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Authorities in Kazakhstan are failing in their duty to promptly, impartially and effectively investigate reports of torture and other ill-treatment perpetrated by members of law enforcement agencies and prison staff, Amnesty International said in report published today.

“The failure to investigate torture and prosecute those responsible leaves victims hopeless and intimidated, reliant on their families and a small band of dedicated civil society activists and lawyers to negotiate the labyrinthine process of appealing against a refusal to investigate a report of torture,” said John Dalhuisen, Director of the Europe and Central Asia Regional Office at Amnesty International.

In its report, Dead End Justice: Impunity for Torture in Kazakhstan, Amnesty International reveals that while human rights organizations in Kazakhstan receive hundreds of reports of torture and other ill-treatment each year, the fear of reprisal, lack of access to appropriate legal advice, or the assumption that nothing will be done means that few cases are registered, and an even smaller number result in prosecution.

Legal reforms, including the introduction of a new legal code in January 2015 and extending the mandate of “Special Prosecutors” to include the investigation of cases of torture, while welcome, have failed to address the systematic gaps and failures in the current procedures for investigating and prosecuting reports of torture.

In the first seven months of 2015, just ten cases of torture reached court, of which five resulted in a conviction. 

In the same period, prison staff beat Iskander Tugelbaev so badly that he was left in a coma for three days, yet authorities refused to mount a criminal investigation due to “lack of evidence”. Iskander Tugelbaev’s case is just one of 12 documented in the report, which highlights the numerous obstacles torture victims face in securing justice.

The small number of victims who do pursue justice often find that it can take years for their case to be investigated, as the case is passed from one agency to another, with each agency putting corporate solidarity before the rights of victims of torture to obtain justice. 

“The Kazakh system for investigating police abuses is so riddled with loop-holes and the protection of vested interests that torturers are able to act with virtual impunity. As long as this continues, the torture will not be effectively tackled and countless victims will continue to suffer each year,” said John Dalhuisen.

“Two important steps that the authorities could take now are to ensure that Special Prosecutors take charge of the investigation of all allegations of torture, and to establish an advisory committee to oversee the investigation of complaints of torture and ill-treatment so as to include experts from civil society.”