel on all provisions of the Convention mandatory?  How many officials had received such training in recent years?  Could the State party offer more detailed information about the training on the new interrogation techniques for police officers, including non-coercive interrogation for law enforcement officers?

Turning to the monitoring of places of detention, Ms. Racu reminded that civil society from Tajikistan expressed concern that the low number of the Ombudsman Office staff in the Monitoring Group significantly limited the number of facilities that could be visited.  She regretted that Tajikistan had not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, and that it had not yet established a national prevention mechanism.  What were the remaining obstacles to ratifying the Optional Protocol?  How many inspections had been carried out by prosecutors?

As for fundamental legal safeguards, the Committee remained concerned about reports that police officers could call the suspect to testify as a witness, and hold him or her as long as needed to obtain the necessary information.  The avoidance of official arrest and interrogation during “conversations” allowed the police officers to limit or exclude suspects’ contacts with their legal representatives and family members.  How was it ensured that those summoned as witnesses or held under administrative charges were not subjected to torture or ill-treatment?  Did domestic legislation provide the same level of protection to all individuals deprived of liberty as to those detained on criminal charges?

With respect to the notification of family members, Ms. Racu commended the recent significant legislative amendments, namely the amendments to the Law on Detention procedure, and changes to the Criminal Procedure Code.  Further legislative amendments should be made to strengthen safeguards in detention.  Had any steps been taken to reduce the period of detention before remand from 72 to 48 hours?  A number of reports indicated that the legal amendments introduced in May 2016 were not consistently implemented.  What was the status of the short-term detention rooms?

Ms. Racu reminded that access to a lawyer was not consistently ensured in practice, and there were cases where investigators put pressure on detainees to turn down legislative assistance.  Another matter of concern was the confidentiality of the meetings with lawyers since law enforcement officers or guards were usually present in the meeting room.  What steps did the State party intend to take in order to improve access to a lawyer?  How many persons had been granted free legal aid and assisted by the pro bono lawyers?

Ms. Racu recognized some positive developments with respect to medical examination and access to a doctor, namely legal amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code of May 2016, which stipulated that detainees could choose to be examined by an independent doctor.  But in practice detainees did not undergo an independent routine medical examination upon admission to police stations and temporary detention facilities.  What steps had the authorities taken to set up an independent forensic medical service tasked with the examination of detainees upon their arrest, transfer and release?  Did every detainee undergo a routine medical examination, including psychological evaluation?  Were there enough medical personnel to perform medical examinations and did they receive training on identification and documentation of signs of torture?

As for video and audio recording in detention facilities, which facilities had been equipped with video cameras and were all interrogations recorded?  What steps had been taken to comply with the recommendation that the recordings were properly kept and made available to investigators and lawyers upon their request?

The Law on Internal Forces of the Ministry of the Interior did not foresee the exceptional nature of the use of force and weapons, and it failed to guarantee the proportionality of its application.  What changes would the new draft law on police bring in terms of use of force and special means, crowd control and other relevant areas under the Convention?

Conditions in detention and other closed and semi-closed facilities did not correspond to international standards in many cases.  Juvenile boys were often held with adult men, and conditions were harsh and life threatening, as well as extremely overcrowded and unsanitary.  What was the number of the prison population and what was the percentage of those held in pre-trial detention?  What steps had been taken to combat overcrowding?  What was the minimum living space allocated per prisoner according to national legislation, and what was the budget allocated for food per prisoner per day?  Would the new high-security penal colony in Vahdat respect the international standards for accommodation of inmates?

Another concern was the transfer of the authority for temporary and pre-trial detention facilities from the Ministry of the Interior and the State Committee for National Security to the Ministry of Justice.  The penitentiary system had been criticized as restrictive, especially for those serving long sentences.  What was the average duration of solitary confinement?

With respect to prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment, their prison conditions were especially harsh.  They were confined in isolation in small, cramped and unventilated cells, often in extreme temperatures, and they were subject to inadequate nutrition and sanitation arrangements, denied contact with lawyers and rarely had contact with family members.  Was there any initiative to amend the Penal Enforcement Code in order to change the special regime for prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment?

Turning to death in custody, Ms. Racu asked about the outcomes of the investigation into the deaths of Kurbon Mannonov, Nozimdshon Tashirpov and Ismonboy Boboev.

The juvenile justice system encountered many shortcomings.  Legislation continued to allow adults and minors to be detained together, and for minors to be held in solitary confinement.  There were no specialized prosecutors and judges that could deal with cases involving children.  How many minors were detained?  Were they subjected to solitary confinement for misconduct and for how many days?  What were non-custodial measures and alternatives to detention designed for juvenile offenders?  Were they involved in activities such as sport, art therapy, anger management or other programmes?  What measures had been taken to prohibit and prevent corporal punishment in schools, including special schools and centres for children and families?    

Consensual same-sex relations were not criminalized, but continued to be highly stigmatized in the country.  Homophobia and transphobia ran deep in Tajikistan’s society.  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons had been targeted in two public campaigns to prevent and combat “immoral behaviour” and by the “crimes against morality” launched in 2015 by the Office of the Prosecutor General, the Ministry of the Interior, and the State Committee on Women’s Affairs and Family.  Were there any relevant statistics on violent incidents against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons?

With respect to hazing, torture and ill-treatment in the army, reports showed that complaints of hazing risked the victim being labelled as a “traitor” and subjected to more hazing.  What steps had the State party taken to prevent hazing and ill-treatment in the military units across the country?  Were relevant statistics available on allegations, complaints, investigations, prosecutions, and convictions relating to hazing?

Questions by Other Committee Experts

Experts reminded that there were still no legal provisions on the right of victims of torture to compensation.  When granted, the amount of compensation was clearly insufficient, which raised the question of proportionality of compensation for acts of torture, and the consequences for victims and their families.  What measures would the State party consider taking to ensure that compensation was commensurate to the severity of the crime?

As for the compensation granted to cases from 1995-1999, what was the number of decisions of compensation, and the amount of compensation?  What other requests for compensation had been made?  It was of utmost importance for the Government to adopt administrative measures to allow for compensation without victims having to approach courts.

What measures had the Government taken to provide reintegration, and medical and psychological services to victims of torture and ill-treatment?  What was the number of medical doctors authorized to provide such services to victims?  Did the State support the provision of such services by private entities?

Experts further inquired about the relationship between judges and the Prosecutor General’s office, and about the need to strike a balance between those two institutions.

They also drew attention to the confiscation of documents from persons who should be recognized as refugees.  Was relevant disaggregated data available?  There might be some ethnic targeting of the Afghan refugees of Hazara background.

What inspection bodies existed for psychiatric institutions and were there any complaint mechanisms in them?  What was the number of complaints and what were their outcomes?

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, noted that while Tajikistan had made progress in reducing the occurrence of tuberculosis and HIV in prisons, recently there had been an increase of resistance to medication.  There should be relevant screening to determine whether the diseases were spread within or from outside the prison.  Turning to training on the Istanbul Protocol, Mr. Modvig noted that there might be structural obstacles to its effectiveness.

Replies by the Delegation

YUSUF RAHMON, General Prosecutor of Tajikistan, explained that there was a commission headed by the First Deputy Prime Minister of Tajikistan, which was responsible for the questions of human rights, including torture.   The State Committee for National Security also had responsibilities connected to countering torture and ill-treatment.  When there were complaints of torture, the Prosecutor’s Office handled them.  The Ombudsman could carry out any investigation based on communications by citizens and his mandate to visit places of detention had been expanded.

As for the case of Mr. Umar Bobojonov, Mr. Rahmon explained that the investigation of that case was different than presented in reports of non-governmental organizations.  He had been arrested for public disturbance under the influence of alcohol, had tried to escape and gotten his injuries due to a fall.

The investigation of cases linked with members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan were labelled as secret.  That party had carried out actions to undermine the country, namely terrorist acts.   In September 2015, that party had tried to carry out a coup d’état, and the Government had decided to proclaim it a terrorist organization.  The prosecution of Shuhrat Kudratov, Buzurgmehr Yorov, Nuriddin Mahkamov, and Dzhamshed Yorov was in no way linked with their activities as lawyers; it was due to the fact that they had committed crimes of an economic nature, and linked to terrorism.

Torture had been excluded from the list of crimes subject to amnesty, Mr. Rahmon noted.  State security agencies carried out the extradition of persons in line with the law.  The decree of the Government No. 325 on the list of cities in Tajikistan where refugees and asylum seekers could not reside aimed at increasing the cohesion of settlements.  Changes had been made to that order.

The Istanbul Protocol was part of the professional training of judicial personnel, medical staff, and police officers.  Any forceful detention of persons, including those invited as witnesses, was defined as factual detention.  Persons in administrative detention enjoyed the same legal rights as those in criminal detention.

The use of restraints was stipulated in the Criminal Code.  Within 72 hours, investigators had to collect all relevant evidence before referring the case to the court.  Lawyers could meet their clients in private without any restriction on the amount of meeting time.

Solitary confinement for minors could be applied, but only as a measure of last resort to ensure the safety, life and health of the individual involved.  Corporal punishment of children was prohibited under the Family Code, as well as under the laws governing education and the rights of the child.  

A series of training sessions had been carried out with respect to hazing in the military, and as a result there had been a drop in the number of reported cases of 13 per cent in 2017, and 19 per cent in 2018.  Eight judicial decisions had been made related to compensation for victims of torture, Mr. Rahmon said.

Between 2014 and 2017, the Office of the Ombudsman had received 17 complaints of torture, and the Prosecutor’s Office had initiated six criminal cases.  If action was not taken by State bodies, the Ombudsman could send his conclusions on measures to restore the rights and liberties of the affected persons.  The Ombudsman could visit refugee and asylum seeker centres, as well as places of detention through the Monitoring Group established in 2014.  The annual reports of the Ombudsman were submitted to Parliament, the Supreme Court and other Government bodies.  A working group had been set up to analyse national legislation in order to ensure status A to the Office of the Ombudsman according to the Paris Principles.

The State party was considering acceding the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture by 2020.  The monitoring group that was studying the possibility of establishing a national preventive mechanism was analysing the experiences of other countries and had recently visited Slovenia, the delegation explained.

The Government focused on the protection of the rights of detainees, and had introduced legal amendments to safeguard them, and 24-hour video surveillance had been introduced to that end.  Law enforcement agencies reacted immediately to any abuse, and the authorities took preventive measures against members of the police force who had abused their authority.  The police staff had to take training on national and international laws on the prevention of torture.  There were log books in all detention centres with information on detainees, detention periods, and the grounds for detention and transfer.

As for the incommunicado detention of Mr. Djovijon Khakimov, his family had been immediately informed about his detention.  He had been charged with illegal involvement in armed conflict on the territory of third countries.

The Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence identified the role people could play in the removal of root causes of domestic violence, as well as mechanisms for its prevention.  There were public awareness campaigns, as well as posts of 15 inspectors to prevent domestic violence.  Most of them were women and they received special training.  Tajikistan had also cooperated with other countries to exchange best practices in the prevention of domestic violence, such as the Republic of Moldova.  Hospitals had special crisis centres to provide support to victims, and there was an annual training programme on domestic violence covering 100 students.  

A special law had been adopted in 2013 clearly banning the use of physical and psychological violence against children.  Teachers had to prevent any use of corporal punishment, and teaching staff had to receive relevant mandatory training.  In addition, the Ministry of the Interior had prepared an instruction on working with victims of domestic violence, victims of trafficking, refugees, asylum seekers, and other vulnerable populations.

Tajikistan took decisive measures to fight trafficking in persons, and it participated in various initiatives at the international level.  It was not a country of destination.  Many young women from Tajikistan had become victims of sexual slavery in Russia and the Middle East.  In 2016, the Government had, therefore, come up with a national plan to combat human trafficking and to provide special support to victims.   The Government’s agency to combat organized crime had set up a centre for the prevention of human trafficking.  In addition, the International Organization for Migration and the Ministry of the Interior had signed a memorandum of understanding to provide assistance to victims of trafficking.  Women and children victims of trafficking received comprehensive psychological help and assistance in education.

Tajikistan was one of the first countries in Central Asia to have ratified the 1951 Convention on Refugees.  It hosted more than 2,000 refugees and asylum seekers, out of which 99 per cent were from Afghanistan, and the rest from Ukraine.

The Ministry of Health and Social Protection had made considerable efforts to implement the Istanbul Protocol (The Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment).  It had set up a working group to examine issues related to the improvement of training for forensic specialists, and there were currently local trainers for local specialists.  The Ministry had organized teaching seminars for medical doctors in the penitentiary system on the identification of signs of torture and ill-treatment.  In the past three years, 249 medical doctors had taken part in such training.

Tajikistan had a network of rehabilitation centres for victims of various kinds of abuse, including torture.  Specialists of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection had assisted in training for lawyers, judges, prosecutors and investigators, as well as the staff of the Office of the Ombudsman on the provisions of the Istanbul Protocol.  Health authorities were completely independent from judicial authorities in the forensic analysis of signs of torture.    The Ministry of Health and Social Protection used new technologies in forensic analysis of torture.  As for rehabilitation of victims of trafficking and domestic violence, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection was working with the International Organization for Migration to establish shelters.

With respect to violence against women, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection provided compensation in the form of electricity subsidies, free medical services, and other forms of social help.

The penitentiary system of Tajikistan consisted of 19 institutions.  Under the authority of the Ombudsman, a permanent monitoring group had been created and it acted as the national preventive mechanism.  In 2018, the Government would continue cooperating with the Monitoring Group to ensure access to all places of detention.  Tajikistan had proposed on many occasions to the International Committee of the Red Cross visits to correctional centres.  A draft agreement between the two parties was underway, but until now the International Committee of the Red Cross had not provided an updated version of the agreement.  Funding for the penitentiary system had increased two-fold in the past several years.

Special information boards on the rights of detainees were available in places of detention.  All facilities were equipped with special complaint boxes, and all correctional facilities had medical wards.  Detainees could call their families from phone booths without any limits.   In 2013, the central hospital of the penitentiary system had been equipped with a tuberculosis department.  The instalment of additional modern health equipment had led to a drop in the number of inmates suffering from illnesses.

A medical examination of detainees was mandatory and the results were provided to the examined detainee.  The penitentiary authorities informed family members of the detainee about his or her detention, and from the very moment of the arrest, detainees could meet with legal counsel in private.  The number of deaths in custody had decreased due to the improvement in the medical services provided in the penitentiary system.

After the establishment of a moratorium on the death penalty, Tajikistan had introduced the sentence of life imprisonment.  The Government had allocated a special land plot for the creation of a correctional facility for those serving life sentences.  With respect to the separation of minors from adults in correctional facilities, the Government had included relevant recommendations in the plan for the reform of the juvenile justice system.

Follow-up Questions by Country Co-Rapporteurs

FELICE GAER, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Tajikistan, asked the delegation to clarify whether allegations of torture and ill-treatment had been brought to relevant authorities as a result of visits by the Monitoring Group.  Was there any immediate plan to provide additional resources to the Office of the Ombudsman to carry out visits to places of detention?

Was there any intention to increase the staff and funding for the Monitoring Group to be able to carry out visits to all detention places?  Was the Government considering allowing non-government organizations to detention places outside the scope of the Monitoring Group?  Were there any cases when judges had declared the inadmissibility of confessions because they were coerced?

Which authorities had investigated the allegations of torture of the leaders of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan?  Did the Government consider the ramifications of the recent amendments to the Law on Lawyers, which would result in a huge reduction in the number of lawyers in the country?  Would the Government consider inviting the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers?

Ms. Gaer inquired about the measures to strengthen the ability of public bodies to investigate claims of retaliation, the timeline for the adoption of an amendment to the Criminal Code on increasing the sentence for the crime of torture, guarantees for granting no amnesty for the crime of torture, and ineligibility for the statute of limitation.

How many refugees had been returned to Afghanistan and how many had been provided with access to the United Nations Refugee Agency?  How many complaints of mistreatment of refugees had been submitted?  When would domestic violence be criminalized?  What was the role of the Ministry of Security in the implementation of the Convention?

ANA RACU, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Tajikistan, inquired whether the training on the prevention of torture and ill-treatment was mandatory for law enforcement officers and the military.  The Committee reminded the State party that such training had to be part of initial and ongoing professional training.

Ms. Racu further inquired about concrete obstacles to the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention, and expressed concern about the continued use of administrative detention, as well as information that access to a lawyer was conditional upon the permission of investigators.  Were there any mechanisms to monitor the implementation of the right to a lawyer in practice?

Ms. Racu voiced concern about the lack of confidentiality of the medical examination of detainees, and documentation of injuries and signs of violence and torture.  How many reports had resulted in investigations?  The fact that medical staff worked under the authority of the prison administration violated the principle of independence, Ms. Racu noted.

What was the percentage of correctional facilities using their own medical staff, and of those using the medical staff of the public healthcare institutions?  What was the number of medical personnel in all police detention units?

What was the prison population in the country, and what was the percentage of those held in pre-trial detention?  What was the minimum living space for prisoners?  What was the budget allocation for food per prisoner per day?

Ms. Racu reiterated her previous questions about prison regimes, disciplinary proceedings for prisoners, time limits for solitary confinement, and hazing and violence in the armed forces.

Follow-up Questions by Other Committee Experts

Experts asked about the legal nature of the Supreme Court’s special resolution/recommendation of 2012 to combat torture.  What plans did the State party have to explicitly recognize the right of victims to receive compensation?  What plans were in place to address the problem of the proportional nature of compensation?

In the context of fair trials, the relationship between judges and the Prosecutor General should be balanced, an Expert observed.  There was a very weak context in the terms of the management of the procedure.

What was the number of persons from whom Tajikistan had withdrawn refugee status?  Those measures seemed to have been applied mostly to the Hazara refugees from Afghanistan.

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, reiterated his questions about the number of prisoners who acquired HIV and tuberculosis in prisons, as well as about the number of reports of torture resulting from the implementation of the Istanbul Protocol.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation clarified that there should be no problem with the funding of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Monitoring Group; the funding was sufficient.  The Ombudsman had the right to monitor and visit places of detention.  Six individuals had been trained to visit detention facilities.  The selection process for the staff of the Office of the Ombudsman was transparent and preference was given to female applicants.

The Supreme Court’s decree specified rules for courts on how to treat cases of torture and to grant compensation.  In addition, evidence obtained under coercion was inadmissible in courts.  Officials involved in such extraction faced legal consequences.

The minimum living space for prisoners amounted to two square metres for male inmates, three square metres for female prisoners, 3.5 square metres for minors, and four square metres in pre-trial detention.  There were more than 2,000 persons in pre-trial detention, whereas 64 juvenile offenders were held in prisons.

In 2016, an expert working group had evaluated medical and forensic curricula, which included provisions of the Istanbul Protocol.  At the State university, second-year students were taught legal aspects of bodily harm and torture in all faculties.

There were legal provisions to guarantee compensation to victims of torture, and so far eight compensation cases had been decided, amounting to sums ranging from 2,800 to 3,700 euros.

Concluding Remarks

YUSUF RAHMON, General Prosecutor of Tajikistan, thanked Committee Experts, adding that the delegation had taken note of all of their questions and comments.  He reiterated Tajikistan’s commitment to upholding human rights and fighting torture and ill-treatment.

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for having participated in the dialogue, and reminded the delegation of the option of submitting the remaining answers in written form within 48 hours.
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