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Torture victim’s family awarded damages for moral suffering

On 16 October 2018, the Pervomaysky District Court in Bishkek has ruled that the Kyrgyz Republic must pay 200,000 soms (approximately $3,000) in damages for moral suffering to the family of a man who died as a result of torture.

This is a true landmark decision as it was the first time in the history of Kyrgyz judicial system when a court awarded non-pecuniary damages in a case of a pending criminal inquiry into torture in which no suspects have yet been named.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights filed an amicus curiae brief in this case.

Torture at police station

In May 2005, T.A. was arrested on suspicion of theft and tortured by officers. The man died of injuries in the evening of the same day. His death led to the launch of a criminal inquiry, which lasted for several years, was repeatedly suspended and resumed, and failed to identify those responsible for the use of torture and the fatal outcome of police detention.

On 7 April 2011, the victim’s father submitted a communication to the UN Human Rights Committee, alleging that his son was tortured in a place of detention. In its views adopted on 29 October 2015, the Committee concluded that Kyrgyzstan was responsible for a violation of the right to life and freedom from torture and ordered this country to conduct a fair, prompt and impartial investigation into the victim’s death in order to bring the perpetrators to justice and to grant adequate compensation and appropriate measures of satisfaction to the family.

Idle state and fight for justice

Three years after the Committee’s ruling, the case of torture is still being investigated and those responsible are yet to be identified. After T.A.’s brother stepped in to fight for justice following the father’s death in 2016, he filed a lawsuit against the state, seeking moral damages for his brother’s death. In its statement of defence to the claim, the state pointed to the non-mandatory nature of the Committee’s views. However, the court took the side of the victim’s family and ordered the payment of damages.

In the amicus curiae brief, the HFHR emphasised that ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which gives the Human Rights Committee a mandate to hear individual communications, obliges States Parties to cooperate with the Committee at the stage of examination of the case, implementation of the Committee’s recommendations in a given case and notification what action has been taken to ensure implementation. “The purpose of ensuring that individual communications can be referred to the Committee is to ensure the effective implementation of the rights enshrined in the ICCPR. Without the cooperation and involvement of the state, such implementation would be illusory and limited to a purely verbal recognition of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Pact”, HFHR lawyer Dr Aleksandra Iwanowska points out.

The family’s attorney stated he would appeal against the ruling and seek just and fair damages.

The amicus curiae brief in Russian can be read here.

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