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Torture and Mistreatment in Pre-trial Detention

Widespread torture of detainees is common in criminal investigations in Uzbekistan.782 In the campaign against independent Islam, police have systematically employed torture to coerce confessions and statements incriminating others.

In the past two years, the international community has taken notice of the pervasive and serious nature of torture in Uzbekistan and its use in the campaign against independent Islam. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture visited the country in November 2002 and published a report characterizing torture in Uzbekistan as “systematic.”783 The report also stated that “torture is being used in virtually all cases in which articles 156, 159, and 244 CC [of the Criminal Code] are invoked, in order to extract self-incriminating confessions and to punish those who are perceived by public authorities to be involved in either religious, or political, activities contrary to State interests (so-called security crimes).”784

In its own review of Uzbekistan in June 2002, the United Nations Committee against Torture expressed concern about “numerous, ongoing and consistent” allegations of torture. It made a recommendation that was extraordinary compared to those usually made to state parties. It recommended that the authorities: “Review cases of convictions based solely on confessions in the period since Uzbekistan became a party to the Convention, recognizing that many of these may have been based upon evidence obtained through torture or ill-treatment, and, as appropriate, provide prompt and impartial investigations and take appropriate remedial measures.”785

The following section summarizes thirty-six cases of torture documented by Human Rights Watch, which represent only a fraction of the total number of cases Human Rights Watch has investigated. Several appeared in prior Human Rights Watch publications.786 They describe a variety of methods of torture used against Muslim detainees, including beatings by fist and with truncheons or metal rods, rape and sexual violence, electric shock, use of lit cigarettes or newspapers to burn the detainee, and asphyxiation with plastic bags or gas masks.787 They also reveal the role torture played in coercing testimony; judicial refusal to investigate victims’ allegations; and the courts’ routine practice of admitting as evidence testimony obtained under torture.788 In twenty-seven of the thirty-six cases described below, detainees were tortured to compel them to give self-incriminating statements and were subsequently convicted. In four of the cases below, the torture of religious detainees led to their deaths. Human Rights Watch has documented a total of ten cases in which religious pre-trial detainees died as a direct result of torture between May 1998 and May 2003.789

Torture takes place in police precincts, provincial departments of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and at the ministry building itself. It is also common in National Security Service facilities; in some cases, detainees are moved from facility to facility and tortured in each place.

Police and security agents torture independent Muslim suspects during the investigative phase to compel confessions or testimony against others. The interrogation of an independent Muslim generally centers on questions about the detainee’s beliefs, affiliation with Islamic groups, or association with well-known independent imams. The end product the police are seeking is a statement—prepared by police, signed by the detainee—that describes the detainee’s religious belief, practice, and affiliation rather than a criminal act. Because many of those detained on religion-related charges are held incommunicado, the interrogation may last up to six months.

Through torture and threats—on which we present details below—agents have coerced detainees to name members of religious organizations, people who have attended mosque with them, or even friends and neighbors who may not in fact have shared their religious beliefs or affiliation. They also have forced detainees to admit to associations with individuals unknown to them. Police then arrested those named, or brought them in as witnesses, often coercing them into testifying for the prosecution. This coercive strategy produces a perpetual flow of names for the police and security services to pursue. Police sometimes arrest a suspect and torture individuals unknown to him into testifying against him. The 1999 case of Bakhtior Musaev illustrates the latter strategy.

The defense lawyer for Musaev, an accused Hizb ut-Tahrir member, wrote a letter of complaint to the Iunusabad District Court judge in charge of his client’s case. In the letter the attorney drew particular attention to the fact that the witnesses against Musaev did not know him, had been instructed by police as to the content of their testimony, and had been tortured in order to compel that testimony. In his letter submitted to the judge prior to the June 1999 verdict against Musaev, attorney Shoknozar Jabrailov wrote:

During questioning [in court] on June 17, 1999, witness Sherev, Bekzot testified that he did not know Musaev at all before March 1999. He first saw Musaev at the city police station [GUVD] in Tashkent, when police officers forced him to give testimony, prepared beforehand, against Musaev saying that they knew each other and that he [Sherev] had seen him [Musaev] once in 1996; that Musaev supposedly had said that it would be good if there were an Islamic government in Uzbekistan. Officers at the Tashkent city police station tortured him in order to force him to give testimony against Musaev, they beat him, put a gas mask on him and cut the oxygen supply.790

Musaev’s lawyer alleged that the police used threats of arrest to compel incriminating testimony from two additional witnesses. Both of these witnesses, when questioned in court, recanted their written statements.791 Sherev testified in court about the pressure against the other two witnesses with him at the Tashkent police station. He said that all three had been given identical statements to sign and joint instructions by police as to how to testify and what to say.792 Bakhtior Musaev was sentenced to nine years in prison.793

Torture Resulting in Death

  • Police from the Zangiota district of Tashkent detained Farhod Usmanov, son of well-known imam Nosir Usmanov, on June 14, 1999, for alleged possession of a Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflet.794 Police reportedly placed Usmanov under formal arrest that same day and initially held him in the Zangiota district police station. After five days, authorities transferred him to a Tashkent police station, where he was held incommunicado for the rest of his detention—a matter of several days.795 Investigator Kobil Khoitmetov was reportedly responsible for supervising Usmanov’s case.796 At 5:00 p.m. on June 25, authorities returned his body to his family with a death certificate attesting that the forty-two-year-old father of six had died in detention of heart failure the previous day.797 Authorities who delivered Usmanov’s body ordered the family to conceal his death and not to show his body to anyone.798 However, that night a Human Rights Watch representative viewed the body, which was covered with large and small black bruises. The Usmanov family alleged that he had been in good health prior to police detention and charged that authorities had tortured him to death.799

Usmanov’s family reported that authorities failed to prosecute those responsible for his death.800 A letter from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to his family, sent in September 1999, stated simply that the criminal case against Usmanov had been closed upon the occasion of his demise.801

  • Police in Kashkadaria arrested Rustam Norbabaev,802 born 1977, on March 13, 2000, for alleged membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir.803 They detained Norbabaev along with his three brothers, Bahrom, Ergash, and Parda. All four men were allegedly tortured in the Yakkabaga district police department in Kashkadaria province. Rustam’s three brothers were allegedly beaten to induce them to testify against him.804 Rustam died after five days in custody—police claimed he hanged himself.805 His three brothers were released immediately afterward.806 The official investigation of his death did not consider possible police misconduct.

  • Hizb ut-Tahrir member Nu’mon Saidaminov died in police custody apparently from torture on September 8, 2000. When Saidaminov’s body was washed in preparation for burial, an observer, “D.D.” (not the person’s true initials), reported that he was covered with dozens of open wounds and bruises, his fingernails were blackened, and there were puncture wounds on his fingers. He also had bruises around his eyes and a cut on the right side of his face. Bruises on his buttocks and anus suggested he may have been subjected to anal rape. The bottoms of his feet also showed markings consistent with a beating.807 A doctor who reportedly observed the washing stated that the wounds were consistent with a fatal beating that had occurred at least two days earlier.808

  • On October 17, 2001, Tashkent police arrested brothers Ravshan and Rasul Haitov on suspicion of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir. Officers took the men—ages thirty-two and twenty-five respectively—to the Sobir Rakhimov district police station where they beat and otherwise physically abused the Haitov brothers. Within hours, Ravshan Haitov was dead. Authorities returned his body to his family the next day.809 Those who viewed the body reported that Haitov's neck was broken, as was one leg, below the knee. The upper section of his back was injured, and his body was covered with bruises. The official cause of death was given as a heart attack.810

In an unusual departure from a pattern of police impunity for abuse, four officers allegedly involved in the torture of Ravshan and Rasul Haitov were brought to trial and convicted on January 30, 2002. They were charged with “inflicting bodily harm that caused death,” a violation of criminal code article 104. They were each sentenced to twenty years in prison. Observers noted that persons sentenced under criminal code article 104 had qualified for release under past prisoner amnesties. They expressed concern that the state had failed to charge the officers with murder, in order to provide for their future pardon and release.811

Rasul Haitov also suffered severe injury as a result of police abuse. He was transferred to a Tashkent hospital, where he was kept under guard in an intensive care unit. He was subsequently released and testified at the trial of the police who had beaten him and his brother. Charges against Rasul Haitov for alleged membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir were subsequently dropped.812

Torture in Ministry of Internal Affairs Custody

Human Rights Watch gathered information about Muslim detainees tortured in Ministry of Internal Affairs custody, including in the Ministry’s own holding facility, the Tashkent Municipal Police holding facility, and various district police departments. Some of the worst cases of torture reported occurred in the first two locations. Officers from the Tashkent police headquarters (MVD) reportedly beat Imam Abduvahid Iuldashev repeatedly upon his arrest in February 1999. The officers took Iuldashev to room 190 in the station, where a man identified only as Abdukhamid began to insult him. Then, according to Iuldashev, “Another four men began to taunt me, then they forced me to take off my jacket and sat me in the corner. Then they beat me, twisting my arms behind my back; they forced me to the ground and struck my arms and legs, inflicting a great many bodily injuries.”813 An OSCE trial observer present on the last day of the proceedings against Iuldashev reported that the imam testified that police had beaten him in the interrogation room and also in the elevator and corridor of the police station.814

According to Iuldashev, after the round of beatings in room 190, officers took him to room 194, where they continued to beat him. The officers then called in two witnesses to observe their search of his pockets—a search that produced a substance later identified as opium.815 When Iuldashev denied that the drugs were his and refused to sign the police report, police beat him again.816 Authorities charged him with illegal possession of narcotics.

According to a person close to the case, when Iuldashev’s lawyer met with him the next day, February 22, 1999, she saw that his body was covered with marks of beatings, including bruises on his chest.817 After that meeting, authorities prohibited Iuldashev from meeting with his lawyer or family again until the investigation was over. During the following month his relatives were not even informed of the location where he was being held.818 Later, persons close to the imam’s case learned from him that he had been held first in the basement and then in a regular cell in the Ministry of Internal Affairs for a week before being transferred to the Tashkent Municipal Police Department. There, when authorities asked him upon arrival if he had any physical complaints, he answered, “Yes, I have been beaten.”819 The Tashkent police officers took Iuldashev to a separate room where, instead of registering his complaint, a man began to beat him.820 Throughout the attack, the officer demanded, “Did someone beat you? Do you have a complaint?” until Iuldashev agreed to sign a document saying that he had no complaint to make regarding physical mistreatment.821

In his verdict convicting Iuldashev, Judge Kaiumov wrote: “The court refutes Iuldashev’s version [of events]...that police officers brought physical pressure to bear on him.”822 The court further accused Iuldashev of having invented this “alibi” with the aim of avoiding punishment.823 After Iuldashev’s release under a presidential amnesty, police arrested him again in July 2000 and tortured him for three months in pre-trial detention.824 Testifying at his trial, Iuldashev recalled more than two weeks of grueling torture at the hands of police who forced him to say he had weapons and to name the place where they were supposedly hidden. He recalled being confined in room number 18 in Tashkent police headquarters, “a horrible place,” he said. He testified: “For almost eighteen days I was tortured there. The skin on my legs was burned, and my genitals were burned twice...They kept asking me about guns.”825 Iuldashev eventually complied with his torturers’ demands, but was then shocked when officers threatened that if the weapons were not where he had said, they would continue to torture him and would also arrest and torture his relatives.826 He claimed he pleaded with them, explaining he had only said these things because of the torture in the first place.

Iuldashev was taken to Minister of Internal Affairs Zokirjon Almatov himself, indicating the importance Uzbek authorities attached to his case. Iuldashev recalled at trial, “[Almatov]...asked me to tell the truth, and I explained that they tortured me and forced me to say I had guns that were not really there...[and] he said...‘Tell us where your guns are.’ I said, ‘I have no guns.’ He said, ‘Once, you said there were guns.’”827

Imam Iuldashev testified that after his meeting with the minister, he was again tortured and was forced this time to say that the guns were in Kazakhstan. He gave an address where they were supposedly hidden, but a Kazakh police officer who was informed said there was no such address.828 Nonetheless, the Uzbek officials then chastised the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan for failing to keep guns out of their country.829 Iuldashev reported, “Then the assistant minister of internal affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan wanted to talk to me, and they [Uzbek police] told me what to say to him. My face was swollen on the left side. They didn’t want me to talk to him with my swollen face. They prepared the [written statement] and made up the questions and answers themselves. [So] I said that Tokhir Ibrahimov, who lives in Kazakstan, told me about guns and wanted to show me where they were, but we never met. This was [all] fabricated by police. These minutes were registered and given to the assistant minister of internal affairs of Kazakhstan.”830 In the end, state authorities did not charge Iuldashev with possession of weapons.831

Iuldashev’s account also provides a possible explanation for a phenomenon that is typical in religious prosecutions in Uzbekistan: the frequent appearance in indictments and verdicts of only the first names of supposed accomplices. He testified: “...I was asked, ‘Who were your followers in Fergana and Kokand?’ I said, ‘I have no such followers.’ After they tortured me, I said that I did have staff. When they asked me who, I just said common Uzbek names like Akhmat...The next day, I couldn’t remember the names and they kept changing. The torture was so bad. To avoid the torture, I just made up names.”832

  • The experience of one of Iuldashev’s co-defendants also sheds light on how police made their case against the imam. When asked in court whether or not he had been tortured to incriminate Iuldashev, this defendant, Ulugbek Vakhidov, said, “Yes.” He explained that in addition to beating him the police showed him documents and computer files that were supposedly Iuldashev’s own confessions:

They showed me a computer and on it, it said ‘Testimony of Abduvahid Iuldashev.’ It said that I was one of his students and that he taught us about jihad and that we collected money for the baitulmol fund. I was afraid I would be handicapped [from the torture], and I signed the document…I heard that if I didn’t sign, I could be killed. I saw mattresses soaked with blood and, of course, I didn’t want to die….833

The court sentenced Vakhidov to eight years in prison for membership in a criminal group and distribution of religious extremist literature.834

  • The mother of one religious prisoner told Human Rights Watch, “In Tashkent prison, during the investigation, they beat him so that he would confess. So long as he refused to confess, two large men beat him and threatened to rape him. He heard that they raped others. He finally confessed after the beatings. He confessed to possession of bullets and marijuana.”835 Her son was sentenced to seventeen years in prison.

  • Several defendants convicted in September 2000 on charges of religious extremism described being raped in Tashkent by officers and also with objects, including a bottle. 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.”836 Five of his co-defendants also stated in court that they were raped during interrogation. One of the defendants was Dilshod Isakhov, who testified that police beat him in the basement, that they forced him onto the floor and hit him on the head with their truncheons until he lost consciousness. Later, the officers applied electric shock to him and then raped him.837

  • Ulughbek Mirzoev, tried along with Muzafar Avazov and other accused Hizb ut-Tahrir members in 2001, also testified in court that he had been tortured. Mirzoev accused law enforcement officers of pulling out his fingernails.838

  • Describing injuries sustained as a result of police mistreatment in pre-trial detention, Khusan Maksudov, born 1952, testified in court, “I hear badly now, I have a scar in my left ear. I cannot lift my left arm or make sharp movements. I cannot lie on my right side, because my left kidney has been badly injured.”839

  • “Can’t anybody monitor the behavior of the police?” pleaded Tokhir Obidov, on trial for “Wahhabism” along with sixteen co-defendants in Tashkent City Court.840 Obidov and many of his co-defendants and their lawyers gave the court details of the torture the men had suffered.841 The attorney for co-defendant Gafurjon Toirov noted that a fellow defendant testified to seeing police beat Toirov and pull him by the hair.842 According to the relative of one co-defendant, officers reserved their most brutal treatment for Toirov, beating him severely on the kidneys, in order to force him to sign a statement saying he had taught the others about Islam.843 Toirov himself testified in court that he was tortured for more than two months in pre-trial detention. He said that officers beat him on the bottoms of his feet, and that the white clothes he had been wearing because he had just returned from a pilgrimage to Mecca were covered with blood.844 While beating co-defendant Azgam Astankulov, police concentrated their blows on the young man’s already injured kidneys, due to which, according to one source, Astankulov’s “eyes popped and he immediately agreed to sign.”845

Torture in National Security Service Custody

  • Officers from the SNB in Tashkent arrested Muzafar Avazov on January 17, 2000, for alleged membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir. According to Avazov’s relative, “C.C.” (not the person’s true initials), the officers allegedly stuck metal spikes all around Avazov’s head and tortured him with electric shock for two days in the basement at SNB headquarters. Then, during interrogation, officers threw him on the floor and called in two large men who jumped on him.846 According to C.C., the officers ordered Avazov to sign a document that said that money found in his home was part of a Hizb ut-Tahrir fund for fighters in Chechnya, but he refused to sign. They told him that he should admit that the money was for IMU leader Tokhir Iuldash, but he again refused. Then, according to C.C., the officers tried to coerce him into saying that he had participated in a terrorist act in which a policeman was killed. He said, “Better that I die.”847 Then in July 2000, police arrested Avazov’s younger brother and beat him in the elder’s presence, again to coerce a self-incriminating statement.848

While the SNB otherwise held Avazov incommunicado during the six months of the criminal investigation, they summoned “C.C.,” one of the young man’s relatives, to meet with him after four months. According to C.C., “They finally let me see him so that I would advise him to give the testimony they wanted. I went, and he was swollen all over. His face was all swollen. He said the officers were from another region and were very cruel torturers. He said they hit him with truncheons. I opened his shirt, and on his chest there were bruises all over and marks that he had been beaten. There were bruises all over his legs as well.”849

“C.C.” was also present at Avazov’s trial and said that Avazov recounted during the court hearing being tortured with electric shock but did not talk about the men who had attacked him.850 C.C. further reported that Avazov was left in a traumatized state, “When [he] stood to give testimony, he couldn’t remember how old his children were.”851 The judge reportedly taunted Avazov, saying, “You didn’t forget Allah, but you forgot your children.”852

Muzafar Avazov was sent to Jaslyk prison, where authorities apparently tortured him to death. His body was returned to his family on August 8, 2002.853

  • A person close to Gairat Sabirov, a defendant in a case against seventeen so-called Wahhabis, alleged that the young man was kept in a “sauna” or wet-room in the SNB for three days after his arrest in January 2000. The source said that officers there burned Sobirov’s body with lit cigarettes before stripping and raping him. “For what?” the source asked, “He was only reading the Koran.”854 On January 8, 2000, he was transferred to police custody, where, according to a second person familiar with Sabirov’s case, police investigators threatened to rape his wife if he refused to sign a self-incriminating statement.855 A third person close to the case provided Human Rights Watch with the details of Sabirov’s torture in both SNB and police custody. According to that source, when Sabirov was transferred from the SNB to MVD custody on January 8, 2000, his new custodians also tortured him, putting cigarettes out on his arms.856 A state lawyer appointed to represent Sabirov visited his family on January 10, to instruct them to provide medicine and a pair of dark pants—the white ones he had been wearing were now covered with blood.857

Sabirov was kept incommunicado for sixty-eight days. During that time other detainees saw him lying unconscious and bloody in the basement of the Tashkent Municipal Police Department.858 Transferred to pre-trial detention in Tashkent prison in April 2000, Sabirov was examined by medical officers whose report stated that he had arrived covered with bruises.859 A relative who met with him there reported, “We spoke on the phone through a window and guards walked to and fro. I asked if they tortured him and he just cried and said, ‘The people who work here are not human.’”860 In court, the defense gave extensive details about the torture in custody of the seventeen defendants, but the judge was unimpressed. “Testimony that the defendants were tortured wasn’t proven. There was no written proof, and they didn’t know the name of their torturer, and we value their testimony as having no grounds,” the judge said.861

  • SNB agents in Andijan tortured Tavakkaljon Akhmedov to compel him to admit to membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir and to name co-religionists. After succeeding in producing this testimony, agents continued to torture Akhmedov to compel him to admit to increasingly serious charges. Detained on May 15, 1999, he was held in the SNB basement where he was beaten, kicked, and hung by his wrists for seventeen days, until he confessed to Hizb ut-Tahrir membership.862 Then, after he gave his confession, a whole new round of interrogation on additional charges began. SNB investigator Dilshod Akhmedov reportedly asked him “Will you confess or shall we continue with worse torture?” and threatened to cut off his tongue.863 After that, Tavakkaljon admitted to the remainder of the charges the investigators had brought against him.864 On or around July 27, he was transferred from the SNB basement to Andijan prison, where authorities continued to torture him.865 According to family members, Akhmedov lost consciousness in Andijan prison and fell into a coma for three days.866

  • Another young man detained and interrogated by SNB officers in a province southwest of Tashkent told Human Rights Watch, “[the officer] took me to another room with no lights. He put me in a chair and ordered me to put my hands on the table and he beat me on my sides and all over. The major [presumably a senior SNB officer] was there, watching. Then [name of officer omitted] told me ‘Write what I want or I’ll put you in the basement and there I will teach you and by morning you will write what I want.’”867

  • The Supreme Court released Nakhmiddin Juvashev, convicted in 1999, on parole in August of that year. But the National Security Service rearrested him in August 2000, along with his nephew, and beat them both.868 The nephew was subsequently released but Juvashev was kept in custody and abused again during five days of incommunicado detention. His lawyer, Erkin Juraev, saw Juvashev on August 10 in his basement cell in the Jizzakh district police station, where National Security Service officials eventually brought him. He reported that, “Juvashev’s face and right eye were bruised and swollen. On his shoulder, blue-black marks were visible, and on other parts of his body there were traces of wounds. When I asked him about these wounds, he told me that five to six National Security Service officers had beaten him in investigator Erkin Sattarov’s office and that they kicked him in the stomach and other places. He also said that they beat him with a black electrical cable from a typewriter.”869 When Juraev informed investigator Sattarov and Jizzakh province procurator Ottabaev about these incidents and other abuse and demanded a medical exam for Juvashev, they did not respond to his complaint in accordance with the law.870 Juraev also pleaded for General Procurator Kodirov’s help to put a stop to the torture.871 No investigation was undertaken into the torture. The Jizzakh Province Court convicted Juvashev of anti-state activities and, on January 15, 2001, sentenced him to fourteen years in prison.

  • Victims of torture testified to the effectiveness of police abuse. The wife of a man arrested for taking private lessons on Islam told Human Rights Watch, “My husband said that they threatened to remove his teeth. Then they told him to sign. They beat him on the legs, wrapped his legs in newspaper and lit it. In two days he told them what they wanted to hear...They took him to Tashkent prison, [where authorities] refused to take him because he was in such bad shape. But the police left him there, so they had to take him.”872

  • While President Karimov was promising pardons to independent Muslims who admitted having followed the “wrong” religious path, police actually tortured pious Muslim detainees to compel them to ask for pardons. The propaganda effort relied on the contrition of the accused to showcase the government’s rectitude and generosity. Minister of Internal Affairs Zokirjon Almatov, claiming that dozens of people had applied to the police for the opportunity to repent, said, “No action has been taken against them, no punishment administered.”873 Just days after these declarations, another Ministry of Internal Affairs official, Maj. Fahriddin Islomov, announced that “...more than 700 young people who were led astray and joined various religious trends have come to the law-enforcement agencies to ask for forgiveness. None of them has been punished, they all have been forgiven and they have all returned to their families.”874 Several defendants, including Zafar Avasov and Ulmasbek Khakimov, who were part of a 1999 case against accused Hizb ut-Tahrir members, recounted in court the physical abuse inflicted on them by police to force them to apply for President Karimov’s forgiveness.875

Threats of Torture

In addition to physical mistreatment, law enforcement officers also used a variety of threats to compel religious detainees to incriminate themselves and others. Twenty-five-year-old mother of four, Feruza Kurbanova, reported that arresting officers intimidated her with crude insults and threats of mistreatment. Kurbanova told Human Rights Watch that when officers arrested her on December 21, 2000, they took her to the Shaikhantaur district police station, where they “said the kinds of things a woman can’t bear.”876 The officers asked her when she had last been with her husband and taunted that in Tashkent prison she would “have many husbands.”877 The officers threatened that if she did not confess to membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir, they would take her down to the basement of the police station and take turns raping her.878 Kurbanova wrote the confession they demanded. The Shaikhantaur District Court found her guilty of membership in a banned religious organization and handed her a one-year suspended sentence.879

  • Police also threatened to arrest or physically mistreat detainees’ relatives to compel the detainees to confess. During the interrogation of Shukhrat Abdurakhimov, police threatened to arrest the young man’s wife and mother if he did not sign a self-incriminating statement.880 An accused “Wahhabi,” Khusan Maksudov, recalled in court that during his detention at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, “They said they would bring in my wife and rape her, and my children and torture them” if he did not sign self-incriminating statements.881 Twenty-five-year-old Kakhramon Saidkhojaev, arrested for taking part in private Islamic classes and charged with anti-state activity, asked in court, “Why would I [incriminate] my relatives as Wahhabis...? I have nothing against them; I was tortured into saying that. I was told that unless I condemned them, I’d be killed. I’m telling the truth. I was scared... They said that if I didn’t admit [to the charges], they’d bring my wife in and rape her in front of me.”882

  • Detainees signed self-incriminating statements to stop the abuse of their relatives. On November 18, 1999, Tashkent police arrested Munavar Hasanov, whose son, Ismail Hasanov, had been arrested on charges of religious “extremism.” They brought the elder Hasanov into the interrogation room to witness as his son was strung up by his ankles and repeatedly dropped on his head and beaten by officers.883 Police told Munavar Hasanov that they could do anything they wanted with his son, even kill him, and no one would know.884 Ismail Hasanov's father agreed to sign a confession to put an end to the torture.885 Police later brought Ismail before his father, who had also been beaten. They threatened to continue to beat the elder Hasanov unless Ismail signed a confession, which he did.886 Neither man was released, instead both were convicted on trumped up charges and sent to prison.887 Ismail Hasanov was sentenced to twenty-four years imprisonment on May 15, 2000.888 Munavar was sentenced to three years of imprisonment on February 16, 2000.889

Judicial and Prosecutorial Indifference to Torture

The judiciary and the procuracy have legal obligations to protect detainees and defendants from torture. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, they failed to do so. Procurators fail to investigate diligently claims of torture filed by those detainees willing to risk speaking about the abuse. Indeed, it often takes the death of a detainee to prompt an investigation into torture. As noted in Chapter II, judges uniformly ignored defendants’ court testimony about the torture they endured and admitted as evidence confessions and other testimony obtained through torture during the investigation.

The case of Nakhmiddin Juvashev, convicted on charges of Hizb ut-Tahrir membership, is an example of prosecutorial and judicial indifference to torture.890 He was held first at the Jizzakh branch of the National Security Service and then in the basement of the Jizzakh city detention facility in February and March 1999. He was held incommunicado for almost two months, during which time he was repeatedly beaten.891 In April 1999 his attorney wrote to the Jizzakh procuracy describing this treatment, but authorities failed to initiate an investigation. Instead, law enforcement agents tortured him in retaliation for making the complaint. After Juvashev’s case was forwarded to the Jizzakh Province Court, his attorney filed a complaint to the presiding judge describing the torture. At trial the judge refused to mandate an investigation. Instead the judge ignored Juvashev’s court testimony about the torture, admitted into evidence self-incriminating statements he had given while being tortured, and sentenced him to nine years in prison on the basis of these statements.

Juvashev’s ordeal, detailed in these complaints, follows: on March 13, 1999, National Security Service investigator Shavkat Iakshiev took Juvashev to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Tashkent. There, investigator Iakshiev, officers Bahodir Kurbanov and Rustam Mustafakulov, an officer named Abdulkhamid, and several other unidentified men took Juvashev down to the basement, fastened his wrists in handcuffs, and kicked him and beat him with their nightsticks for nine hours. They then insisted he write whatever they instructed.892 “My legs and body became swollen. I lost consciousness several times,” Juvashev recalled.893 Juvashev was transferred to a detention facility in Uchtepa, where he was held from March 16 to April 6. There, a Ministry of Internal Affairs anti-corruption officer named Farkhod and another man beat and insulted him in an upper-floor room during three to four days.894 In addition, Juvashev reported that every day he was visited by officer Bahodir Kurbanov from the anti-corruption department, who took him outside, tormented and insulted him, and beat him on the head with a truncheon.895 According to Juvashev, Kurbanov threatened, “I am going to subject you to such torture that you will do everything they demand, and then you will die.”896

Authorities at the Uchtepa detention facility wrote a report registering Juvashev’s condition and allegedly acknowledging that he had been beaten.897 The day after his arrival at Uchtepa, presumably March 17, Juvashev was having trouble breathing; his condition was so dire that officers were forced to call an ambulance to give him emergency assistance.898

Juvashev reported that investigator Iakshiev instructed him to reject his lawyer, but that he managed to get a one-time visit—after almost two months in custody—by promising to fire his lawyer immediately afterwards.899 Juvashev’s first words to his attorney, M. Togaev, were about the torture he had endured, signs of which were visible, including swollen legs.900

Togaev’s April 17, 1999 complaint to the Jizzakh procurator named the several officers who tortured his client and demanded a medical exam and an investigation.901 Juvashev has stated that the procurator’s first deputy, R. Tashkulov, visited him in detention, discussed his allegations with him, and obtained a full description of events.902

Juvashev’s abusers responded by stripping Juvashev down to his underwear, handcuffing him, hanging him from an elevated, horizontal bar, and beating him for more than three hours with truncheons.903 “With the aid of this kind of torture, humiliation and threat, Shavkat Iakshiev 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.904 But Juvashev persisted in attempts to hold his abusers accountable. On April 23, 1999, he wrote a complaint about the torture he had endured and the many blackouts and injuries he had suffered as a result.905 According to a person close to the case, the deputy procurator of Jizzakh, Shamsilulov, allegedly responded to his complaint in a letter that said, “No one beat you and you should reject your lawyer.”906

Juvashev was still in the hands of his torturers, and again they responded to his complaint with more violence, beating him on the bottoms of his feet in particular. By April 27 Juvashev had signed another statement prepared by police, to the effect that no one had beaten him and that he waived his right to an attorney.907 For three days afterward, according to someone who talked with him later, he could not so much as lift his head.908

At his trial in the Jizzakh Province Court in July, Juvashev denounced the “severe and relentless” torture he had suffered,909 but Judge Norkhujaev sentenced him to nine years in prison on the basis of his self-incriminating statements.

Juvashev was subsequently released on three years of parole. But on August 5, 2000, he was again arrested and physically mistreated by police. He was tried and sentenced on January 15, 2001, to fourteen years of imprisonment on charges of attempting to overthrow the government.

Another case, heard in the Tashkent City Court in 2000, also demonstrates judicial indifference to torture. Danior Sodykov testified in court that police had beaten and raped him to coerce him into signing a confession to membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir. Tashkent City Court Judge Rakhmonov responded by asking him if he had complained to anyone about the mistreatment, putting the onus of stopping his torture on Sodykov, the victim.910 Sodykov replied, “I could not even tell the officers beating me to stop, how could I write a complaint? To whom could I complain?”911 No investigation ensued.

Independent Muslim defendants in one 2002 group case alleged that Tashkent police had tortured them with electric shock, beatings, and suffocation with plastic bags and gas masks. When defendant Iskander Khudoiberganov was describing torture marks that he saw on one of his co-defendants, Judge Nizamiddin Rustamov responded by saying that the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where the torture allegedly occurred, “is not a holiday resort.”912

A judge in a June and July 2003 trial of fifteen alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir members did not respond at all to defendants’ harrowing court testimony about the torture they had endured during the investigation. On June 10 one defendant, Ikrom Norkhojaev, stated in court:

They put handcuffs on me. They made me lie down on the floor in the basement. They beat me on the soles of my feet. They also used a wooden stick to beat me. I couldn’t walk—I had to crawl to the interrogation room.… Only God knows about the other things that happened. I am too ashamed to talk about it.913

Khikmat Buriev gave similar testimony on June 11: “They tortured me a lot. They put a gas mask on me and beat me on the soles of my feet. Ask the other guys as well—they even raped us.… The investigator forced me to sign a statement that was already written.”914 According to a person who attended the trial, the judge did not even question these defendants about their allegations.915 During the two and a half hours it took the judge to read the verdict, his only reference to these testimonies was that Buriev had claimed that he had been pressured to sign statements.916

Tashkent courtroom.

© 2003 Jason Eskenazi

782 See Human Rights Watch, “And it Was Hell All Over Again.”

783 Civil and Political Rights, Including The Questions of Torture and Detention: Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, Theo van Boven, submitted in accordance with Commission resolution 2002/38. Addendum. Mission to Uzbekistan. United Nations document. E/CN.4/2003/68/add.2. February 3, 2003 (hereinafter, Report of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, Theo van Boven), p. 21.

784 Report of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, Theo van Boven, p.13. As noted elsewhere, criminal code article 156 refers to inciting religious enmity, article 159 relates to the attempted overthrow of the constitutional order, and article 244 refers to organizing public unrest. The Special Rapporteur’s report may have intended to include in its reference to article 244, article 244-1, which refers to illegal dissemination of religious literature.

785 Conclusions and Recommendations of the Committee against Torture: Uzbekistan. 06/06/2002. CAT/C/CR/28/7. (Concluding Observations/Comments.)

786 See Human Rights Watch, “‘And it Was Hell All Over Again.”

787 For a recent account of the use of rape against independent Muslim detainees, see Uzbekistan: Chronicle of Life in Maximum Security Colony KIN-51 (April-May 2002). Available at: [retrieved March 26, 2003].

788 The 1999 criminal procedure code does not explicitly forbid the use of information obtained through torture as evidence in criminal proceedings. The Uzbek Supreme Court, recognizing, perhaps, that police investigators and prosecutors rely most heavily on confessions to secure guilty verdicts, and that this creates an incentive to use torture, has erected a legal barrier against this. The Supreme Court issued a plenary court decision on May 2, 1997, which states that “…any evidence obtained unlawfully shall be devoid of evidential value and cannot form the basis of a judgment.”

789 Human Rights Watch documented the cases of another nine religious prisoners who died from torture in post-conviction facilities during the same period. Human Rights Watch documented six additional cases of suspicious death in prison custody. There was evidence of four cases of death from illness compounded by torture. Some of these cases are dealt with below in “Treatment in Prison” in Chapter IV. There were also numerous credible reports issued from other sources regarding deaths in prison and pre-trial detention during the period of Human Rights Watch’s research.

790 Undated letter from Shoknozar Jabrailov to the presiding judge, Iunusabad District Court, on file with Human Rights Watch. Rights defender Vasila Inoiatova, who monitored the Musaev trial and was present during Beksot Sherev’s testimony, verified the account of Sherev’s court testimony provided in Jabrailov’s letter. Sherev was convicted in a separate trial to seventeen years in prison on charges of religious extremism. Human Rights Watch interview with Vasila Inoiatova, Tashkent, June 19, 1999.

791 Ibid.

792 Human Rights Watch interview with rights defender Vasila Inoiatova, who monitored the Musaev trial, Tashkent, June 19, 1999.

793 The Iunusabad District Court sentenced him to nine years in prison on June 21, 1999. Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Iunusabad District Court, Tashkent, June 21, 1999. Musaev was subseqently released under a presidential amnesty on August 29, 2001.

794 Following his death, authorities alleged that Usmanov had recruited others to join Hizb ut-Tahrir and had taught them about the “Islamicization of society.” Supreme Court verdict issued by Judge B. K. Rozikov, July 17, 2000, trial of ten alleged members of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Additional information regarding the state persecution of Usmanov’s family members is presented above, in “Family Members: Arrests, House Arrest, Harrassment” in Chapter III.

795 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, June 25, 1999.

796 Ibid.

797 Death certificate viewed by Human Rights Watch, specifying cause of death as heart failure and date of death as June 24, 1999.

798 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, June 25, 1999.

799 Human Rights Watch interview with members of the Usmanov family, names withheld, Tashkent, June 25, 1999.

800 Letter from Masuda Kosimova to the parliament of Uzbekistan, August 11, 1999.

801 Letter from U.L Makhmudov, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Republic of Uzbekistan, to Masuda Kosimova, September 22, 1999. After Usmanov’s death, authorities continued to accuse others of being his students and followers, accusations that turned into criminal charges.

802 Some reports give the spelling as Norbaev. See, for example, Memorial Human Rights Center and the Information Center for Human Rights In Central Asia, List of People Arrested and Tried in Uzbekistan for Political and Religious Reasons (December 1997 to August 2001), Moscow, October 2001.

803 World Organization Against Torture request for urgent intervention, Case UZB 030400, April 3, 2000.

804 Ibid.

805 Human Rights Watch interview with rights defender Tolib Ikubov, Tashkent, May 1, 2000.

806 Ibid.

807 Human Rights Watch interview with “D.D.” (not the person’s true initials), Tashkent, October 2000.

808 Human Rights Watch interview with D.D., who spoke to the doctor, Tashkent, October 2000; and written description of the body by D.D. provided to Human Rights Watch, October 2000.

809 See “Uzbekistan: Torture Victim Dies in Custody: Crackdown on Independent Muslims Continues,” Human Rights Watch press release, October 20, 2001.

810 Ibid.

811 See “Uzbek Court Convicts Police for Beating Death: Decision Welcomed as ‘A First Step,’” Human Rights Watch press release, February 1, 2002.

812 Authorities reportedly cited Rasul Haitov’s poor health as the reason for closing the case. Human Rights Watch interview with persons close to the case, names withheld, Tashkent, October 10, 2003.

813 Unofficial transcript, Iakasarai District Court, Tashkent, May 11, 1999, written by independent trial monitors, names withheld, June 1999.

814 Human Rights Watch interview with OSCE trial monitor, name withheld, Tashkent, July 2, 1999.

815 Unofficial transcript, Iakasarai District Court, Tashkent, May 11, 1999, written by independent trial monitors, names withheld, June 1999; and Iakasarai District Court verdict, issued by Judge Kh. M. Kaiumov, July 1, 1999.

816 Iakasarai District Court verdict, issued by Judge Kh. M. Kaiumov, July 1, 1999.

817 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, August 1, 2000.

818 Ibid.

819 Ibid.

820 Ibid.

821 Ibid.

822 Iakasarai District Court verdict, issued by Judge Kh. M. Kayumov, July 1, 1999.

823 Ibid.

824 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held in the Akmal Ikramov District Court building, February 7, 2001.

825 Ibid.

826 Ibid.

827 Ibid.

828 Ibid.

829 Ibid.

830 Ibid.

831 Indictment of Tashkent city procurator M. I. Naimov, signed by police investigator A. Karshiev, December 18, 2000.

832 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held in the Akmal Ikramov District Court building, Tashkent, February 7, 2001.

833 Ibid.

834 ibid.

835 Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of an accused Hizb ut-Tahrir member, name withheld at her request, Tashkent, February 14, 2000. Tashkent prison serves as a pre-trial detention facility, in addition to being the central point from which prisoners are transferred to facilities for longer term incarceration, and a post-conviction facility for some prisoners, including those sentenced to death.

836 Undated letter from Malrufkhoja Umarov to Human Rights Watch, smuggled out of pre-trial detention.

837 Undated written report by rights defender Vasila Inoiatova, who monitored the trial and defendants’ testimony, on file with Human Rights Watch.

838 Human Rights Watch interview with a relative of Avazov who observed the trial, Tashkent, February 26, 2001. Judge Akhmadjonov sentenced the nine defendants, including Avazov and Mirzoev, to prison terms ranging from ten to twenty years. Some of the sentences were reduced on appeal. Ibid. Information on Muzafar Avazov’s case is given below.

839 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held in the Akmal Ikramov District Court building, Tashkent, February 7, 2001.

840 This case is described above, in “Imams, Their Followers, and ‘Wahhabis’” in Chapter III.

841 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court, Judge Sharipov presiding, August 4, 2000.

842 Ibid.

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

844 Ibid. Police reportedly arrested Toirov directly from the airport upon his arrival from Saudi Arabia.

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

846 Ibid.

847 Human Rights Watch interview with C.C., Tashkent, February 26, 2001.

848 Ibid.

849 Ibid.

850 Ibid.

851 Ibid.

852 ibid.

853 See “Uzbekistan: Two Brutal Deaths in Custody Deaths Reveal ‘Horror’ of Uzbek Prisons,” Human Rights Watch press release, August 10, 2002. Details regarding the evidence of prison authorities’ torture of Avazov and a fellow prisoner, Husniddin Alimov, are given below in this chapter.

854 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, August 4, 2000. Detailed information on the case of seventeen “Wahhabis” is provided in “Imams, Their Followers, and ‘Wahhabis’” in Chapter III.

855 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, August 21, 2000.

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

857 Ibid.

858 Ibid. Some of his co-defendants testified to this in court.

859 Ibid. The source learned of the existence of the report from Sabirov’s state-appointed lawyer. The report was not available to Human Rights Watch at the time of this writing.

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

861 Ibid. It is unclear why the medical report allegedly done in prison documenting Sabirov’s bruises was not raised in court.

862 Human Rights Watch interview with relatives of Tavakkaljon Akhmedov, names withheld, Asaka, Andijan, May 2000.

863 Ibid.

864 Ibid. According to family members, Akhmedov refused, however, to sign an additional statement incriminating him with the unsolved murder of a traffic officer who police alleged had been killed by members of Hizb ut-Tahrir.

865 Ibid.

866 Ibid.

867 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, place withheld, February 2001. Human Rights Watch has the name of the officer on file.

868 Letter to Jizzakh regional procurator Ottobaev, from Juvashev’s nephew, Yadgar Sodykov, August 14, 2000.

869 Letter to General Procurator R.Kh. Kodirov, from Erkin Juraev, August 31, 2000; and letter to Jizzakh procurator M. Ottabaev, from Erkin Juraev, undated.

870 Ibid.

871 Letter to General Procurator R. Kh. Kodirov, from Erkin Juraev, August 31, 2000.

872 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, November 3, 2000.

873 Uzbek television first channel, April 4, 1999, English translation in BBC Monitoring, April 5, 1999.

874 Uzbek television first channel, April 19, 1999, English translation in BBC Monitoring, April 19, 1999. Details regarding these people were not revealed by police, making it nearly impossible to confirm the state’s claims that those who pleaded for the state’s pardon were indeed allowed to remain at liberty. There were, however, documented cases of the arrest and conviction of men who asked for forgiveness.

875 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court trial held in the Chilanzar District Court building, Tashkent, July 20, 1999.

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

877 Ibid.

878 Ibid.

879 The relatively lenient sentence for Kurbanova was believed to be due to intense interest in her case on the part of diplomatic representatives in Tashkent, international media, and local and international rights groups.

880 Written statement to then-U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, from a relative of Shukhrat Abdurakhimov, name withheld, May 9, 2000; and Human Rights Watch interview with a relative of Shukhrat Abdurakhimov, name withheld, November 4, 1999. The author of the letter is the same relative as the interviewee. This case is described above in “Hizb ut-Tahrir” in Chapter II.

881 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held in the Akmal Ikramov District Court building, Tashkent, February 7, 2001.

882 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held in the Akmal Ikramov District Court building, Tashkent, November 1, 2000.

883 Human Rights Watch interview with a person close to the case, name withheld, Tashkent, June 15, 2000.

884 Ibid.

885 Ibid.

886 Ibid.

887 Human Rights Watch press release, “Uzbek Police ‘Disappear' Torture Victim,” July 20, 2000. For more information regarding the Hasanov family, see “Incommunicado Detention” in Chapter IV.

888 Tashkent Province Court verdict issued by Judge Rustamov, May 15, 2000. The charges upon which Ismail Hasanov was convicted included attempt to commit terrorism (criminal code article 25-155).

889 Tashkent Province Court verdict issued by Judge G. Khairullaev, February 16, 2002.

890 Additional information about the persecution of Juvashev’s relatives is found above in “Family Members: Arrests, House Arrest, Harrassment” in Chapter III.

891 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Jizzakh, July 2, 1999; and letter to Jizzakh Procurator Ottabaev, from Juvashev’s lawyer, M. Togaev, April 17, 1999, unofficial translation. M. Togaev was Juvashev’s first lawyer, who was fired by Juvashev’s family and replaced after he reportedly refused to pursue a case against the officers who allegedly tortured his client. Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Jizzakh, July 2, 1999.

892 Written complaint to Judge Bakhriddin Norkhujaev of the Jizzakh Province Court, from Nakhmiddin Juvashev, June 25, 1999.

893 Ibid.

894 Ibid.

895 Ibid.

896 Ibid.

897 Letter to Jizzakh Procurator Ottabaev, from Juvashev’s lawyer, M. Togaev, April 17, 1999, unofficial translation.

898 Ibid; and written complaint to Judge Bakhriddin Norkhujaev of the Jizzakh Province Court, from Nakhmiddin Juvashev, June 25, 1999.

899 Written complaint to Judge Bakhriddin Norkhujaev of the Jizzakh Province Court, from Nakhmiddin Juvashev, June 25, 1999.

900 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, June 29, 1999; and Human Rights Watch interview with Juvashev’s sister-in-law, name withheld at her request, Jizzakh, November 1, 2000.

901 Letter to Jizzakh Procurator Ottabaev, from Juvashev’s lawyer, M. Togaev, April 17, 1999, unofficial translation.

902 Written complaint to Judge Bakhriddin Norkhujaev of the Jizzakh Province Court, from Nakhmiddin Juvashev, June 25, 1999.

903 Ibid; and Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Jizzakh, July 2, 1999.

904 Written complaint to Judge Bakhriddin Norkhujaev of the Jizzakh Province Court, from Nakhmiddin Juvashev, June 25, 1999.

905 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Jizzakh, July 2, 1999.

906 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, June 29, 1999.

907 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Jizzakh, July 2, 1999.

908 Ibid.

909 Human Rights Watch interview with Juvashev’s sister-in-law, Jizzakh, November 1, 2000.

910 Human Rights Watch interview with trial monitor, Vasila Inoiatova, Tashkent, August 1, 2000.

911 Ibid.

912 Human Rights Watch press release, “Uzbekistan: Alleged Torture Victim Sentenced to Death,” December 4, 2002.

913 Human Rights Watch interview with a local human rights defender who monitored and transcribed the trial hearings, name withheld, Tashkent, June 12, 2003.

914 Ibid.

915 Ibid.

916 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Akmal Ikramov District Court, Tashkent, July 4, 2003.

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