Stop Torture in Central Asia: Not just on paper, but in practice

When Alijon Abdukarimov, a 44-year-old businessman and father of three, entered the 4th Department of Internal Affairs in Andijon city (Uzbekistan) on 29 May 2020, he was a healthy man.

But he was not destined to leave the police station on his own feet. Summoned for questioning for alleged theft, he was brutally beaten and tortured by several officers that night. The next morning an ambulance brought him to the hospital, where he died two weeks later on 11 June from his injuries. A few days before his death, Alijon Abdukarimov’s sister visited him in hospital, where she found him in a coma and on artificial respiration. The film she took of her brother showed the bruises all over his body, including on his arms, chest and legs. His left eye was still severely swollen. “This is my brother,” she said, “he left the house in good health a few days ago, and now he lies here. Look at the wounds on his feet and his abdomen. My brother is dying.”

It was not until 13 June, that the Uzbek Prosecutor General’s Office made an official statement saying that on 30 May Alijon Abdukarimov had been taken to the emergency medical centre and that three officers of the Andijon Department of Internal Affairs had been detained on charges of abuse of power, illegal detention and torture. However, although the authorities of Uzbekistan have told the media they are investigating the case, officials from the prosecutor’s office are permanently stationed at the victim’s family home, effectively preventing the family from speaking to human rights defenders, bloggers or journalists.

Torture and ill-treatment are one of the oldest “societal pandemics” – and remain of widespread concern in all five Central Asian countries. Hundreds of individuals continue to be charged and convicted based on confessions extracted under duress; and, fearful of suffering from reprisals, numerous victims of torture and their relatives do not lodge complaints and give up all hope of obtaining justice through the criminal justice system. Often, only when a person dies as a result of torture – as in the case of Alijon Abdukarimov – do the relatives speak out.

Today, 26 June, is the United Nations (UN) International Day of Support for Victims of Torture. And on this day 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 significantly increase efforts to abolish torture not only on paper but in practice!

Read the full statement here.