(Tashkent) – Uzbek authorities should immediately release a retired Uzbek diplomat charged with treason who has been ill-treated since he was detained in December 2018, Human Rights Watch said today. The retired diplomat, Kadyr Yusupov, left the Foreign Ministry 10 years ago, and is currently in a pretrial detention facility attached to Uzbekistan’s State Security Services in Tashkent. Yusupov should be released for his trial, which is set to begin June 17. Authorities should also ensure a prompt, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into his ill-treatment, including torture.
“Uzbekistan’s government is pursuing reform in some areas, including by issuing a decree to ban the use of torture,” said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “But no amount of progress on paper can be successful when the rule of law is blatantly disregarded, and people are in practice subject to torture.”
During his 27-year diplomatic career, Kadyr Yusupov, 67, served as the country’s head of mission to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), among other positions. Since his retirement in 2009, he has published analysis on Uzbekistan’s foreign and domestic policy.
On December 10, 2018, Uzbekistan’s State Security Services detained Yusupov from a hospital bed in Tashkent’s Republican Scientific Center for Emergency Medicine on charges later announced as treason (article 157 of the criminal code). Yusupov had been admitted to the hospital following a concussion and other serious injuries incurred during an apparent suicide attempt. He has been held at the pretrial detention facility of the State Security Services ever since.
Security service officials handling the case refused to allow Yusupov’s attorney or family members to meet with him for nearly five months after his arrest and pressured Yusupov to reject his attorney’s representation. Authorities only reinstated the attorney’s access to his client and allowed him to meet Yusupov confidentially since April 24, 2019, following media reports on the case and statements of concern by rights groups. The attorney signed a nondisclosure agreement on the case and cannot discuss it with anyone except the client’s family.
Yusupov’s relatives told Human Rights Watch that, according to their sources, Yusupov was a victim of psychological torture over four months following his detention on December 10, 2018. According to them, Yusupov said that between December 2018 and late March 2019, two State Security Services officers entered his cell two or three times each day and threatened that if he did not admit his guilt, they would rape him with a rubber baton, rape his wife and daughter, and arrest his two sons, including a son who lives abroad, by means of extradition.
Relatives told Human Rights Watch that in a video of an interrogation authorities conducted with Yusupov, before he had access to his lawyer, one can hear and see the arm of a person to his side instructing him on the answers he should give. Yusupov later identified the person as one of the officers who periodically entered his cell and threatened him and his family with physical harm. Yusupov’s attorney has petitioned Uzbekistan’s general prosecutor regarding the alleged torture and other due process violations but received no response.
Yusupov’s relatives told Human Rights Watch security service officials have prevented them from giving Yusupov prescription medication he takes to manage a health condition and that they have been subjected to harassment and surveillance. On December 13, 2018, border guards prevented Temur Yusupov, Yusupov’s younger son, from leaving Uzbekistan at the Kazakhstan border, telling him he was banned from leaving the country.
In November 2017, Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a decree prohibiting the courts from using evidence obtained through torture, and requiring all legal decisions be based only on evidence confirmed during trial. The decree, which came into force in March 2018, states that prosecutors will be required to check whether physical or psychological pressure was exerted on a defendant or their relatives. If enforced, the decree could help prevent torture and other ill-treatment in detention in Uzbekistan.
“There are serious allegations including torture, denial of access to medication and counsel, and harassment of Yusupov’s family, that should be investigated immediately,” Swerdlow said. “Under international law and Uzbekistan’s own domestic framework, no prosecution can be built on torture. Yusupov should be released and those who ill-treated him brought to justice.”
Human Rights Watch also called on Uzbek authorities to release other individuals imprisoned on politically motivated charges of treason and who have been subjected to torture, including academic Andrei Kubatin, in prison since 2017, and former soldier Ravshan Kosimov, in prison since 2009.