Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Nevertheless, physical abuse, including inhuman and degrading treatment, reportedly continued in prisons. Police abuse reportedly remained a problem, notably in pretrial detention.
As in 2017, defense attorneys, journalists, and human rights monitoring organizations, including Golos Svobody, Bir Duino, and the international nongovernmental organization (NGO) Human Rights Watch (HRW), reported incidents of torture by police and other law enforcement agencies. During the first six months of the year, the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) registered 183 allegations of torture by government officials, including law enforcement (176 cases), the State Penitentiary Service (two cases), and other officials. As a result, 11 criminal cases were filed: four cases involving torture and seven cases of inhuman treatment. Two criminal cases against officials were being tried, and two criminal cases were under investigation. According to the PGO, seven criminal cases were suspended due to lack of physical evidence and a reluctance of accusers to submit to physical or psychological examination. A March report by the National Center to Prevent Torture (NCPT) and the Antitorture Coalition found that more than 30 percent of detainees in temporary detention centers reported some form of abuse. NGOs stated that the government established strong torture-monitoring bodies but that the independence of these bodies was under threat.
Golos Svobody played a central role in monitoring allegations of torture and was the main organizer of the Antitorture Coalition, a consortium of 18 NGOs that continued to work with the PGO to track complaints of torture.
The Antitorture Coalition also accepted complaints of torture and passed them to the PGO to facilitate investigations. According to members of the Antitorture Coalition, the cases it submitted against alleged torturers did not lead to convictions. In historical cases where police were put on trial for torture, prosecutors, judges, and defendants routinely raised procedural and substantive objections, delaying the cases, often resulting in stale evidence, and ultimately leading to case dismissal. In March, however, media reported the Supreme Court upheld the convictions of three members of the police for torture of A. Bolotov, E. Ibraimov, and S. Azhibekov. The police officers were sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment. On October 9, four police officers were found guilty of torture by the Osh City Court in a case involving minors accused of a murder. Two officers were sentenced to eight years in prison, while the others were sentenced to 13 and 14 years in prison.
During the year NGOs reported that courts regularly included into evidence confessions allegedly induced through torture. Defense lawyers stated that, once prosecutors took a case to trial, a conviction was almost certain. According to Golos Svobody, investigators often took two weeks or longer to review torture claims, at which point the physical evidence of torture was no longer visible. Defense attorneys presented most allegations of torture during trial proceedings, and the courts typically rejected them. In some cases detainees who filed torture complaints later recanted, reportedly due to intimidation by law enforcement officers.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions were harsh and sometimes life threatening due to food and medicine shortages, substandard health care, lack of heat, and mistreatment.
Physical Conditions: Pretrial and temporary detention facilities were particularly overcrowded, and conditions and mistreatment generally were worse than in prisons. Authorities generally held juveniles separately from adults but grouped them in overcrowded temporary detention centers when other facilities were unavailable. Convicted prisoners occasionally remained in pretrial detention centers while their cases were under appeal.
NGOs reported that in some cases prison gangs controlled prison management and discipline, since prison officials lacked capacity and expertise in running a facility. In some instances, the gangs controlled items that could be brought into the prison, such as food and clothing, while prison officials looked the other way. According to NGOs, authorities did not try to dismantle these groups because they were too powerful and believed that removing them could lead to chaos. Some prisoners indicated that prison order and safety was left to the prison gangs or prisoners themselves, resulting in instances of violence and intimidation among inmates.
Administration: Authorities did not conduct proper investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment. Prisoners have the right to file complaints with prison officials or with higher authorities. According to the NGO Bir Duino, prison staff inconsistently reported and documented complaints. Many observers believed the official number of prisoner complaints of mistreatment represented only a small fraction of the actual cases. Persons held in pretrial detention often did not have access to visitors.
Independent Monitoring: Most monitoring groups, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), reported receiving unfettered access. Some NGOs, including Bir Duino and Spravedlivost, had the right to visit prisons independently as part of their provision of technical assistance, such as medical and psychological care.
The NCPT, an independent and impartial body, is empowered by the government to monitor detention facilities. The center has seven regional offices and has the authority to make unannounced, unfettered visits to detention facilities. NGO representatives stated that center officials made progress monitoring and documenting some violations in detention facilities, but they stressed, as they had in previous years, that a standardized approach to identifying torture cases and additional resources and staff members, were necessary to conduct its work.