The Torturers of Tashkent

NEW YORK – President Islam Karimov’s regime in Uzbekistan has survived for 19 years, in no small part because it has resorted time and again to police brutality and torture to extract confessions from people who have committed no crime, and to break the spirits of political opponents and intimidate anyone who might think of becoming one.

Sometimes the police are overzealous. Sometimes the victims die. Sometimes the regime tries to cover up the killings. But Karimov has never condemned torture, and he has instituted no measures to prevent it.

A few cases make it to the public eye, but only when things go too far and victims of brutality or torture die. The latest to surface is the case of 30-year-old Muzaffar Tuychiyev, a healthy young man when the police detained him on the evening of March 24, 2008, in the region of Tashkent. They then transported Tuychiyev to a police station in Angren, 100 kilometers south of the capital. By the next morning, Tuychiyev was dead. Four police officers are on trial for his killing. His parents say higher-ranking officers are going free.

Talib Yakubov, a human-rights advocate in Uzbekistan, says that torture is an integral part of the Karimov regime’s domestic policy. Torture, Yakubov says, enables the government to keep the public in fear and submission.