– a report by the Association for Human Rights in Central describes the system of torture and extrajudicial execution in Uzbekistan.
In recent years, the EU and the U.S. have weakened their criticism of Uzbekistan as a country that systematically violates human rights and uses torture to intimidate its citizens.
The priority for success in Afghanistan has overshadowed the human rights agenda. To justify this strategic course, the foreign policies of the EU and the U.S. claim progress on human rights in Uzbekistan, noting the abolition of the death penalty. However, the abolition of the death penalty is viewed in isolation from the overall human rights situation in the country, particularly when considering the widespread practice of extrajudicial executions and torture which often leads to death.
This report is based on the first-hand testimony of an Andijan Regional Hospital morgue employee. It gives evidence of wide-ranging torture and illegal killings carried out by the state and the cold-blooded, methodical approach used by the National Security Service to cover up these crimes.
- Our witness was arrested after the Andijan massacre, and detained and tortured for three months before he was released and then ordered to work for the Andijan regional morgue. Between September 2005 and February 2007, he examined nearly 500 bodies at the morgue. This was done under the close supervision of the National Security Services (SNB) who were bringing the bulk of these corpses in, many of which had gunshot wounds and bore evidence of having been recently tortured. Personnel were ordered to conceal evidence of gunshots or stabbing wounds on the bodies and were required to falsify causes of death. No official records about these bodies were kept at the hospital.
- This account was supported by another source. Khusnutdin Kutbitdinov, an independent journalist working for the Uzbek-language service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, travelled to Andijan one week after the massacre who managed to interview a few employees of the Andijan hospital where the majority of the wounded were treated. According to the employees, the security services had set up a command center in the intensive care unit where they carried out interrogations of anyone who had witnessed the events.
According to Kutbitdinov and three other sources, the hospital was under the guard of the security services as long as a year after the Andijan events. Dozens of the private homes near the massacre site still remain empty. Five years after the tragedy, none of the neighbors would talk to Kubitdinov about what had happened to the owners or why plainclothes agents continued to keep watch over these buildings.
- Nematillo Botakouziyev, a human rights activist from Kyrgyzstan, helped us gather a number of letters from prisoners at Andijan prison, some of which are published in this report and tell the inside story of the prison during and after the massacre.
- Local human rights activists provided us with information on the high mortality rates in Uzbek detention facilities. Some of these activists had the opportunity to examine the bodies of a few inmates who were tortured to death and provided us with a few photographs from their archives. The activists uncovered prison cells used to house prisoners who went insane from the torture. None of them have been amnestied on health grounds, and they continue to languish in prison.
Changes to Uzbek legislation have not improved the conditions for investigating allegations of abuse and gathering evidence. Medical evaluations and court medical papers are required in investigations of complaints about torture. Article 81 of Uzbekistan’s Code of Legal Procedures states that guilty pleas are not the only form of evidence. Testimony of suspects, the accused, victims, and witnesses are also to be considered. But courts often do not take such testimony under consideration.
Our report is an attempt to underscore our belief that the current impunity will lead to more crimes. More and more people in the country are losing their faith in the rule of law and resort to a violence as way to restore justice. Here is the excerpt from the letter received from one of the victims:
"Our torturers know that they will never face the law... "
The dire human rights situation in the country undermines the foundations of genuine stability in the region, with the growing ranks of those who have lost faith not only in Uzbekistan’s regime, but also in those world powers which are increasingly becoming associated with the regime. We believe that human rights should become an integral part of a strategy for regional security.