Tajikistan: Torture is 'routine', shows new Amnesty report

‘The police told me “If we kill you we’ll chuck your body in the canal and no one will ever find you and we won’t get punished”’ - Torture survivor, 2012

Torture, beatings and other ill-treatment are routine in places of detention in Tajikistan and thrive in a climate of widespread corruption and impunity, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

The 77-page report, Shattered Lives: Torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement officials in Tajikistan , describes the risks people face in the early stages of detention, the inadequate investigations into allegations of torture, and the failure of the Tajikistani authorities to hold those responsible to account. Amnesty is calling on the Tajikistani authorities to roundly condemn and stamp out the practice.

The report shows that groups perceived as a threat to national security and members of Islamic movements, groups or parties are at particular risk. Vulnerable members of the population such as those living in poverty who are less likely to lodge complaints, are also at risk, while people forcibly returned or extradited from other countries to Tajikistan have been subjected to torture or other ill-treatment after return. Meanwhile, independent journalists are often intimidated by the security forces when they report on torture allegations.

Amnesty says that the incentives for police officers to use torture and other ill-treatment are often stronger than the deterrents. Most law enforcement officials are unofficially assessed according to the number of crimes they solve, and police abuse and corruption often go hand in hand. One local journalist told Amnesty: “Torture is a means of income. Police detain, torture and charge people, and then suggest that they can be bought off.”

Amnesty International’s expert on Tajikistan Rachel Bugler said:

“The torture methods used by the security forces are shocking: involving electric shocks, boiling water, suffocation, beatings, burning with cigarettes, rape and threats of rape - the only escape is to sign a confession or sometimes to pay a bribe.
“Such treatment leaves victims suffering not only from the physical injuries such as burst ear drums, broken teeth, dislocated jaws; but also from the symptoms of post-traumatic stress such as depression, chronic insomnia, and nightmares. Their ill-treatment has lasting repercussions on their lives and the lives of their families.  

“Far too frequently this treatment leads to the deaths of people in police custody, and these cases are not being properly investigated and the alleged perpetrators are not effectively brought to justice.

“Impunity for torture or ill-treatment has long been the norm in Tajikistan. And that will continue to be the case unless there’s an end to the institutional collusion that permits such abuses to occur. There is an urgent need for a clearly defined independent institution that will act as a check and a balance to the actions of security forces.”

As torture has only recently been introduced into the criminal code as a crime in Tajikistan, official statistics do not reflect the extent of the problem. This is exacerbated by the fact that victims of torture and their families are often afraid to speak out about torture, and suffer intimidation from police officials when they do. Meanwhile, safeguards against torture are often not implemented in practice - detainees are routinely held incommunicado while initial interrogations are conducted, often without a lawyer.
There is also no reliable system of independent medical investigation of torture allegations in the country - judges routinely ignore torture allegations at trial and information obtained through torture is admitted as evidence in the trials of those detained.

  • Read report: Shattered Lives: Torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement officials in Tajikistan nbsp;(PDF)

View latest press releases