The Civic Solidarity Platform's Working Group on the Fight Against Torture presents its fourth annual Index on Torture
The Working Group on the Fight Against Torture presents the results of the 2022 Index on Torture measurement in nine countries of the OSCE region: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine.
The Prohibition of Torture Index, developed by the Working Group in 2020, serves as a unique tool to assess the level of countries' compliance with the prohibition of torture. The first pilot measurement of the Index was conducted in eight countries of the OSCE region using their 2019 data. The Index was then calculated for each country based on measurements reflecting the State's performance in areas such as torture response mechanism, judicial review, statutory prohibition of torture in domestic legislation, procedural guarantees designed to prevent the use of torture, torture prevention instruments in place, and whether the State has fully ratified and implemented the international standards on the prohibition of torture.
Following the pilot measurement, the Working Group held a series of consultations to review the Index parameters in an effort to adopt a more comprehensive approach to assessing the situation in each country. As a result, a number of methodological adjustments were made, e.g. certain indicators were added or refined, and the criteria were balanced to reflect both the regulatory framework and the law enforcement practice. Furthermore, a new section was added to the Index, assessing the effectiveness of torture investigations based on surveys of relevant experts, such as lawyers, prosecutors, judges, criminal investigators, and human rights defenders.
Here, we present the results from the fourth measurement of the Index.
The summary data reflect both positive and negative dynamics in the situation.
For example, a significant increase in the Index value for Tajikistan, as compared to the pilot measurement in 2019, is due to the refinement of many Index indicators and the addition of new ones following the pilot measurement, and also to the changes observed in the country over the past four years. The experts from Tajikistan comment on this positive trend as follows:
“During this period, largely in an effort to implement recommendations from international bodies, significant improvements were made in legislation to ensure freedom from torture and protection of human rights within the criminal justice system. We are now seeing the first criminal cases [against torture perpetrators] resulting in severe custodial sentences (starting from 15 years in prison). While we have also noticed a decrease in the number of complaints alleging the use of torture, we do not view this as a positive trend indicating a reduction in the actual use of torture but attribute it to the fear of reprisals that victims may face for reporting such incidents to human rights defenders. In particular, this phenomenon was observed following the protests in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) in the autumn of 2021, when a significant number of criminal cases were instituted against the protesters. According to some estimates, more than a thousand people were arrested and charged with rioting during that period. We have reasons to believe that the detainees may have been tortured but denied any such treatment during the trials, fearing for the safety of their family members. The defense lawyers have signed non-disclosure agreements and therefore avoid reporting the ill-treatment of their clients.”
For the first time in four years, an increase in the Index value has been observed in Russia. According to Russian experts, there is no observed improvement in terms of reducing torture practices or enhancing the quality of investigations into such incidents. Rather, the changes can be attributed to the criminalization of torture as an offense in the Criminal Code and the gradual improvement of the quality of judicial statistics.
A critical decline in the Index has occurred over the two recent years in Poland. This can be attributed to the decrease in two types of indicators: a significant deterioration in the quality of judicial statistics and a lack of access to data regarding the number of torture complaints and the number of investigators handling torture cases. Both indicators are crucial for assessing the performance of the State's torture response mechanism.
A noticeable decrease in the Index level has been observed in Moldova and Ukraine. In Ukraine, this is attributed to the lack of access to information about the number of investigators handling torture cases, which was previously publicly available. Additionally, the situation has worsened with the protection of video archives in places of detention, which is an understandable consequence of the war.
In measuring the 2022 Index for Moldova, it was not possible to assess the level of procedural independence of the investigative body, as the experts from Moldova were unable to access information regarding the number of torture cases investigated and reviewed by courts in cases where victims did not file complaints or withdrew them.
Belarus and Russia continue to demonstrate the worst performance of all countries observed.
The events of the past year have brought about significant changes in the situation in several countries where the Index is measured. This particularly concerns the war in Ukraine, which has had an impact on the entire region, and the aftermath of the protests in GBAO in Tajikistan in autumn 2021, as well as the protests in Kazakhstan in January 2022. More details can be found in country profiles and overviews.
Working Group members from the following countries contributed to the Index preparation:
Promo-LEX Association, Moldova
Association of Ukrainian Human Rights Monitors on Law Enforcement, Ukraine
Voice of Freedom, Kyrgyzstan
Crew against Torture, Russia
International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, Kazakhstan
Human Rights Movement Bir Duino, Kyrgyzstan
Human Rights Center Viasna, Belarus
Kadir Kassiyet, Kazakhstan
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Poland
Public Verdict Foundation, Russia
Helsinki Citizens' Assembly – Vanadzor, Armenia