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Memorandum to the U.S. Government Regarding Religious Persecution in Uzbekistan
August 10, 2001

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Key Sections


Recommendations: Uzbekistan and the International Religious Freedom Act

A Note On Islam in Uzbekistan

Background on the Campaign of Religious Persecution

Unlawful Arrests and Prosecutions: 1999-2001

Extrajudicial Executions


Social Punishment
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Religious detainees are savagely and routinely tortured to produce self-incriminating statements, which are routinely used in court and are frequently the most coherent "evidence" against them. Judges also ignore or contradict the attempts of detainees to recant these statements or denounce their torturers. For example:

    · Prior to the July and August 2000 trial of seventeen men on charges of "Wahhabism," the defendants were held by police and tortured over several months. Gafurjon Toirov testified in court that he was tortured for more than two months, that officers had beaten him on the bottoms of his feet and that the white clothes he had been wearing-he had just returned from a pilgrimage to Mecca-were covered with blood.54 While beating defendant Azgam Astankulov, police allegedly concentrated their blows on the young man's already injured kidneys, due to which, according to one source, Astankulov agreed to sign a confession.55 Gairat Sabirov was allegedly burned with cigarettes and subsequently raped in custody; investigators also allegedly threatened to rape his wife if he refused to give a self-incriminating statement.56 Once transferred from custody of the National Security Service (SNB) to Tashkent police headquarters in January 2000, Sabirov continued to be tortured; a state appointed lawyer allegedly requested medicine for him from his family on January 10, as well as dark trousers to replace his bloodied white ones.57 Sabirov was kept incommunicado in the basement of police headquarters in Tashkent for sixty-eight days.58 Dismissing his and other defendants' detailed allegations of torture, Judge Sharipov of the Tashkent City Court declared on the day of the verdict, "No one tortured them. There was no written complaint that they were tortured. When they were asked, they couldn't name their torturers...[W]e consider their testimony [on torture] as having no grounds."59

Beatings routinely include punches and kicks from the initial moments of arrest to frighten and subdue the detainee, then prolonged beatings to coerce a "confession" or produce names. Truncheons or rods are often used: several victims have reported being hit with wooden poles or bats covered with protruding nails, which produce myriad bleeding wounds all over the body.60 Police often concentrate on the kidney area, thus leaving bruises that are less visible than those on face and arms, but inflicting severe pain and potentially causing lasting damage. The soles of the feet are also a favored target. During beatings detainees are commonly handcuffed to radiators or may have one arm cuffed to a high bar or fixture so that they are unable to sit, bend, or otherwise shield themselves from blows or kicks. Police suspend some victims by their wrists, hands cuffed behind their backs, at a height at which their toes may just reach the ground, such that they are unable to support their full weight on their feet.61

Sometimes the purpose of the beating is to silence a detainee about his mistreatment.

    · When Nakhmiddin Juvashev (see above, "Arrests and Prosecutions") was first detained, he suffered repeated and severe beatings, was denied access to his lawyer, and held incommunicado for almost two months. Transferred to a detention facility and held there from March 16 to April 6, 1999, he was beaten further while handcuffed for three to four days.62 When his lawyer finally saw him and the signs of his ill treatment, he wrote a letter to the Jizzakh procurator asking for a medical exam and an investigation. Juvashev received a visit from a deputy procurator; then his abusers retaliated, cuffing and hanging him from a horizontal bar and beating him with truncheons for over three hours, to force him to say he had not been beaten previously. "With the aid of this kind of torture, humiliation and threat [the SNB investigator in charge] forced me to write a dictated letter stating that I supposedly broke my leg and received a massive number of bruises on my body from falling off the second tier bunk, and not from their having beaten me," Juvashev alleged.63

When he persisted in trying to hold his abusers accountable, they persisted in their punishment. At his trial he described the torture, such that the judge questioned the SNB officer, who denied any malfeasance. The judge concluded that no beating had occurred and sentenced Juvashev to nine years in prison on the basis of his self-incriminating statements.

Paroled by the Supreme Court in August 1999, then rearrested, Juvashev was tortured again; his attorney complained of seeing him with bruised face and right eye and marks all over his body.64 Again Juvashev stated in court that he had been beaten-in this case, for two weeks continuously in SNB custody. He was sentenced to fourteen years in prison on January 15, 2001 for anti-state activities. Juvashev, it should be remembered, had fallen into police hands originally because he had voluntarily come forward to seek "forgiveness."

Another means of torture, electric shock, is administered through electrodes strapped to the victim's body, or by electric baton or cattle prod. The SNB in particular uses this method.

· The mother of a defendant in a 1999 Tashkent City Court group case told Human Rights Watch that when she first saw her son in custody he seemed paralyzed with fear; at their second meeting he told her he had been tortured with electric shock at the Ministry of Internal Affairs headquarters in Tashkent. "I asked him why he had confessed, then he showed me his neck, and there were about forty scars on it," she said.65

    · Thirty-year-old Komoliddin Sattarov, from Andijan province in the Fergana Valley, was arrested in February 2000 for alleged possession of Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflets, following his elder brother Murodjon's conviction for membership in the group. Andijan-based rights defender Muzafar Isakhov summarized some of the young man's court testimony of his torture by police: "He stuck it out for the first one or two days, but then they used electric shock.... They put him in a chair and strapped electrodes to his hands, feet, and neck and gave him electric shock. He lost consciousness and then they did it again. He confessed to some of the charges. Then they began to beat him with truncheons, and he agreed to sign everything."66

Police investigators and prisoners working with them commit and threaten to commit acts of sexual violence, including rape and severe beatings to the genital area; this is practiced against both male and female detainees and is believed to be used to terrorize and humiliate as well as to inflict physical harm. As reported by Human Rights Watch in our December 2000 report on torture in Uzbekistan, several persons interviewed had witnessed a torture method known as "sitting on a bottle"-the forcible insertion of a glass bottle into the victim's rectum; many of the former detainees interviewed had heard of this method or been threatened with it, and described it with particular anxiety.67 Several defendants convicted in September 2000 on charges of religious extremism described being raped: Ma'rufkhoja Umarov stated that "they stripped me naked and raped me several times. Then they sat me on the bottle, as a result of which I received several injuries." Five of his co-defendants also stated in court that they had been raped during interrogation.68

The most prevalent forms of torture are psychological - intimidation and threats, including threats against detainees' relatives.

· Feruza Kurbanova, a twenty-five-year-old mother of four, was arrested in late December 2000 and taken to Shakantaur district police station, where officers threatened and taunted her that if she did not confess to membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir, they would take her down to the basement and take turns raping her.69
· "They said they would bring in my wife and rape her, and my children, and torture them," said Husan Maksudov, who has accused of being a "Wahhabi," recalling police coercion to force him to sign self-incriminating statements during his detention in the basement of Tashkent police headquarters.70

These threats are credible because, indeed, police commonly arrest several members of a family (see above, "Arrests and Prosecutions").

· When accused "Wahhabis" Oibek and Uigun Ruzmetov were arrested on charges of attempting to overthrow the government, on January 1, 1999, their parents were also arrested-their father Sobir Ruzmetov on the same day, their mother on January 5. Their mother, Darmon Sultonova, recounted that she was held for one night in solitary confinement in the Urgench district police station, handcuffed naked and given no water. Then they showed her to Uigun: "They...stripped me naked...Twice they walked him by me. He looked so bad, he had been completely beaten up. I could only cry, I could not talk to him. They told him. `Your parents and your wife are also in prison. Your children are in an orphanage. If you don't sign these documents, we'll do something very bad to your wife.' My son at his trial said that he was told they would rape his wife before his eyes if he did not confess."71

54 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, August 4, 2001.

55 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, August 14, 2000.

56 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, August 4, 2000; and Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, August 21, 2000.

57 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, August 14, 2000.

58 Ibid.

59 Tashkent City Court hearing, August 21, 2000. Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript.

60 Written testimony to the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, August 2000, on file with Human Rights Watch.

61 Human Rights Watch interview with Uzbek rights defender Hashimbek Irisbaev, Tashkent, May 24, 1999. Irisbaev recounted the testimony of several of the men, sentenced to prison by the Tashkent City Court on May 14, 1999 for anti-state activity, who described being subjected to this treatment.

62 Written complaint to Judge Bahriddin Norkhudjaev of the Jizzakh Provincial Court, from Nakhmiddin Juvashev, June 25, 1999.

63 Ibid.

64 Letter to Jizzakh Procurator M. Atabaev from Erkin Juraev, Juvashev's attorney, undated.

65 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, May 14, 1999.

66 Human Rights Watch interview with Muzafar Isakhov, member of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, Andijan, May 17, 2000. Isakhov told Human Rights Watch that he was present at the Asaka District Court hearing in Andijan province on May 3, 2001, when Sattarov testified about the torture he had endured.

67 See Human Rights Watch, "And It Was Hell All Over Again...," pp. 13-16.

68 Ibid, p. 15.

69 Human Rights Watch interview with Feruza Kurbanova, Tashkent, March 14, 2001.

70 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Akmal Ikramov District Court hearing, February 7, 2001.

71 Human Rights Watch interview with Darmon Sultonova, June 9, 2000. Uigun signed a confession after his mother's detention. He and his brother were sentenced to death by the Tashkent Province Court on July 29, 1999 and were subsequently executed by firing squad. Their father was given five years in prison for drug and weapons possession.