Torture in Central Asia

An overview of positive developments and ongoing concerns regarding torture and other ill-treatment in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

In the last few years the authorities of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have taken some noteworthy positive steps to combat torture. For example, in 2012, Tajikistan amended the definition of torture in its Criminal Code and brought it in line with the definition contained in the Convention against Torture. In 2008, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan were the first Central Asian countries that became parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. We are urging the other Central Asian countries to follow suite.

In the new Criminal Code that was signed by President Nursultan Nazarbaev in July 2014, and is expected to come into force in January 2015, Kazakhstan took a positive step by abolishing the statute of limitations applicable to the offence of torture. The new Criminal Code also excludes those convicted of “torture“ from benefitting from amnesties. In Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, however, the law provides for statutes of limitations applicable to torture and this may prevent the investigation, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators of torture. In addition, amnesty laws can be applied to torturers.

However, despite some steps in the right direction, all three countries have failed to fully adhere to the OSCE Human Dimension Commitments relating to the eradication of torture that they undertook to uphold as OSCE participating States. They have also failed to fully implement crucial recommendations issued in this area by UN human rights bodies such as the UN Committee against Torture, the UN Human Rights Committee, under the Universal Periodic Review, as well as by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture.

Torture continues to be widely used across Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and existing legal safeguards are routinely not implemented. In all three countries torture mainly takes place during the first hours of detention when detainees are in many cases held incommunicado, without access to legal counsel and medical personnel, although torture cases are also reported from later stages of detention and imprisonment. Those detained or imprisoned on charges related to national security or “religious extremism” are at particular risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

The full text of the statement is attached.