June 8, 2011

Appendix 1: Selected Cases

In most of the 65 cases documented by Human Rights Watch, victims, relatives and lawyers feared filing complaints of torture or ill-treatment because of possible repercussions. Below are selected cases in which the victims and their lawyers have chosen to complain officially about the ill-treatment.

Farukh Gapirov

Police detained Farrukh Gapirov and Mirakhmad Makhkamov at a checkpoint close to the airport in Osh around 9:30 a.m. on June 16, 2010, after they found a box of ammunition under the seat in Makhkamov’s car.  Gapirov told Human Rights Watch that the police officers started beating him with their weapons at the checkpoint and continued doing so as they drove both men to the Osh City Police Department. According to Gapirov, police at the station started clapping when they arrived, shouting “Oy, they brought Uzbeks!” Initially, they were both placed in the same room. Gapirov told Human Rights Watch:

Several officers entered the room where we were held and started beating us without asking any questions. They forced us to hold our hands on our heads while they beat us with helmets, batons, and their weapons. Then they handcuffed our hands behind our backs and pulled them up so it hurt while they used batons to beat our legs. They beat us together for about two hours before they split us up.
Then they placed me on the floor with my back against the wall. One person stood on my legs while another beat the soles of my feet with a baton. Then they forced me to undress completely. They tied a rope to my penis and pulled it while beating it with a baton. I was not able to urinate for 4-5 days after that.
They also used electric shocks. First they stood me up and connected the cables to my genitals. When they gave the shock, however, I stepped back. Then they forced me to lay down on the floor while they continued to give the shocks. They also beat us with plastic bottles filled with sand and forced us to put our hands on the table, which they then beat. I could not even hold a pen after that. They had to help me to sign a document.[129]

After Gapirov signed the confession, the police officers brought him to an investigator. When Gapirov told the investigator that he did not know anything about the ammunition, the investigator turned to the police officers and asked “So you couldn’t break him?” The officers then took Gapirov out again and continued to beat him. “The investigator wrote everything on the computer,” Gapirov said. “We didn’t say anything. I signed the document. Only then did they call a lawyer.”

Gapirov’s torture lasted for about five hours. In the meantime, Gapirov’s father started searching for his son. He went to several detention facilities, including the Osh City Police Department, where he was in fact being held, but everywhere officials told him they did not have Gapirov in detention. The next day the lawyer whom Gapirov’s father had hired called to say that Gapirov was being held in at the Osh City Police Department. 

During a meeting on June 18, Gapirov’s lawyer photographed the bruises on his body and videotaped Gapriov making a statement about the torture he had endured. On the lawyer’s request, a doctor examined Gapirov on June 19 and concluded that marks on his body and been inflicted by beatings. Gapirov's lawyer tried to lodge a complaint about the torture with officials at the local prosecutor's office, but they refused to accept the submission.[130]

During his trial Gapirov retracted his confession, and his lawyer presented photographs, the video statement, and the forensic medical report to the court. On October 26, the Osh City Court acquitted Gapirov. In a separate decision issued the same day, the court listed a number of violations that had taken place in his case.[131]

  • Detaining authorities did not register the detention within three hours as required by law;
  • Detaining authorities did not inform the family about the detention and accusations against him within 12 hours as required by law;
  • Detaining authorities did not provide Gapirov with a lawyer immediately after the detention and interrogated him without a lawyer present;

The judge also pointed out that the prosecutor had presented no evidence except the confession to prove Gapirov’s guilt. Referring to the medical documents, the photographic and video material, and Gapirov’s trial testimony, the judge concluded that “all statements were obtained illegally” and that they therefore should be excluded from the case.

The ruling urged the police chief and prosecutor to “study these violations, draw the appropriate conclusions, not allow this in the future, undertake corresponding measures against officers responsible for the violations.” The judge asked the prosecutor's office and the police to file a report with the court within one month. At time of writing, however, Gapirov and his lawyer have not received any information that the prosecutor's office or the police have filed a report.[132]

According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Osh City Prosecutor’s Office decided on February 28, 2011, not to open a criminal investigation into the allegation “because of absence of elements of crime in anybody’s actions.”[133] According to Gapirov’s father, the Kyrgyz general prosecutor later overturned the decision.[134]

As of May 2011, more than five months after he was acquitted, Gapirov’s father told Human Rights Watch that the prosecutor’s office has yet to question his son about being tortured in detention.

The prosecutor’s office appealed the acquittal, but on December 16 the Osh Province Court upheld the ruling. The prosecutor’s office appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, which also upheld the acquittal on April 26, 2011.[135]

Fakhridin Ashirov

On June 20, 2010, police detained 21-year-old Fakhridin Ashirov and his father, Rakhmatillo, and took them to the Osh Province Police Department. Ashirov apparently confessed to involvement in the June 13, 2010 killing of the Kara-Suu district police chief, but he subsequently retracted the confession saying that police forced him to falsely confess. Police kept Ashirov at the temporary holding facility at the police department (IVS) for almost one month before transferring him to the pre-trial detention center (SIZO).[136] Kyrgyz law stipulates that a detainee can be kept in the IVS for only 10 days.[137] 

On August 4, police officers from the Department for the Fight against Organized Crime (UBOP) signed Ashirov out of the Osh pre-trial detention center (SIZO) on the instruction of the Osh Province Prosecutor’s Office. Later that day, after Ashirov returned to the SIZO, he told his lawyer that the UBOP police officers had first taken him to an office on the first floor of the police station where they beat him in the stomach and on the head. They then took him to Nariman village, the murder site, where they beat him and forced him to sign documents. Ashirov told his lawyer that he did not know what documents he had signed.  In a report about the incident, Ashirov’s lawyer wrote that when he saw Ashirov later that day he observed bruises and scratches on Ashirov’s back, a bruise under one of his eyes and red bruises under his lips.[138] The injuries Ashirov sustained that day are recorded in Ashirov’s medical file at the SIZO.[139] 

Ashirov’s lawyer submitted complaints to the Osh City Prosecutor’s Office the same day and to the Osh Province Prosecutor’s Office the next. Despite the lawyer’s swift reaction and the SIZO medical records establishing that Ashirov had sustained injuries while in the custody of UBOP police officers, neither prosecutor’s office opened a criminal investigation. The Osh province prosecutor merely forwarded the complaint to UBOP—the police division that had beaten Ashirov and was the subject of the complaint—in clear violation of Kyrgyz law and took no further action. [140] On August 13 the Osh city prosecutor informed Ashirov and his lawyer that the allegations had not been confirmed and that it would not launch a criminal investigation. It is unclear what, if any, investigative measures the city prosecutor’s office undertook. [141]

At trial, Ashirov and all his nine of his codefendants pleaded not guilty and declared that they had been forced to confess to the crimes. The judgment cites the men as saying that they had been “under pressure” from the police, a euphemism that usually refers to beatings or other forms of torture.[142]

During a break in a trial hearing held on September 29, 2010, several uniformed officers from the Ministry of Internal Affairs entered the defendants’ cage in the courtroom, and beat them for about 20 minutes. The officers threatened to kill the men if they told anyone about the beatings. The defendants did not say anything about the incident when the hearing resumed after the break, but several called their relatives and lawyers after they returned to the detention facility at the end of the day.[143] 

During the next day’s hearing, when one of the defense lawyers demanded an investigation into the beatings, relatives of the murdered police chief started shouting insults and attacked him, punching him several times. When the lawyer fled the courtroom, relatives attacked him again outside. Courtroom officials and police standing outside were slow to intervene or did not intervene at all.[144]

During the investigation, three of Ashirov’s co-defendants testified that they had seen Ashirov hit the police officer on the head with a plank. Although all three defendants retracted their testimonies and alleged that they had been forced or beaten into implicating Ashirov, the prosecution was able to have the false confessions admitted as evidence.[145]

In addition, Ashirov’s lawyer requested permission from the court to call on six people who would testify that at the time of the murder Ashirov was taking refuge from the violence in a village on the border with Uzbekistan. The judge rejected the request.[146]

The court ignored the defendants’ allegations that they had been beaten and forced to implicate themselves and each other. While the judgment states that the defendants testified that they had confessed “under pressure,” it contains no comment or evaluation of these claims, nor does it indicate whether any steps would be taken to assess them. It also makes no mention of the alibi Ashirov gave in court. [147]

On October 29, the Kara-Suu district court sentenced Ashirov to life in prison and confiscation of his property.[148]

During appeal hearings by the Osh Province Court almost all the defendants and their lawyers complained that the police had used torture to obtain confessions. In almost identical language, however, the court dismissed each defendant’s, including Ashirov’s, torture allegation without further examination, referring to the lack of evidence and absence of previous complaints to the relevant authorities.  The judge ignored the complaints that Ashirov’s lawyer submitted following the August 4, 2010 beating and the recording of physical injuries in the SIZO medical records. The judge also ignored the complaints filed by the lawyer for one of the other defendants, Mirzakhid Saliev, with the prosecutor that his client had been beaten during the investigation.[149]

The appeals court reduced Ashirov’s sentence to 25 years in prison,[150] which the Supreme Court upheld on May 12, 2011.[151]

Rustam Jeenbekov

On July 17, police in Jalal-Abad detained 26-year-old Rustam Jeenbekov, an ethnic Kyrgyz, on suspicion of involvement in murder and car theft during the violence. They brought him to the temporary holding facility (IVS) at the Jalal-Abad City Police Department. Jeenbekov’s lawyer, Almaz Niyazov, arrived at the police station just a few hours later, met with the investigator, and provided him with documentation that he was Jeenbekov’s lawyer.

Two days later, when Niyazov met with his client in court, when the arrest sanction hearing was to take place, he noticed that something was wrong. Niyazov told Human Rights Watch:

Jeenbekov was [depressed]. He did not answer me. He seemed to be afraid of me. Finally he said that 10 to 12 police officers had beaten him and he described the beating in detail. He said that they had used a gas mask to cut off his air supply, they forced him to eat chili peppers, and beat him with plastic bottles filled with sand.[152]  

The next day, July 20, Niyazov submitted a complaint to the Jalal-Abad Province Prosecutor’s Office and requested a medical examination. The medical examination established that Jeenbekov had multiple bruises on his body and that the estimated time of the injuries was consistent with the allegations that he had been beaten following his detention.[153]

However, the following day, the police transferred Jeenbekov to Tash-Kumy, a small town 100 kilometers outside Jalal-Abad. The police gave no explanation for the transfer. “They only did that to make it more difficult for me to see him,” Niyazov told Human Rights Watch.[154]

Niyazov appealed the lawfulness of the arrest. Because Jeenbekov was held in Tash-Kumu the appeal hearing took place only on July 27. At the hearing, the prosecutor produced a confession that Jeenbekov had written during interrogation on July 18. The investigator had conducted the interrogation without informing Niyazov, even though Niyazov had told the investigator the day before that he was his lawyer. Instead, of summoning him, the investigator invited another lawyer to sign the alleged confession documents.[155] 

On July 30, the Jalal-Abad city prosecutor’s office replied that it had decided to not open a criminal investigation into the allegations of abuse.[156] The prosecutor’s office did not provide an explanation for how Jeenbekov sustained his injuries.

In an April 2011 letter to Human Rights Watch, Deputy General Prosecutor Baktybaev claimed that three police officers had testified during the preliminary examination of the allegations that Jeenbekov had resisted detention and that they had to respond with force, which resulted in his injuries. Baktybaev further wrote: “R. Jeenbekov himself was not questioned on the indicated circumstances because he had earlier been questioned as a suspect on the indicated circumstances, during which it was not referred to the use of torture against him.” [157]

Azimjan Askarov

On June 15, 2010, police in the southern town of Bazar-Kurgan detained Azimjan Askarov, a human rights defender who has worked extensively on documenting prison conditions and police treatment of detainees, accusing him of “organizing mass disturbances” and “inciting interethnic hatred,” which led to the killing of a police officer on June 13, 2010.

The police brought Askarov to the temporary holding facility (IVS) in Bazar-Kurgan District Police Department, where they kept him in the custody of close colleagues of the killed policeman. Although Kyrgyz law stipulates that a detainee should be transferred to a pre-trial detention center under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice within 10 days of his arrest, the authorities kept him at the police station for more than a month.

At the police station, Askarov was at the mercy of the bereaved colleagues of the killed policeman. When Human Rights Watch arrived at the police station on June 20, officers on duty were incensed by Human Rights Watch's concerns about Askarov. One of them said, "You may believe he is clean and innocent, but we know that he is a piece of shit." Another officer added that Askarov should be promptly executed.[158] Police officers could freely enter his cell, and for several days the police and prosecutorial authorities prevented Askarov from meeting with counsel of his own choosing.

On June 20 police finally allowed Askarov to meet with a lawyer provided by a local human rights organization, but several police officers refused to leave the room during the meeting.[159] When the lawyer went back to see Askarov two days later, the deputy prosecutor of Bazar-Kurgon, Jamilya Turazhanova, was present during the entire meeting, despite the lawyer’s request for a private conversation with his client.[160] The police continued to obstruct Askarov’s meetings with his lawyer. In a video interview recorded in December, 2010, after Askarov was transferred to a prison in Bishkek, Askarov said:

It was only when they transferred me to the police station in Jalal-Abad that I was able to meet in peace with my lawyer. For more than a month while I was in Bazar-Kurgan, I talked to him openly for maybe 10 minutes.[161]

While the presence of the police prevented Askarov from talking freely, Askarov showed his lawyer bruises on his left side and lower back, which the lawyer photographed.[162] In the December video interview, Askarov recounted in detail what happened to him at the police station:

They beat me continually for three days. In the investigator's office two police officers stood next me and demanded: ‘If you don't want to write about weapons, then you will say that you were on the bridge [where the murder took place].' Every time I refused they beat me on my kidneys from both sides at the same time. [It felt like] my lungs would jump out.[163]

Upon seeing the bruises on Askarov’s body in June, his lawyer immediately submitted a motion for a medical examination of Askarov, but the deputy prosecutor rejected the motion, saying an examination had already been conducted. She refused to provide the lawyer with a copy of the medical report.[164]  According to information subsequently released, the medical examination had concluded that Askarov had sustained injuries since his detention.[165]

During the next few days, Askarov gave a detailed explanation of how he had been beaten to a representative of the Kyrgyz ombudsman’s office, and his lawyer filed a complaint with the Jalal-Abad province prosecutor’s office, requesting that it open a criminal investigation on the use of torture. 

Five police officers and the head of the temporary detention facility visited Askarov in his cell around 2 a.m. one night in June, not long after Askarov’s lawyer filed the torture complaint. They warned Askarov that they would "deal with him" if he failed to withdraw the complaint. As a result of these threats, Askarov withdrew the complaint. When Askarov’s lawyer tried to see his client one of the subsequent days, relatives of the killed policeman physically attacked him just outside the police station. Police officers standing nearby did not intervene, and Askarov’s lawyer was forced to leave without meeting with his client.  On June 28, the Jalal-Abad prosecutor’s office decided to not open a criminal investigation.

After a news website published the December video interview with Askarov, the Jalal-Abad province prosecutor office apparently launched a new preliminary inquiry into the allegations that Askarov had been beaten. It is unclear whether the prosecutorial authorities undertook any additional investigative measures during this inquiry. A statement posted on the website of the General Prosecutor’s Office refers only to information collected when Askarov was still in detention in the Bazar Kurgan police station, and claims that Askarov had been beaten by another detainee held at the same police station.[166]  On January 10, the authorities again decided to not open a criminal investigation.

In a letter to Human Rights Watch on April 29, 2011, Deputy General Prosecutor Baktybaev wrote that the authorities had decided to not open a criminal investigation because they had determined that Askarov had been beaten by another detainee and that he had written in a June 25 statement that the police had not beaten him.[167] On June 25, Askarov was still in the custody of the Bazar-Kurgan police. Baktybaev did not mention the video testimony that Askarov gave later, even though the authorities conducted an additional preliminary investigation when the video footage was made public.

As described below, the trial against Askarov and his seven co-defendants was marred by threats, insults and physical attacks from the start.

Despite the attacks, the judge rejected defense motions to change the trial venue. He rejected a defense motion to move the defendants to a different detention facility, saying he had no jurisdiction to do so. The judge threatened to have the defense lawyers stripped of their licenses if they fail to appear at the next hearing.

During the second day of hearings, Askarov and other defendants had bruises under their eyes, but they denied that they had been beaten.[168]

On September 15, the Bazar-Kurgan District Court sentenced Askarov and four of his co-defendants to life in prison, two others to 20 years, and one to nine years.

The defendants were also attacked during an appeal hearing.[169]Two people who observed the hearing on November 4 told Human Rights Watch that when the eight defendants were led out of the court, some of them were holding their heads, as if in pain, and one had blood on his face, indicating that they might have been beaten after the hearing and before they left the courthouse.[170]

As police officers led the defendants to a vehicle, the people standing outside said the officers kicked and hit at least one defendant in the back. The police then transported the defendants to the Bazar-Kurgan district police station. Lawyers for the defendants immediately informed the Bazar-Kurgan prosecutor's office of the suspected assault and asked the prosecutor's office to arrange for medical examinations of the defendants when they arrived at the station. It is unclear whether medical examinations took place.

Relatives of the murdered police officer also threatened to kill at least one of the lawyers during a break in the appeal proceedings, people who witnessed the episode said.[171]A judge later ordered one of the relatives to leave the courtroom because of interruptions, but she refused and was allowed to remain until the end of the hearing.

An appeal launched by the defendants’ lawyers was pending before the Supreme Court at time of writing.[172] 

[129] Human Rights Watch interview with Farrukh Gapirov, Osh, December 9, 2010.

[130] Human Rights Watch interview with Gapirov’s lawyer, Osh, October 9, 2010.

[131] “Special Ruling,” Osh City Court, October 26, 2010. On file with Human Rights Watch. All information below on this ruling derives from this document.

[132] Human Rights Watch interview with Ravshan Gapirov, March 28, 2011.

[133] Letter from R. Baktybayev, deputy general prosecutor, to Human Rights Watch, April 29, 2011.

[134] Human Rights Watch interview with Ravshan Gapirov, May 23, 2011.

[135] Ibid.

[136] SIZO is the acronym for slyedsvennyi izolyatr, or pre-trial detention facility.

[137]Law on procedure and conditions of detention on remand of persons detained on suspicion and indictment of having committed crimes, October 3, 2002, http://www.ksh.kg/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=68:2010-05-23-08-52-15&catid=40:2010-02-08-07-54-38&Itemid=64 (accessed May 18, 2011), art. 9. 

[138]Report by Ashirov’s lawyer, August 5, 2010, on file with Human Rights Watch.

[139]Excerpt of the medical records of the Osh pre-trial detention center.

[140]Human Rights Watch interview with lawyer, Osh, October 10, 2010.

[141] Ibid.

[142] Judgment, criminal case 02-1-517, Kara-Suu District Court, October 29, 2010.

[143] Human Rights Watch interview with lawyer, Osh, October 10, 2010.

[144] Ibid.

[145] Ibid.

[146] Ibid.

[147] Judgment, criminal case 02-1-517, Kara-Suu District Court, October 29, 2010.

[148] Of the ten defendants, five were sentenced to life in prison while the others received prison sentences from four to twenty-five years. Judgment, criminal case 02-1-517, Kara-Suu District Court, October 29, 2010.

[149] Judgment, criminal case 02-1-517, Osh Province Court, December 27, 2010.

[150] Ibid.

[151] Human Rights Watch interview with lawyer, May 23, 2011.

[152] Human Rights Watch interview with Almaz Niyazov, Jalal-Abad, December 11, 2010.

[153] Expert conclusion 823, July 30, 2010, on file with Human Rights Watch.

[154] Human Rights Watch interview with Almaz Niyazov, Jalal-Abad, December 11, 2010.

[155] Ibid.

[156] Letter from Jalal-Abad prosecutor office to lawyer, July 30, 2010.

[157]Letter from R. Baktybayev, deputy general prosecutor, to Human Rights Watch, April 29, 2011.

[158] Human Rights Watch interview with police officers, Bazar-Kurgan, June 20, 2010.

[159] The police and prosecutor only allowed the lawyer to see Askarov after an intervention by two Human Rights Watch researchers on the ground. The officers refused to leave despite several requests from a Human Rights Watch researcher who was present during the meeting. 

[160] Human Rights Watch interview with lawyer, June 23, 2010.

[161] “In the search of justice. Azimjan Askarov’s stories (video),” Ferghana News, December 13, 2010, http://www.fergananews.com/article.php?id=6837 (accessed May 18, 2011).

[162] Photo of Askarov taken by Nurbek Toktakunov, June 22, 2010, on file with Human Rights Watch.  Published on http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/06/23/kyrgyzstan-ensure-safety-due-process-detained-activist.

[163] “In the search of justice. Azimjan Askarov’s stories (video),” Fergananews, December 13, 2010, http://www.fergananews.com/article.php?id=6837 (accessed May 18, 2011).

[164]Human Rights Watch interview with lawyer, June 23, 2010.

[165] “News,” General Prosecutor of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, January 19, 2011, http://www.prokuror.kg/?news/shownovelty/117 (accessed April 15, 2011).

[166] “News,” General Prosecutor of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, January 19, 2011, http://www.prokuror.kg/?news/shownovelty/117 (accessed April 15, 2011).

[167] Letter from R. Baktybayev, deputy general prosecutor, to Human Rights Watch, April 29, 2011.

[168] Human Rights Watch interview, Bishkek, October 6, 2010.

[169] See also, “Kyrgyzstan: New Assault in Violence-Ridden Court Case,” Human Rights Watch news release, November 9, 2010, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/11/09/kyrgyzstan-new-assault-violence-ridden-court-case.

[170] Human Rights Watch interview with lawyers, November 5, 2010.

[171] Ibid.

[172] On January 31, 2011, the US embassy in Bishkek issued a statement expressing concern about the fairness of the Supreme Court hearing since several individuals, including police-officers, were allowed to makes statements while the court rejected a motion to allow Askarov to testify. “U.S. Embassy Concerned About Fairness of Askarov Supreme Court Hearing,” US Embassy in Bishkek, January 31, 2011, http://bishkek.usembassy.gov/pr_01_31_11.html (accessed February 9, 2011).