Torture in Uzbekistan

A United Nations tribunal has severely criticised Uzbekistan’s judges, its security service and the state’s Prosecutor General for committing torture and the unfair trial of Kadyr Yusupov, formerly a leading diplomat who was the country's representative to the OSCE and to UN organisations. It has demanded his immediate release from a prison sentence imposed after a secret trial for treason.

Mr Yusupov had developed, after his retirement, a mental illness as a result of which he attempted suicide. As he was recovering in intensive care, state security agents entered the hospital and interrogated him in the absence of a lawyer and claimed he had confessed to treason. They seized his property without a warrant and held him incommunicado for 135 days and tried to force him to accept the services of a lawyer who was associated with the government and advised him to plead guilty. The court heard the case in secret and the judge refused all requests by international diplomats and the media to attend.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, in a lengthy judgment released yesterday, found that Uzbekistan had committed numerous violations on Mr Y human rights and called on the state to “release Mr Yusupov immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation". He has been in prison since December 2018 and is serving the rest of his 5.5 years prison sentence in what the tribunal found to be "deplorable" conditions. It said he had been improperly punished by terms of solitary confinement as reprisal for defending the rights of fellow prisoners.

Geoffrey Robertson QC who brought the case on behalf of Mr Yusupov and his family said: "This is a most damning criticism of a country that is pretending to the West that it respects the rule of law but is in reality allowing its secret police and its lickspittle judges to behave brutally. The conduct of its security police was disgusting as they tried to force a confession from a man recovering from a mental breakdown and then for 5 months denied him all contact with his family and his lawyer of choice. The judges behaved like legal lickspittles, refusing to investigate the torture to which he had been subjected. On these findings, the prosecutor general should resign as he is clearly guilty of dereliction of duty."

Mr Robertson said the judgement was "of particular importance in condemning the practice, which is common in quasi-authoritarian countries, of forcing prisoners to accept the services of lawyers who are hand-in-glove with police or the security service. They think that this will prevent them from being condemned for denying access to a lawyer, but this decision shows they are wrong. Providing a defendant with a state stooge to help him plead guilty is a breach of his right to an independent counsellor”. Mr Robertson said the decision called into question the independence of Uzbek judiciary and also the deplorable state of prisons where those who raise complaints about human rights violations were punished by reprisals. It provides evidence that should prevent any extradition to Uzbekistan unless Mr Yusupov is released and these breaches of international law are addressed.

Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Opinions concerning Kadyr Yusupov (Uzbekistan) can be read here.