Ernazarov v. Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan Found in Violation of ICCPR for Failing to Protect Man Beaten to Death in Police Cell
Rahmanberdi Enazarov was arrested in November 2005 after an acquaintance brought criminal charges against him. Despite an order that he should be transferred to a detention facility, he was held in a police cell with six other men who subjected him to constant abuse. The police did nothing to protect him. Two weeks later, he was found bleeding to death in the cell with missing teeth and cuts on his neck. He died shortly afterward. The police claimed that the death was a suicide, despite evidence to the contrary.
Because the authorities failed to protect a vulnerable prisoner, and further failed to conduct a proper investigation into Enazarov’s cause of death, the Open Society Justice Initiative filed an individual complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee in March 2011. In 2015, the Committee concluded that Kyrgyzstan was responsible for the failure to protect the Enazarov’s life and to provide security for any person in its custody.
As called for in the UN Human Rights Committee’s views in this case, the family of Enazarov received monetary compensation in August 2021. However, the compensation paid to the family was significantly lower than the amount requested and was not considered to be commensurate with the gravity of the violations, nor was a public apology provided to the family. In addition, to date, the Kyrgyz government has failed to conduct an effective investigation of Enazarov’s torture and death, to introduce safeguards against torture and killings in detention, or to publish the Committee’s views, all of which the Committee had called for in its decision.
In late 2005, Rahmanberdi Enazarov was visited at home by the father of a former romantic partner to discuss the breakdown of the relationship. The father then complained to the police that Enazarov had attempted to extort money from him and had committed an act of forced sodomy upon him.
He was kept in a police cell with six other men. After three days, he was charged, with an offense of forced sodomy. Despite an order that he should be moved to a pre-trial detention center, he was kept in police custody for an additional two weeks.
The police informed the family lawyer that Enazarov was being constantly abused by the other men in the cell. Even though he was clearly a vulnerable prisoner, they did nothing to prevent the abuse. When his sisters visited the police station, they were told by the investigating officer in charge of the case that he was “better off dead”.
At about 6 a.m. on November 20, 2005, Enazarov was found lying unconscious and bleeding in the cell. He died shortly after being taken to a hospital.
The police conducted a perfunctory investigation into his death and concluded, despite evidence that suggested otherwise, that it was a suicide. An independent evaluation of the autopsy report by Physicians for Human Rights indicated that it was impossible to conclude that his death was a suicide and that several injuries detailed in the report were very unusual for a suicide and could indicate that he was trying to defend himself. The police, however, failed to carry out even the most rudimentary investigatory measures, in that they failed to seize important evidence, question key witnesses, undertake a proper autopsy, or investigate the circumstances under which a vulnerable prisoner was detained and died.
Open Society Justice Initiative Involvement
The Open Society Justice Initiative filed a petition to the UN Human Rights Committee, together with local counsel, Saidkamal Akhmedov, arguing that his death in custody and the failed investigation violated human rights standards.Substantial pro bono assistance was provided by Hogan Lovells LLP in New York, which worked with a local lawyer to investigate why the police failed to adequately protect a vulnerable prisoner. Legal research was provided by the Lowenstein International Human Rights Project at Yale Law School.
During the implementation phase, the Justice Initiative continued to act as co-counsel with lawyer Sardorbek Abdukholilov before the UN Human Rights Committee and has now withdrawn from the case as of April 5, 2023.
Failure to protect a vulnerable prisoner. The authorities failed in their positive obligation to protect the right to life of a vulnerable prisoner and failed to provide a plausible explanation for his death, in violation of Article 6(1) of the ICCPR (right to life).
Arbitrary Killing. The lack of a plausible explanation for the death in custody leads to a presumption that Enazarov was arbitrarily killed, in violation of Article 6(1).
Torture. Enazarov was subjected to physical and psychological abuse while in custody, with the knowledge and complicity of the police, in violation of Article 7 (prohibition of torture).
Failure to conduct an effective investigation. The authorities failed to conduct a prompt, impartial, thorough, and effective investigation into the death.
Failure to provide redress. The family of Enazarov has been unable to obtain an effective remedy for his death, including compensation and adequate reparation, in further violation of Articles 6(1) and 7.
The UN Human Rights Committee concluded [pdf] that Kyrgyzstan is responsible for several violations of the ICCPR:
- Kyrgyz authorities failed to take adequate measures of protection of Enazarov’s life, in breach of Article 6, paragraph 1 of the Covenant.
- The state failed to secure Enazarov from torture and ill-treatment while he was in custody in violation of article 7 of the Covenant. The Committee referred to the official autopsy report and the independent evaluation of the report conducted by the Physicians for Human Rights.
- The State party had failed to conduct a prompt, impartial, thorough and effective investigation of the victim’s death and allegations of torture in violation of Art 2 (3) read in conjunction with Article 6 (1) and Article 7 of the Covenant. The investigation was not independent because both the internal investigation and the bulk of the criminal investigation were conducted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is the institution in the custody where Enazarov was tortured and killed, with the knowledge and acquiescence of police officers. The Committee also noted that the investigation had failed to seize important evidence and had failed to question key witnesses. No cutting instrument was recovered from the cell. The family was also not informed of the progress of the investigation.
The HRC obliged Kyrgyzstan to provide Enazarov’s brother with an effective remedy in accordance with article 2, paragraph 3 (a), of the Covenant. The remedy should include an impartial, effective and thorough investigation into the circumstances of Enazarov’s death, prosecution of those responsible, and full reparation including appropriate compensation. The State party is also under an obligation to prevent similar violations in the future.
The Justice Initiative files its final follow-up submission to the UN Human Rights Committee on the implementation of the Views and announces its withdrawal from the case as of April 5, 2023.
The family receives the court-ordered compensation.
The Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan upholds the lower courts’ orders and dismisses the appeal filed by the Ministry of Finance.
A Kyrgyz appeal court upholds the district court’s order.
The Pervomaisky District Court in Bishkek orders the Ministry of Finance to pay compensation of 300,000 Kyrgyzstani Soms (about 3,700 USD) based on the UN Human Rights Committee’s decision, which is significantly lower than what had been requested.
The Justice Initiative submits a reply to Kyrgyzstan’s observations.
Kyrgyzstan submits an additional short observation with a series of domestic court proceedings prior to the Communication being submitted to the Committee.
Kyrgyzstan submits its observations on the follow-up procedure to the UN Human Rights Committee’s Views.
The UN Human Rights Committee adopts its views in the case.
The Justice Initiative submits a reply to Kyrgyzstan’s further observations sent to the UN Human Rights Committee.
Kyrgyzstan submits further observations to the UN Human Rights Committee.
The Justice Initiative submits a reply to the State party’s observations sent to the UN Human Rights Committee.
Kyrgyzstan submits observations to the UN Human Rights Committee.
The Justice Committee, along with Kyrgyz lawyer Saidkamal Akhmedov, files a communication with the UN Human Rights Committee.
The Osh City Court dismisses the new investigation on the grounds that a document is missing. The applicants determine that further recourse to domestic courts is futile.
The Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan reverses the decision and orders a new investigation.
The Osh City Court dismisses the claim.
A complaint is filed with the Osh City Court claiming that prosecutors failed to investigate the case properly.
Enazarov dies in custody.
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