Torture and ill treatment are widespread and systematic in Kyrgyzstan and other Central Asian countries. During 2011-2012, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) worked to transform Kyrgyzstan’s stated policy of zero tolerance for torture and ill treatment into action. The initiative is intended to serve as model to end impunity for torture in the region as well.
“Forensic medical evidence is often one of the most powerful forms of material evidence to corroborate a victim’s allegations of abusive treatment,” said Dr. Vincent Iacopino, senior medical advisor to PHR and the paper’s lead author, who coordinated the team’s work in Kyrgyzstan. “Unfortunately, the country still lacks the capacity to document forensic medical evidence in an independent and effective way.”
Perhaps Kyrgyzstan’s most well-known case of torture is that of Azimjan Askarov, the country’s most prominent rights activist, who founded an organization in 2002 to investigate police brutality.
Arrested in 2010 on charges that included inciting ethnic hatred and complicity in murder, Askarov was sentenced to life in prison, despite protests by rights organizations that his arrest was on trumped-up charges and his conviction based on a false confession extracted under torture. PHR’s examination of his medical records confirms that his symptoms of traumatic brain injury, major depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder are consistent with his complaints of being tortured while in detention.