US and Europe 'turn a blind eye' to Uzbekistan torture

Allegations of torture and forced confessions surrounded the trial of 15 Uzbek men following the Andijan massacre in 2005 when troops fired into a crowd, killing hundreds Image copyright AP
Image caption Activists say suspects are regularly tortured in Uzbekistan from pre-trial detention onwards

Amnesty International has accused the US and some European Union countries of turning a blind eye to "pervasive" torture in Uzbekistan.

The human rights campaign group says "appalling abuses" are endemic in the country's justice system.

It says Uzbekistan's Western partners put security and business interests above human rights concerns.

US and EU policy makers have defended a policy of engagement saying it has led to some improvements.

Uzbekistan has criminalised the use of torture, but only a few perpetrators have been brought to justice.

Beaten up

The report, named Secrets and Lies - Forced confessions under torture in Uzbekistan, is based on dozens of interviews with former detainees, torture survivors, lawyers and officials.

It highlights individual case studies such as the story of a woman named as "Zuhra", whose male relatives were accused of belonging to an extremist Islamist group.

In her interview with Amnesty researchers, the woman described being regularly called into her local police station where she was beaten up in an attempt to make her incriminate family members.

Handcuffed to a chair, she heard men and women screaming through adjacent walls and saw police officers stripping women naked, subjecting them to verbal abuse and breaking victims' bones, according to Amnesty's account.

When "Zuhra" attended the court case against her relatives, the judge accepted the defendants' forced confessions despite visible signs of torture.

Image copyright Amnesty International
Image caption Amnesty International members call on Germany's foreign minister to 'not look away'

Amnesty says torture is endemic in the justice system, from pre-trial detention onwards.

Beatings, near asphyxiation, sexual assault and electric shocks are among the most common forms.

The victims, it says, range from ordinary criminals to members of non-state or banned Islamic groups.

'Blind spot'

Uzbekistan has been ruled for over 25 years by its authoritarian President Islam Karimov.

The government told the UN that it had launched criminal torture cases against 45 security personnel between 2010 and 2013.

But Amnesty says the numbers are small compared to the hundreds of credible reports of mistreatment.

There is no independent monitoring of Uzbek detention facilities.

Amnesty is urging Uzbekistan's Western partners to press harder for human rights improvements when dealing with the country.

The US has agreed to transfer around 300 military vehicles it no longer needs to Uzbekistan, saying they are required for counter-terrorism and anti-narcotic efforts.

Germany has trade and investment links with Uzbekistan, although German exports are relatively small at around $500m (£338m) in 2014.

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