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UN torture expert urges prosecution of Uzbek minister in Andijan uprising

[JURIST] Manfred Nowak, the UN's Special Rapporteur on Torture [official website], has called for Germany to prosecute the Uzbek Minister of Internal Affairs, Zokirjon Almatov, for his handling of the May 2005 Andijan uprising [HRW backgrounder]. A group of survivors and the New York-based Human Rights Watch have filed a lawsuit [press release; JURIST report] in Germany under that country's universal jurisdiction laws [Amnesty backgrounder] alleging that Almatov, as commander of Uzbek special security forces, should face charges for torture and crimes against humanity. Troops under Almatov's command fired on the thousands of protesters gathered after rebels stormed a prison [JURIST report] and freed a group of businessmen on trial for alleged Islamic extremism. Rights groups have alleged that over 500 protestors were killed [JURIST report] as the government struggled to end the demonstrations, though Uzbek officials say there only 187 who died. The suit has been filed with German federal prosecutors, who have not yet decided whether to take up the case, and Nowak has issued a statement urging prosecutors to pursue the charges:

The previous Special Rapporteur carried out a visit to the country in late 2002 and concluded that torture is systematic in Uzbekistan. He also said that torture appears to be used indiscriminately against persons charged with serious crimes such as acts against State interests, as well as petty criminals and others. These concerns are exacerbated by the findings of a report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of July 2005, which, on the basis of consistent, credible eyewitness testimony, found that during events in Andijan in May 2005 the military and security forces committed grave human rights violations while curbing demonstrations.

The Special Rapporteur recalls that victims of torture have a right to legal redress crimes of torture, that torture is subject to universal jurisdiction and that States are under the obligation to investigate allegations of torture, independently of where such acts have occurred.
BBC News has more. The UN News Centre has additional coverage.

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