Four United Nations human rights experts today jointly expressed concern about the conduct of the Uzbekistani authorities trying 15 men accused of terrorism in connection with protests that broke out last year in Andijan.
"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 said in a joint written statement.
They also noted that the crime of terrorism as defined in Uzbek national law is not compatible with international conventions of civil and political rights for crimes punishable by death.
The Rapporteurs are experts on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; on human rights and counter-terrorism; on the independence of judges and lawyers; and on the question of torture, and are unpaid. They are serving in an independent personal capacity, having received their mandate from the UN Commission on Human Rights, whom they also report back to.
The 15 men are being accused of having organized a series of demonstrations that were held in Andijan last year, and they have been charged with premeditated murder and terrorism, both of which are punishable by death.
Observers of the 13 May events said that hundreds of protesters were killed after Uzbek troops fired indiscriminately to disperse them. The event sent hundreds of Uzbeks fleeing out of their country, and subsequently sparked a refugee crisis with Kyrgyzstan.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour issued a report in July concluding that, based on the consistent, credible testimony of more than 450 observers, military and security forces had committed grave human rights violations while curbing the protesters that day.
The Special Rapporteurs said that apart from confessions, little evidence has been presented during the trial; defendants admitted their guilt on the first day of the trial, while reciting the prosecutor's accusatory text, and asked for the death penalty. Because there was no cross-examination by independent lawyers, the experts expressed concern the defendants' confessions were obtained by means of torture.
The Special Rapporteurs also mentioned that torture, if committed against these men, is in contravention to specific UN agreements, including General Assembly Resolution 59/191 which obligates States to ensure that any measure taken against terrorism complies with international law, "in particular, international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law." Also, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights obligates all States to "observe rigorously all the guarantees for a fair trials in capital punishment cases," and admits no exceptions.