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UN Accuses Uzbekistan of Widespread Use of Torture - 2003-04-04

A United Nations special investigator on torture says while the practice is common in many countries, it is widespread in the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan.

Human rights groups have long charged that Uzbekistan used torture to extract confessions from its citizens. Late last year, in an effort to answer these charges, the government of Uzbekistan invited Theo Van Boven, a U.N. special investigator, to visit the country and see for himself.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, where the annual meeting of the Human Rights Commission is in session, Mr. Van Boven said he found torture was institutionalized and systematic in Uzbekistan. "It was rampant," he said. "Most cases, convictions are based on, are obtained confessions by extraction, by torture. The number of death penalties which are based on convictions and confessions that are extracted by torture are all routine. There are many death penalties pronounced. Executions that take place are a state secret."

Mr. Van Boven says relatives do not know about the executions. He says the bodies disappear with no trace.

The Uzbekistan authorities, which already have seen a copy of his report, deny the torture allegations, though they do acknowledge that there are isolated cases of human rights abuse in the country's prisons.

The U.N. investigator, who visited Uzbekistan in December, is due to present his findings to the U.N. Human Rights Commission on Monday.