Police in Vakhdat, Tajikistan, detained Tagoibek Sharifbekov last month, suspecting he’d stolen a cell phone. They were eager for a confession, Amnesty International reports: “Allegedly, electric shocks were applied to his fingers, and his head was submerged into a sink filled with water for two hours, with breaks so he did not suffocate, and he was kicked in the chest.”
Reportedly, in the evening that day Tagoibek Sharifbekov was released, but his two passports were confiscated, and he was told to bring 1,700 somoni (350 USD) to the police station the following day. The victim of the theft allegedly told police that Tagoibek Sharifbekov was not guilty. A medical examination carried out on Tagoibek Sharifbekov on 10 April concluded that his injuries could have been caused by a hard, blunt object and that bruises and abrasions may have been caused by electric shocks.
Sharifbekov’s case is not unique; Tajik police are well known for employing torture to extract confessions. (Last year they claimed one detainee died from beating his own head against his cell wall; another, police claim, jumped to his death from his second-floor holding cell.)
Sharifbekov is unique because he’s spoken out, though authorities appear to have no intention of examining his allegations, instead pressuring him to drop calls for an investigation and telling him he could have hit his head climbing into a minibus. He’s also brave.
Sharifbekov fears that there will be no effective investigation into the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment and he additionally fears he will be prosecuted for defamation. Amnesty International has previously expressed concerns at the use of or threat of using defamation laws by Tajikistani officials to silence critical reporting in ways which serve to silence the independent media and discourage victims of human rights violations from speaking out and seeking redress.
Amnesty says torture is “an ongoing problem in Tajikistan, particularly in pre-trial detention where detainees are at particular risk of torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement officers in order to get them to confess to crimes. A climate of impunity prevails, meaning that police abuse continues virtually unchecked.” Torture is illegal and authorities have recently passed legislation defining torture, but it prevails nonetheless.