Committee against Torture
7 November 2012
The Committee against Torture this morning began its consideration of the second periodic report submitted by Tajikistan on how it implements the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Introducing the report, Sherkhon Salimzoda, Prosecutor General of Tajikistan, said the country had tried to guarantee the respect of human rights ever since its independence. After a five-year civil war which killed 150,000 people and prompted more than 1 million to become refugees, several years were needed to stabilize the situation in the country. Today, Tajikistan was equipped with various structures protecting human rights and efforts were ongoing, as highlighted by the successful reform programme strengthening the role of the judiciary. Tajikistan had also amended several laws, notably enshrining liability for different kinds of torture in the Criminal Code. Tajikistan was trying to fulfil all conditions to provide for human rights to the utmost degree and would continue to try to create an appropriate atmosphere for all.
Nora Sveaass, the Committee Rapporteur for the report of Tajikistan, said the Committee had credible information suggesting that hazing in the military was a problem, that deaths and suicides occurred, and that insights seemed to be blocked. What steps would be taken to tackle this situation and ensure that no human rights abuses happened in the army? The Rapporteur noted that substantial resources and time had been committed towards training police officers. However, there was a general acceptance of torture and ill-treatment, with police officers assuming that torture and other excessive techniques were necessary for effective law enforcement.
George Tugushi, the Committee Co-Rapporteur for the report of Tajikistan, noted positive steps in introducing new legislation, pointing in particular to the adoption of the new Criminal Procedural Code and the June 2012 decree of the Supreme Court. Despite numerous changes, serious legislative flaws persisted, serving as grounds for the systemic practice of torture. The Criminal Code for instance envisaged five years of imprisonment for torture, which was neither commensurate with torture nor aligned with the Convention.
Committee Experts asked a number of in-depth questions, including whether Tajikistan intended to transform the moratorium on the use of the death penalty into abolition, whether there were any high security prisons in Tajikistan and whether isolation was used as punishment in detention facilities. They also wondered what Tajikistan’s position was with regards to the ratification of the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture and whether there was a procedure for habeas corpus.
The delegation of Tajikistan consisted of representatives from the Prosecutor General, the Council of Justice, the Human Rights Ombudsman, the Department of the Executive Office of the President, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice and the Permanent Mission of Tajikistan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 3 p.m. this afternoon when it will hear the replies of Senegal, which presented its third periodic report to the Committee on Tuesday, 6 November. The Committee will hear the replies of Tajikistan at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 8 November.
Report of Tajikistan
The second periodic report of Tajikistan can be read via the following link: CAT/C/TJK/2.
Presentation of the report of Tajikistan
SHERKHON SALIMZODA, Prosecutor General of Tajikistan, introducing the report, said the country had tried to guarantee the respect of human rights ever since its independence. However, during the first year of its independence Tajikistan had faced internal and external resistance and a five-year civil war had killed 150,000, while more than 1 million people had become refugees. Following the national concord achieved in 1997, several years were needed to stabilize the situation in the country. It also took a long time to disarm armed groups and allow for the return of refugees. In the post-conflict phase, certain forces wished to set up a communist Government, while others were in favour of an Islamic State. Most people however opted for a democracy based on compliance with human rights and human rights and freedoms had therefore been established in the Constitution as the highest value.
Tajikistan was equipped with various structures protecting human rights, the delegation said, pointing in particular to the human rights ombudsman and a procuracy which was answerable only to the President and the Parliament. Efforts were ongoing, as highlighted by the successful reform programme strengthening the role of the judiciary in bolstering human rights and the visits of various Special Rapporteurs. In order to ensure that people’s rights were being upheld, citizens were also being received every Saturday by leaders of ministries and departments.
Explaining the Tajik legislation, the delegation said the prohibition of torture was a constitutional standard in the country. Pursuant to the Constitution, Tajikistan recognized international instruments as part and parcel of its domestic law. If there was a conflict between the two, the international texts held true. Following the submission of its first report, Tajikistan had also amended several laws, notably by enshrining liability for different kinds of torture in the Criminal Code and ensuring the adversarial nature of criminal procedures. Torture of detainees was strictly prohibited and the law on detainees also protected people in custody from any kind of ill-treatment, with other issues such as intimidation being at the centre of authorities’ attention. Important aspects of safety were being provided for in the law on state protection to those involved in court proceedings.
As far as the media was concerned, the President had issued a decree to ensure that journalists could investigate cases of torture and the article of the criminal code dealing with slander had been removed. In implementing the Committee’s recommendations, Tajikistan had also introduced a new article in the Criminal Code to bring it in line with the Constitution. Officials who issued instructions for torture to be carried out could now be brought to justice, and attempts to use torture were considered criminal acts.
When presenting its Universal Periodic Review to the Human Rights Council recently, Tajikistan had adopted several recommendations relating to torture, which it had undertaken to implement for the period 2012 – 2016. The Special Rapporteur on Torture had also visited Tajikistan in May this year, commending the efforts of the authorities to improve custody conditions and noting legislative progress.
In February 2011, the Tajik Security Council had addressed issues of law enforcement and had publicly condemned torture and similar methods. Also last year, the President had spoken on the upholding of human rights and stressed the importance of eliminating torture and inhuman treatment. There had been a special discussion on countering torture last year, resulting in the establishment of a working group on the prevention of torture which included staff from several Government bodies. The working group had been working closely with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and had held training throughout the country.
When it came to the Criminal Procedural Code, via an instruction involving the prosecutor’s office and the Ministry of Justice, there were now special instructions on custody and detention. Custody cells in Dushanbe had a video system which turned on as soon as a person arrived. Efforts were being made to extend this practice to facilities in other parts of the country.
In concluding, the delegation underscored that Tajikistan had undertaken significant efforts to fight torture. It was trying to fulfil all democratic norms and conditions to provide for human rights to the utmost degree. The country’s legislation enshrined all foundations to defend human rights and freedoms. The law provided for human rights to be upheld not only when someone was being detained, but whenever someone came in contact with officials. Many decrees had been handed down, many ministries and agencies were part of the criminal system, and all they did stemmed from the Criminal Procedural Code. Tajikistan would continue to try to create an appropriate atmosphere for all.
Questions from Rapporteurs on Tajikistan
GEORGE TUGUSHI, Committee Rapporteur for the report of Tajikistan, noted positive steps in introducing new legislation, pointing in particular to the adoption of the new Criminal Procedural Code and the June 2012 decree of the Supreme Court.
Despite numerous changes, serious legislative flaws persisted, which served as grounds for the systemic practice of torture. The Criminal Code for instance envisaged five years of imprisonment for torture, which was neither commensurate with torture nor aligned with the Convention. Also, the law on amnesty granted wide discretion to authorities in reducing and expanding sentences.
Another issue was safeguards. These should certainly be put in place by legislation, but the main issue was that they should be implemented in practice, said Mr. Tugushi. He was also concerned that, according to article 91.1 of the amended Criminal Procedural Code, suspects were not entitled to procedural safeguards until they were registered.
The delegation had pointed out that international law was directly applicable in Tajikistan. He therefore would like to hear about cases where the courts had directly applied the Convention in considering alleged acts of torture?
The Rapporteur pointed out that torture often took place while people were being held by the police, not only in detention facilities, wondering whether long term holding by the police after remand was still taking place in Tajikistan. Also, confessions obtained under torture were allegedly still being used. Could the delegation provide more information on this issue?
There seemed to be issues related to article 3 of the Convention, cases of asylum seekers and the Minsk Convention, the Rapporteur went on to say. Apparently there were no safeguards to prevent the extradition of persons to countries where they risked being subjected to torture or inhumane treatment. Also, could the delegation say more about the so-called statute of limitations in Tajik legislation?
NORA SVEAASS, Committee Co-Rapporteur for the report of Tajikistan, wondered how often provisions of treaties ratified by the State party were in fact being invoked by Tajik courts. Also, following the Universal Periodic Review, Tajikistan said it would consider issuing a standard invitation to Special Procedures – would such a standing invitation be issued?
The Committee had credible information suggesting that hazing in the military was a problem, that deaths and suicides occurred, and that insights seemed to be blocked. Could the delegation inform the Committee about steps that would be taken to tackle this situation and ensure that no human rights abuses happened in the army? Also, what action was envisaged to investigate such abuses when they did happen, to hold perpetrators to account and to provide redress to those affected?
It would be helpful to know more about the mandate and the budgetary situation of the ombudsperson, Ms. Sveaass went on to say, asking whether the ombudsperson was allowed to undertake unrestricted monitoring of all places of detention.
The Committee had been informed that health personnel were asked to assess a large number of persons in a very short period of time. The examination and interview of 34 victims of torture by medical experts had been completed in one hour, noted Ms. Sveaass, underlining that this gave rise to serious limitations.
The Co-Rapporteur noted that substantial resources and time had been committed towards training police officers. But there seemed to be too much general acceptance of torture and ill-treatment, with police officers assuming that torture and other excessive techniques were necessary for effective law enforcement. Could the delegation clarify whether police had been trained on the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials? And did the Government plan on holding further police training activities focused on interactive methods?
According to the State party, investigations into causes of death in custody were carried out by the prosecuting authority. However, the Committee had been informed that little progress had been made in investigating such cases and that families faced chronic barriers when trying to access information about the circumstances of deaths. Could the delegation provide further information on this?
Questions by Committee Members
An Expert wished to know whether the International Committee of the Red Cross was granted unconditional access to places of deprivation of liberty in Tajikistan. The report of the State party, issued two years ago, only stated that a working group had been established to revise the agreement with the Red Cross. Could the delegation provide updated information on this subject?
Regarding prison conditions, the report indicated that punishment cells had recently been enlarged. But it did not provide the actual dimensions, the space open to actual light, whether there were ventilation and hygienic services, and for which crimes and for how long persons were placed in such cells.
Non-governmental organizations asserted that minors were being treated as adults, a Committee member said. This ran counter to provisions for treating juvenile delinquencies; there needed to be developments along these lines. And what were the results of the work carried out to assess whether the treatment of minors was in accordance with international standards, another Expert inquired.
A Committee member recognized Tajikistan’s efforts to tackle torture but said the Committee was interested above all in what was actually happening in the country. In that regard the situation was far from being positive overall. Could the delegation provide specific cases of proceedings against judges, for instance, and explain why proceedings had been undertaken, what the modalities were and what happened in the end? The report also talked about officers punished for abuse of authority against detainees but it provided no information about redress to victims.
Experts also asked a number of other questions, inter alia including whether Tajikistan intended to transform the moratorium on the use of the death penalty into abolition, whether there were any high security prisons in Tajikistan and whether prisons where detainees were being detained in secret existed. Committee members also wished to know whether isolation was used as punishment in detention facilities, what Tajikistan’s position was with regards to the ratification of the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture, and whether there was a procedure for habeas corpus.
For use of the information media; not an official record