Torture in Uzbekistan: the facts

How bad is torture in Uzbekistan?

Torture and other ill-treatment are commonplace and play a “central role” in Uzbekistan’s justice system. Police and security forces regularly use torture to extract confessions, to intimidate entire families or as a threat to extract bribes.

Who carries out torture?

The police and the secret police, the Uzbekistani National Security Service (SNB).

Who is being tortured?

Security forces use torture against men and women charged with criminal offences, such as theft and murder, as well as against individuals who have fallen out of favour with the authorities, including former officials, government critics and business people. Those particularly vulnerable to torture and other ill-treatment are men and women charged with or convicted of “anti-state” and terrorism-related offences.Victims include migrant workers and members of banned religious groups. The authorities often also target victims’ extended families.

What torture techniques are used?

The police and secret police use horrific techniques, including asphyxiation, rape, electric shocks, exposure to extreme heat and cold, and depriving people of sleep, food and water. Amnesty has documented elaborate, prolonged beatings delivered by groups of people, including other prisoners, many of them wearing masks. The secret police use sound-proof torture cells with padded walls, and there are underground torture cells in police stations.

Why are people tortured?

It is part of the government’s clampdown on any group perceived as a threat to national security. Torture has been used to elicit confessions and incriminating evidence about other suspects. People are often tried using evidence extracted from torture. The police and secret police also use the threat of torture to demand huge bribes from detainees and prisoners and their families.

Are torturers brought to justice?

Although torture is against the law in Uzbekistan, it is rarely punished. Only 11 police officers have been convicted of torture under Uzbekistani law between 2010 and 2013. During this time 336 complaints of torture were officially registered, of which just 23 cases were prosecuted and six taken to trial. To make matters worse, the authorities charged with investigating those complaints are often the same ones accused of torture, severely limiting the likelihood that victims will ever receive justice.

What do other countries say about the torture?

Many governments, including the USA, are turning a blind eye to this appalling torture, seemingly for fear of upsetting an ally in the ‘war on terror’. Other governments, like Germany, appear to be more concerned with energy security, national security and business opportunities.

What is Amnesty calling for?

Amnesty International is calling on President Islam Karimov to publicly condemn the use of torture. The authorities should also establish an independent system for inspections of all detention centres and ensure that confessions and other evidence obtained by torture or other ill-treatment are never used in court.