Numerous religious prisoners have died while in custody in Uzbek detention centers and prisons. In some cases witness testimony obtained by Human Rights Watch supports allegations that they died due to torture. Other deaths occurred under unclear circumstances, but the authorities' refusal to allow the family to view the body-even for the Muslim rite of washing the body for burial-give firm grounds for fear of torture or other ill-treatment as the cause of death.45
· Accused Hizb ut-Tahrir leader Nu'mon Saidaminov, aged twenty-eight, was evidently tortured to death in custody in October 2000. When his body was washed in preparation for burial, observers reported, he was seen to be covered with open wounds and bruises; his fingernails were blackened; there were puncture wounds in his fingers; his eyes were blacked; the soles of his feet showed marks. He also bore injuries to buttocks and anus consistent with sodomy. 46
Authorities arrested Saidaminov on September 29, 2000, and on October 6 denied his lawyer access to Saidaminov. On October 8, they informed his parents that he was dead. The official cause of death reported to the parents was a heart attack.47
Others who have met this fate include:
· Farkhod Usmonov, son of a well-known imam, detained for alleged possession of a Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflet, June 14, 1999. Held incommunicado, he died in police detention on or before June 24. The official cause of death was heart failure. When authorities returned his body to his family on June 25, it showed large contusions and cuts on the torso and other areas of the body. A Human Rights Watch representative viewed the body.
· Rustam Norbabaev, arrested by police in Kashkadaria on March 13, 2000; died in detention five days later. Police claimed he hanged himself in his cell; a police investigation was said to have confirmed this, and the case was closed, but relatives claimed that when the body was washed for burial it bore marks inconsistent with the police report.48 Police had detained his three brothers also-Bahrom, Ergash, and Parda-and all four were allegedly tortured in the Yakkabaga district police department in Kashkadaria province; Norbabaev's brothers were allegedly beaten in order to force them to give testimony against him.49
· Azim Khojaev, father of several men sought by police on religious and political grounds, arrested April 4, 1999. He was sentenced to eight years in prison, in a trial that lasted one-half hour, and sent to Jaslyk. On July 13 police returned his body to his family; the official cause of death was "acute failure of the left stomach," and the date of death was given as July 2.50 Police transported the body in secrecy and did not permit relatives to see it, washing it themselves.51
· Nematjon Karimov, who died in Navoi prison on March 22, 1999. Prison officials provided no death certificate, informing the family orally that he died from "organ failure." When his family retrieved the body from the town morgue, workers at first refused to let them perform the rite of washing it for burial but relented after they were given money. At first, his relatives did not recognize the dead man: the body was covered in blood, the top of the head was concave, and there were places where the skull was missing; his face was cut and bruised, and skin was torn off on the right side. To the left of the mouth there was a large scar, while his upper teeth were loose, pointing inwards, and his lower teeth pointed outwards.52 They finally identified him from a tattoo on his hand.
As noted in our December 2000 report on torture in Uzbekistan, other religious prisoners who have died in custody, evidently from torture in pre-trial detention include:
·Imam Kobil Murodov (October 1998);
·Ulugbek Rustamovich Anvarov (July 1999);
·Hasan Umarliev (April or May 1999);
Those who died while serving a sentence included:
·Shikhnozor Iakubov (October 1999);
·Usmanali Khamrokulov (May 2000); and
·Ma'raim Alikulov (April 2000).53
Human Rights Watch has documented three more cases of deaths in custody in addition to those published in the 2000 report; all three had been incarcerated in Jaslyk prison. They were:
· Dilmurod Umarov (July 2000), who was convicted in 1999 for membership in a forbidden religious group, distribution of that group's literature and alleged attempt to overthrow the constitutional order. Prison authorities listed the official cause of death as tuberculosis, but relatives claimed his body was covered with bruises.
· Hikmatilla Hudoiberdiev (July 2000), a leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir who was convicted of narcotics possession and sentenced to ten years. He was buried in a closed coffin, under the orders of the authorities; and
· Abduaziz Rasulov (July/August 2000), who was arrested in 1999 as part of the mass sweeps of suspects in the 1999 Tashkent bombings, but was convicted of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir. Officials claimed he hanged himself in his cell.
45 The Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, ECOSOC resolution 1989/65, of May 24, 1989, includes in its definition of execution, "situations in which deaths occur in custody." Principle 1.
46 Human Rights Watch interview, name and date withheld, Tashkent.
47 Human Rights Watch interview, name and date withheld, Tashkent.
48 Human Rights Watch interview with Tolib Iakubov, head of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, May 1, 2000; and World Organization Against Torture request for urgent intervention, Case UZB 030400, April 3, 2000.
49 World Organization Against Torture, request for urgent intervention.
50 Death certificate on file with Human Rights Watch.
51 Human Rights Watch interview, name and place withheld, May 9, 2000.
52 Human Rights Watch interview with Uzbek rights activist Muzafar Isakhov, member of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, April 11, 2000; Human Rights Watch interview with Sabine Freizer, Human Dimension Expert, Central Asia Liaison Office of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Tashkent, April 14, 2000.
53 See Human Rights Watch, "And It Was Hell All Over Again...": Torture in Uzbekistan. A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 12, no. 12(D), December 2000, Appendix 1.