UN to Examine More Deaths in Kyrgyz Police Custody

Open Society Justice Initiative, New York, May 31

The Human Rights Committee (HRC) of the United Nations has asked Kyrgyzstan to respond to two complaints over deaths in police custody that highlight the country’s continued failure to eliminate the use of torture and beatings by its police.

Both cases were filed by the Open Society Justice Initiative, which is providing legal representation before the committee for two families over the separate deaths in 2005 of Turdabek Akmatov, at the age of 33, and Rahmonberdi Ernazarov, at the age of 44. The families of both men have spent over 5 years unsuccessfully seeking justice in Kyrgyzstan’s courts. Both cases were registered at the HRC at the end of April.

Turdabek Akmatov was arrested for theft and brought to the police station in the village of Mirza-Aki in Kyrgyzstan, where he was interrogated and held for approximately ten hours and beaten severely. Later that same day he returned home gravely injured. He died a few hours later.

Rahmonberdi Ernazarov was detained at the police station in the city of Osh and kept in a police cell with six other men. After two weeks in police custody, he was found lying unconscious and bleeding in the cell. He died shortly after.

In both cases, the police failed to carry out even the most rudimentary investigatory measures, failing to seize important evidence, question key witnesses, or undertake a proper autopsy.

“The lack of accountability for police abuses, including beatings and deaths in custody, remains a widespread problem in Kyrgyzstan,” said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative. “The government must do more to investigate all torture allegations and provide meaningful redress for victims and their families.”

The continued lack of progress on the two cases comes despite a government promise last year to the UN to effectively investigate alleged torture cases.

Kyrgyzstan’s efforts to meet its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights have lagged in key areas, including developing an independent mechanism for investigating torture complaints, allowing family access to the investigation, establishing adequate criminal penalties for torture, and creating safeguards to stop police abuse in detention, such as immediate access to a doctor and a lawyer.

“The government has yet to give any indication that it takes its obligations seriously,” said Maria Lisitsyna, project manager on Central Asia of the Open Society Justice Initiative. “It is yet to be seen if the order issued in April by the acting Prosecutor General to thoroughly investigate torture allegations will bring any real changes.”

The HRC is also considering the case of the death in police custody in Kyrgyzstan of Tashkenbai Moidunov in 2004 brought by the Open Society Justice Initiative.

The Open Society Justice Initiative works with local partner organizations across Central Asia to combat the use of torture.

The Open Society Justice Initiative uses law to protect and empower people around the world. Through litigation, advocacy, research, and technical assistance, the Justice Initiative promotes human rights and builds legal capacity for open societies.

Contact: Maria Lisitsyna
Email: mlisitsyna@justiceinitiative.org
Tel: +1 212 548 0629