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February 01, 2012

Conference Addresses Illegal Use of Torture by Investigators

February 2012

 In December 2011, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) hosted a conference for 32 Central Asian criminal defense lawyers. The Almaty, Kazakhstan, conference builds on previous efforts to gather defense lawyers to discuss the implementation of recent legislative reforms to the criminal justice systems throughout the region. The three-day conference included two days of substantive training on forensic psychology, which focused mainly on the illegal use of torture by criminal investigators. Additionally, participants presented on their experiences and accomplishments.

During the training, Dr. Thomas Streed, a San Diego County homicide detective with 20 years of experience, discussed the unreliability of evidence obtained through the use of torture, common claims made by governments to justify the use of torture and case studies involving torture. He further detailed common signs of torture that defense lawyers should watch for in their defendants’ and other witnesses’ testimonies. The training also covered international laws prohibiting torture as well as international mechanisms designed to provide legal redress to victims.

Dr. Aida Tolstikova, a local expert, led a session focusing on the physical and psychological effects of torture, techniques for preparing witnesses who have been subjected to torture and the use of forensics experts. Later, a panel of experts discussed ways to challenge the use of torture in court. Participants said that the training provided them with a better understanding of the role of defense lawyers in protecting clients and other witnesses from torture. They also said that the training has prepared them to employ available tools both to prevent and redress incidents of torture.

On the final day of the conference, participants described their efforts and achievements in 2010 and 2011. Supported by ABA ROLI’s criminal law program in the region, the Central Asian lawyers have made significant strides, including forming the first transnational lawyers association, the Central Asian League of Lawyers; convening a groundbreaking human rights conference in Geneva, Switzerland; establishing a law school-based legal aid clinic in Uzbekistan; launching a prisoner’s rights program in Uzbekistan and a children’s rights program in Tajikistan; and implementing court monitoring projects in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The conference is part of ABA ROLI’s criminal law program in the region, which—supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs—provides Central Asian lawyers with substantive and skills-based trainings, exchange opportunities and technical assistance on monitoring criminal law reforms.

To learn more about our work in Central Asia, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].