Torture: Tajikistan still needs to breach the gap
Torture: “Tajikistan still needs to breach the gap between policies and reality” – UN rights expert
DUSHANBE (12 February 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, today urged the Government of Tajikistan to fully implement its policies for the eradication and prevention of torture and ill-treatment.
“Tajikistan still needs to breach the gap between policies and reality,” Mr. Méndez stressed at the end of a three-day follow-up visit to the Republic of Tajikistan to evaluate the level of implementation of the recommendations issued after his 2012 visit*. “I consider follow-up a priority and believe that this is an important example that should be emulated by other States.”
“I find it very satisfying to see that my recommendations were taken so seriously and that systematic action has been initiated by the Government to implement some of them,” stressed the independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor a report on the use torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the world.
Mr. Méndez welcomed in particular the adoption of a National Action Plan to implement his advice, and other measures taken, such as the new institute of forensic medicine, legal awareness campaigns and capacity building efforts.
“I regret, however, that civil society has not been consulted in the creation or execution of this Plan, that some areas lack specificity and measurable indicators and that no specific time frame for the implementation is provided,” he noted.
The expert was encouraged by the adoption of new legislation that brings the definition of torture in line with the Convention against Torture and a Supreme Court decree that guarantees the availability of safeguards to prevent torture from the time of apprehension. But he insisted that the punishment for torture and ill-treatment needs to be increased in accordance with the severity of such acts and that amnesty for these crimes need to be specifically prohibited in the applicable legislation.
“I am still concerned that in the past two years only four cases were prosecuted under the new provision despite the fact that allegations of torture and ill-treatment during apprehension, interrogation, pre-trial detention, and in prison still persist,” the Rapporteur said.
“The Government must continue working to ensure that improved laws and policies result in concrete changes in practice,” he stressed. In particular, the Special Rapporteur remains highly concerned about persisting denial to access legal counsel in a timely and independent manner.
The independent expert regretted that there has not been substantive progress to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and the creation of a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM). “The ratification would prove the openness of prison authorities and would enhance the transparency of the penitentiary system,” he said, “and the NPM is essential for the investigation and punishment, but most of all for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment.”
In the context of monitoring places of detention, the Special Rapporteur welcomed the expansion of the Ombudsperson’s mandate and that office’s willingness to cooperate with civil society to conduct visits to detention facilities. He regretted, however, that in recent cases civil society representatives were denied access to prisons to investigate alleged acts of mistreatment. .
“Lack of compliance with the non-refoulement provision in the Convention Against Torture continues to be a matter of concern,” Mr. Méndez noted. “The legislation should be amended to ensure that the obligation not to extradite or deport or expel a person to a country where he or she faces a risk of torture or ill-treatment is duly recognized and that appropriate legal recourse is guaranteed in order to allow for a meaningful risk assessment.”
The Special Rapporteur also expressed deep concerned about information received related to reprisals after his 2012 visit despite a clear understanding with the Government that such acts are unacceptable. Reprisals and intimidation constitute a serious threat to the work of the Rapporteur and other UN Human Rights mechanisms.
“I strongly urge the Government to take all necessary measures to prevent intimidation and reprisals against individuals who seek to cooperate or have cooperated with my mandate and I expect no similar allegations after my follow-up visit,” insisted the expert.
The Special Rapporteur expressed his willingness to continue the fruitful engagement with the Government and civil society of Tajikistan through his Anti-Torture follow-up Initiative. “Although more efforts are needed in several areas, I can attest that there is strong evidence of political will on the highest level to work on eradicating and preventing torture and ill-treatment,” he said.
“I will submit a follow-up report to the Human Rights Council with more detailed observations and recommendations and I am confident this will further enhance the efforts already made to end the practice of torture and ill-treatment in the country,” he concluded.
(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s 2012 report on Tajikistan.