Theo van Boven discusses the possibility of Karimov facing trial for torture

Former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Theo van Boven, says that Islam Karimov should be brought to justice for the ‘widespread and systematic’ torture in his country.

There must be no thought of revenge, van Boven says, referring to the fate of Nikolai Ceausescu, the former leader of Romania who was executed in 1989, or the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, shot without trial in 2011.

“Even the worst criminal deserves a fair trial,” van Boven said in an interview with during the High-level Hearings on Uzbekistan, which took place in Berlin on 1st March.

Van Boven believes that the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov will face a situation similar to that of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who was put on trial after being deposed as president in February 2011.

The case against Karimov has already been prepared, says van Boven, who published a report on torture in Uzbekistan in 2003. In the report van Boven wrote that the use of torture was widespread and systematic in Uzbekistan and that his findings were sufficient to bring Karimov to justice.

The Uzbek authorities did not recognise the significance of the report at the time, van Boven continued. Its implications were realised fully only after the Andijan massacre in 2005, when the Karimov regime added to its crimes the mass shooting of demonstrators in this town.

Uzbekistan has ratified several international treaties on human rights, including the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

This Convention, van Boven says, meant that torture is subject to so-called international jurisdiction, that is, if a state cannot bring to trial a person accused of torture, then the authorities in another country can launch criminal proceedings against that person regardless of their nationality or the location of their crimes.

According to the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court, torture is a crime against humanity if it is carried out as part of any widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population (Part 2, Article 7).

The international community did have the opportunity to call Karimov to account during his visit to Brussels in January 2011 when he was received in the European Commission and NATO headquarters, the former UN Special Rapporteur says.

“Karimov visited Brussels last year without any implications of that, and for that he gained more respectability, although he should be brought to trial as a criminal,” van Boven said.

“We have not reached that stage,” van Boven said, explaining that certain political requirements must be fulfilled before Karimov could be tried.

“But, in judicial terms, there are tools, means and provisions for him to be prosecuted and convicted,” he added.

‘Torture’ means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession…

UN Convention against Torture

The Dutch former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Theo van Boven, has gained legendary status in Uzbekistan in recent years. His report on torture in Uzbekistan, published in March 2003, ranked torture as a problem of the highest order in Uzbekistan, and made recommendations as to how the country might rectify this situation.

The Uzbek government, according to van Boven, did react to the report and attempted to make some cosmetic changes to try and improve the situation. In fact, he says, nine years have gone by since the report was published and the situation with regard to torture in Uzbekistan has only worsened.


Taken from Theo van Boven’s interview with Galima Bukharbaeva, editor in chief of