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UN rights experts question fairness of Andijan rebel trial

[JURIST] Experts with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] expressed concern over the fairness of the trial of 15 men in Uzbekistan charged with terrorism and precipitating the violent uprising in the town of Andijan [JURIST news archive] in May 2005, according to a press release issued Thursday. According to the statement:

The Special Rapporteurs are concerned about allegations of irregularities in preparation of the trial and of defence procedures that are inadequate to ensure a fair trial. They also fear that the crime of terrorism is not defined in national law in a manner compatible with the requirements of articles 6 and 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in relation to crimes subject to capital punishment.

Moreover, as little evidence has been presented during the trial, apart from confessions; since the defendants admitted their guilt on the first day of the trial reciting the prosecutors' accusatory text and asking for the death penalty; and in light of the fact that they were not cross-examined by independent lawyers, the Special Rapporteurs express concern that the defendants' confessions may have been obtained by means of torture. The previous Special Rapporteur on torture, in his report on a visit to Uzbekistan (document E/CN.4/2003/68/Add.2) wrote that, "torture or similar ill-treatment is systematic as defined by the Committee against Torture [and that] torture and other forms of ill-treatment appear to be used indiscriminately against persons charged for activities qualified as serious crimes such as acts against State interests, as well as petty criminals and others."
UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Leandro Despouy last week questioned the fairness of the trial [JURIST report] and the validity of the confessions from the 15 [JURIST report]. Observers said the rebellion alleged by Uzbek government officials actually entailed government troops firing on and killing as many as 500 protesters in Andijan, but Uzbekistan [government website; JURIST news archive] has resisted calls for an independent investigation into the event and denied charges of using torture [JURIST report] to extract the confessions. IRIN has more.

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