No One Left to Witness—Uzbek Tragedy

“No One Left to Witness”

Torture, the Failure of Habeas Corpus, and the Silencing of Lawyers in Uzbekistan

DECEMBER 12, 2011

This report provides rare first-hand evidence of wide-scale human rights abuses in the isolated country, from which United Nations human rights experts have been banned for almost a decade. In Uzbekistan, human rights activists are languishing in prison and independent civil society is ruthlessly suppressed.


Deadly attack rocks central Liege in Belgium

Deadly attack rocks central Liege in Belgium

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A gun and grenade attack in the centre of the Belgian city of Liege has killed at least two people and wounded 47 including a toddler, media say.

Witnesses say a man in his 40s threw grenades at a bus stop in Place Saint Lambert, a busy square. At least two other men are thought to be involved.

Reports say one of the attackers is among the dead. Local media say another has been detained, while a third is involved in a stand-off with police.

It is not clear who the attackers are.

There are reports of a fourth man escaping the scene.

TV images showed blood splattered across the cobblestones.

Medical staff are said to be attending to some of the injured in the courthouse.

Seven of them are in a serious condition, and doctors at a city hospital are trying to save the life of an 18-month-old boy injured in the attack.

Roads into the centre of the city have been sealed off. Police helicopters are hovering overhead and explosives experts are on their way to the square.

A TV report said many shops in the city centre had closed their doors, with customers trapped inside.

Place Saint Lambert is a busy intersection, served by hundreds of buses daily. It hosts an annual Christmas market which attracts some 1.5 million visitors a year.

Map of locality

Terrorist attacks in Syria escalate along with international pressure

Terrorist attacks in Syria escalate along with international pressure

DAMASCUS, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) — A gas pipeline was blown up at midnight Monday in central Homs province as part of the daring attacks that have been intensified lately in Syria, as the international community seems determined to frame the administration of President Bashar al-Assad for the reported deaths of some 5,000 people since the outbreak of the domestic rift.

The blast was the third of its kind since the eruption of protests in March, and the second in a less than a week. On Thursday, an oil pipeline was blasted in central Syria, causing material losses but no casualties.

Some argued that the attacks were targeting Syria’s oil and gas sectors in an attempt to further strangle the already-ailing economy.

The official SANA news agency attributed the Monday attack to ” terrorists,” saying that the pipeline connecting al-Sa’en al- Asswad and al-Ashrafiya villages in Homs was targeted by an explosive device. No injuries but some minor damages were caused, it reported.

Meanwhile, Syrian Oil Minister Sufian Allaw confirmed that the damages were limited and the pipeline would be repaired soon.

In another development, SANA said that border guards in the northern province of Idlib foiled an infiltration attempt by an armed terrorist group into the Syrian lands through Ain al-Baida site of Badama. It added that the guards clashed with 15 terrorists, killing two of them and wounding the others.

On Dec. 6, the border guards also foiled an infiltration attempt by 35 armed men in the same site, injuring a number of them while the others escaped into Turkey.

As the wave of terrorist acts rages on, UN high Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Monday that more than 5,000 people have been killed in the ongoing violence in Syria.

According to Pillay, thousands of Syrians have been put in detention centers by the government, where some experienced torture. Other Syrians have been displaced from their homes.

However, in response to Pillay’s statement, Bashar al-Ja’afari, Syria’s permanent representative to the UN, told reporters that the information offered by his government in 16 letters written to UN officials was not included in Pillay’s briefing.

“She was speaking on behalf of the (Syrian) defectors,” he said, referring to what was missed in the council briefing by Pillay about the violence from the armed opposition.

Russia, a crucial ally to Syria, said Monday that “the only way to resolve the situation in Syria is through a Syrian-led political process,” which means a joint effort by all parties in the Middle East country to put an end to the current political crisis through dialogue.

Tensions in Syria began in March when protesters took to the streets to call for the ouster of President al-Assad. The situation has since then escalated and the Syrian security forces have been accused of firing on innocent protesters, reports said.

Syria has, from the beginning, blamed armed terrorist groups backed by a foreign conspiracy for being behind the turmoil with the aim of toppling the government and replacing it with an Islamic rule, and al-Assad has recently blamed the violence in Syria on criminals, religious extremists and terrorists sympathetic to al-Qaida, claiming that they are mixed with peaceful demonstrators.

The Syrian government has repeatedly denied that its forces deliberately kill anti-government protesters, saying armed groups of the opposition are responsible for the bloodshed.

Editor: Yang Lina

Human Rights Watch calls on Uzbekistan to end torture

Human Rights Watch calls on Uzbekistan to end torture

Prisoners convicted of terrorism by the High Court in Uzbekistan after the events in Andijan. Photo – Agence France Presse


Human Rights Watch (HRW), the prominent international human rights organization, has published a report on torture in Uzbekistan, and has called on the country to respect the commitments it has made under international treaties by ceasing its use of torture.

In the preamble to Human Rights Watch’s report on torture in Uzbekistan, published on 13th December, human rights activists provide evidence of Uzbekistan’s systematic contravention of its own undertaking to end torture.

The commitments to put a stop to these practices, which were adopted by Uzbekistan with much fanfare, have never been realised, says the HRW document.

The 107-page report contains some rare first-hand accounts of large-scale abuses of human rights in Uzbekistan, hidden from the country to which, for almost ten years now, UN experts have failed to gain access.

“The West should wake up to the fact that Uzbekistan is a pariah-state in terms of its human rights record – one of the worst in the world,” says Steve Swerdlow, HRW’s Uzbekistan expert. “Its proximity to Afghanistan should not provide Tashkent with a cover for carrying on its horrific torture and repression.”

The report is based on more than 100 interviews carried out in Uzbekistan between 2009 and 2011.

HRW has documented cases of detainees having boiling water poured over them during interrogation, being hit with rubber cudgels and water-filled plastic bottles, being hung up by their wrists and ankles. There are cases of rape, and sexual assault of detainees and of suffocation torture using plastic

Police checking passports in the Chorsu market in Tashkent. Failure to carry a local residency permit is treated as a civil offence which can lead to arrest and detention. Photo – Elena Urlaeva

bags and gas masks.

“The government has practically destroyed independent advocacy and has revoked licences of the most committed lawyers. Prisoners are permanently refused access to any legal defence,” says HRW in its report.

The report also contains criticism of western governments who, it claims, “in trying to cosy up to this authoritarian Central Asian regime all but ignore its human rights abuses.”

“In spite of human rights abuses and repression, in recent years the US, EU and individual European governments have considerably relaxed their stance with regard to human rights in Uzbekistan because of the strategic importance of the country in facilitating NATO land-based access links with Afghanistan,” the report says.

HRW calls on the international community to support the creation of a specialist UN investigation into the human rights situation in Uzbekistan and to look into the feasibility of introducing sanctions such as an assets freeze and travel ban for government officials identified as being involved in torture and other gross violations of human rights.

In 2008, with much pomp and self-congratulation, Uzbekistan recognised habeas corpus – the requirement for legal review of an individual’s detention. Other legislative reforms were later introduced which were designed to improve the situation with regard to torture.

In reality, after habeas corpus was introduced, the situation with regard to detention did not improve, and in many ways became even worse, HRW claims.

“To talk of reforms, when the police and custody facilities routinely resort to torture, is not progress, says Steve Swerdlow. The situation will not change until the government of the country, starting with Islam Karimov, publicly acknowledges the scale of the problem and takes steps immediately to comply with international legal obligations.”

HRW is calling on the government of Uzbekistan to end torture. “The government should ensure that habeas corpus is enforced in accordance with international standards, and must observe procedural rights such as the right to legal representation and guaranteed independence of lawyers.

“It is absurd to talk of progress of the rule of law in Uzbekistan when the most courageous and independent lawyers are thrown out of their profession,“ says Steve Swerdlow. Without lawyers, who are allowed to act without government intervention, it is hardly feasible to expect that the pervasive epidemic of torture in Uzbekistan is being tackled.”

Saudi Taliban Execute Woman For Practising Witchcraft

Saudi Woman Executed For Practising Witchcraft

(RTTNews) – A Saudi woman was beheaded in the northern Al-Jouf province of Saudi Arabia on Monday after being convicted of practising sorcery, the Interior Ministry said.

Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nassar was arrested in the city of Qurayat for practising witchcraft and sorcery, the Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. She was sentenced to death by a lower court and the verdict was upheld by higher courts. No details were given on the charges the woman faced.

According to media reports, she was the second person to be executed for witchcraft in the conservative Kingdom this year.

London-based newspaper ‘al-Hayat’ quoted a member of the Saudi religious police as saying that the woman was in her 60s and had tricked people into giving her money, claiming that she could cure their illnesses.

Rights group Amnesty International, which has campaigned for Saudis previously sentenced to death on sorcery charges, said it had never heard of her case until now. A Sudanese man was executed in September on similar charges, despite calls led by Amnesty for his release.

by RTT Staff Writer

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