The UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez [official profile] on Wednesday urged [news release] the Tajikistan government to implement policies and laws that have been previously adopted by the government in order to end torture and ill-treatment within the country. Mendez was encouraged by Tajikistan's response to his last visit and recommendations he had given to the government in 2012, and especially welcomed the country's adoption of a National Action Plan, legal awareness campaigns and a new institute of forensic medicine. He also stated, however, that punishment for those engaging in severe torture and ill-treatment must be increased and that legislation must prohibit amnesty for this class of crimes. Mendez was concerned by the fact that, although allegations of torture and ill-treatment have been prevalent during the past two years regarding the country's apprehension, interrogation and detention processes, only four cases have been prosecuted during this time period. Additionally, Mendez expressed concern about the country's persistent denial of timely access to independent legal counsel for individuals. Mendez ultimately recommended that the Tajikistan government ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture [text] and stated that the country's legislation "should be amended to ensure that the obligation not to extradite or deport or expel a person to a country where he or she faces a risk of torture or ill-treatment is duly recognized and that appropriate legal recourse is guaranteed in order to allow for a meaningful risk assessment." Mendez will submit a detailed report to the UN Human Rights Council [official website], regarding his observations and further recommendations for the Tajikistan government.
Despite attempts by the UN and various advocacy groups to eradicate torture among the international community, it still remains a constant and unyielding problem in a number of countries. On Tuesday Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report [JURIST report] outlining the prevalent trafficking and torture of Eritrean refugees for ransom by Sudanese and Egyptian individuals that has been occurring since 2010. In January the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called for an investigation [JURIST report] into torture allegations against Ukraine following widespread arrests of protesters, which have since been offered amnesty. In December lawyers for two Guantanamo detainees, arguing before the European Court of Human Rights, accused Poland [JURIST report] of serving as a secret torture site for the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) extraordinary rendition program [JURIST news archive]. In November an independent report supported by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession and the Open Society Foundations reported that doctors and psychologists working in US military detention centers helped to design [JURIST report] methods of torture for terrorism suspects. The report examined various charges that the Department of Defense (DOD) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) "improperly demanded that US military and intelligence agency health professionals collaborate in intelligence gathering and security practices in a way that inflicted severe harm on detainees in US custody."