Effective measures to end impunity for crimes of torture in detention are needed to tackle the systematic recourse to torture and other ill-treatment of detainees in Tajikistan, the ICJ concluded in a report released today.
The ICJ report, Achieving Justice for Gross Human Rights Violations in Tajikistan, finds that although Tajikistan’s criminal procedure law is often in line with international law, including fair trial and other relevant guarantees, in practice it does not lead to effective protection of human rights.
The system is in practice unable to remedy or establish accountability for the serious human rights violations that occur systematically in detention, the report says.
Even where complaints of torture are made, it appears that very few lead to investigation, prosecution or conviction.
“The systematic recourse to torture and ill-treatment in detention undermines the integrity of the criminal justice system in Tajikistan, as well as notions of fairness and justice and the operation of the rule of law in the country,” said Temur Shakirov, Senior Legal Adviser at the ICJ’s Europe Regional Programme.
“Torture must always be treated as one of the most serious crimes. International human rights law requires that allegations of torture must be independently, promptly and thoroughly investigated and, where those responsible are identified, they must be brought to justice,” added Shakirov.
An effective system of prevention of torture and other ill-treatment in detention and for the provision of effective remedies and reparation for such violations is needed to tackle the systematic recourse to their use, the report finds.
The ICJ’s report identifies numerous factors that foster the widespread use of torture and other ill-treatment in Tajikistan, including:
- the lack of independence of the judiciary;
- the judges’ failure to uphold equality of arms between the defence and prosecution;
- the frequent failure by courts to inquire into allegations of torture or other ill-treatment raised by the defence;
- the tendency of courts to accept prosecution denials of such treatment without question; and
- courts’ regular failure to exclude evidence obtained by torture.
With heavy reliance by judges on self-incriminating statements made by suspects in the first hours of detention, the presumption of innocence remains to a large extent illusory, the report adds.
The report also demonstrates that a lack of guarantees for confidential lawyer-detainee meetings prevents detainees from effectively exercising their right to qualified legal assistance and to complain about ill-treatment if necessary.
“Systemic torture cannot be effectively eradicated unless lawyers are both individually and institutionally independent of the executive, are protected in carrying out their duties, and have unimpeded access to their clients in the first hours of detention, as required by international law and standards”, Shakirov said.
The report provides a comprehensive list of recommendations following a detailed analysis of applicable laws and practices in Tajikistan, including based on the findings and recommendations of different bodies of the United Nations human rights system.