Annual Report 2022
In recent years there has been a steady, broad-based increase in disproportionate use of force by police around the world.
Police forces have never been more heavily armed and technologically equipped, and this in a time of increasing mobilisation of social movements and non-violent demonstrations – a dangerous mix for the anti-torture movement. In 2022, the OMCT reacted jointly with partners to numerous situations of police violence, e.g., in Tunisia, Chad, Turkey, Kazakhstan,Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
In Tunisia, the OMCT documented dozens of cases of excessive use of force by police officers, often for punitive purposes. This violence frequently follows disputes between civilians and officers on duty or in a private context. Over recent years, this violence has become regular against LGBTIQ+ activists, human rights defenders, and activists suspected of opposing the constitutional coup by President Kais Said on 25 July 2021. While the vast majority of complaints remain unanswered, the OMCT has obtained several convictions of police officers this year, but none for torture even though numerous cases have met the threshold. And with judges under enormous pressure and threats, this low rate of minor convictions may even decrease.
In 2021, a brutal and unconstitutional military regime took power in Chad after the death of President Idriss Deby. His son, General Mahamat Deby Itno who replaced him for an initial transition period of two years, installed a climate of terror on civil society organisations and opposition leaders using torture, extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detention. The human rights crisis intensified in 2022, on the so called "Black Thursday" when popular peaceful protests across the country on 20 October were violently repressed.
Investigations by the OMCT and its network member the Ligue tchadienne des droits de l’homme (LTDH) indicate that around 218 people have been killed, dozens tortured and more than 1,300 detained.
The OMCT closely supported its Chadian network members – LTDH and the Association tchadienne pour la promotion des droits humains (ATPDH) – and stepped up its international advocacy on accountability for the crimes of torture, and on the protection of human rights defenders under attack. The OMCT and LTDH submitted an urgent appeal to four UN Special rapporteurs on the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association; on human rights defenders; on summary executions; and on torture and other forms of ill-treatment. We also submited an Alternative Report to the UN Committee against Torture in November 2022 and invited five civil society organisations to attend the session and advocate for more protective measures.
In Turkey, we have observed an increase in the excessive use of force by the police during peaceful demonstrations in recent years. This violence is clearly aimed at preventing or reducing participation in social protest. Police repeatedly target groups such as protestors against the Emergency Decrees, Kurdish activists, workers, women, LGBTIQ+’s, journalists, lawyers, politicians, students, and environmentalists. Victims of this violence are not only prevented from seeking justice but also face counter-charges which further criminalise their non-violent social protest (see the OMCT’s recent report on the subject).
In Tajikistan, protests that in November 2021 in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) resumed in May 2022. Military and special forces violently dispersed the protests in an announced "anti-terror operation" which reportedly resulted in the deaths of at least 40 people. Hundreds have been arrested, including civil society activists, lawyers and journalists covering the events or speaking out about allegations of torture and unfair trials. There have been no independent investigations into these events.
Protests broke out in early 2022 in western Kazakhstan, spreading rapidly across the country. The police used excessive force and violence to put down the protests, even when they were non-violent. According to official sources, this resulted in at least 238 deaths , which must be redressed through accountability. Despite some efforts by the government, a year later, the investigations are ineffective and impunity is rampant.
In July, mass protests broke out in the Karakalpakstan Region of Uzbekistan in response to proposed constitutional amendments to reduce the region’s autonomy. Authorities reportedly used water cannons, rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas to disperse non-violent protesters. According to official figures, there were 18 people killed, 243 injured, and 500+ detained (including human rights defenders), but civil society activists claim the real numbers were higher and that torture was used systematically.