Geneva-Paris,July 1, 2019. As the UN Human RightsCommittee prepares to scrutinize the human rights situation in Tajikistan, anew report by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (anOMCT-FIDH partnership) highlights how the regime of President Rahmon graduallyeroded the freedom of association and expression of its critics, includinghuman rights defenders and lawyers.
The report titled Their last stand? How human rights defenders are beingsqueezed out in Tajikistan, published today by the World Organisation AgainstTorture (OMCT) and FIDH, within theframework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders,outlines how the authorities have increasingly restricted the legal space forhuman rights organisations and independent lawyers to provide assistance tovictims of human rights violations, including torture.
“Wefear that human rights defenders in Tajikistan are in the middle of the worstoppression yet. So it beggarsbelief when the international community fails to stand up for those brave womenand men. On a recent visit to Tajikistan EU Council President Donald Tuskpoured lavish praise on Rahmon but failed to speak out publicly on his humanrights record. This is unacceptable”, said Gerald Staberock, OMCTSecretary General.
Thereport finds that amendments to, among others, the Law on Public Associations -allegedly introduced to combat money laundering, terrorism and financing ofterrorism - severely restricted the ability of human rights defenders andothers to set up and run civil society organisations without undueinterference. At the same time various official bodies were handed tremendouspowers to conduct frequent and intrusive inspections of NGOs.
Furthermore,the authorities bear responsibility for causing an acute shortage of lawyers inthe country, with grave implications for the right of access to a lawyer ofone’s choice and other fundamental human rights. New legislation setsunreasonably high admission criteria for the bar and mandates a body presidedby a Deputy Minister of Justice with testing and periodically re-testing alllawyers, giving the executive authority additional grounds for exclusion oflawyers from the bar on an arbitrary basis.
Finally,journalists and lawyers have been criminally prosecuted for defending victims,including the 28 years jail sentence for prominent human rights lawyer BuzurgmehrYorov.
“Thesedevelopments pose a fundamental threat to the existence of a free andindependent civil society and legal profession in Tajikistan”, concluded DimitrisChristopoulos, FIDH President.
The report is released aheadof Tajikistan’sreview by the UN Human Rights Committee from July 1 to 3, 2019. TheCommittee oversees State parties’ compliance withtheir legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil andPolitical Rights (ICCPR).
The Observatory for the Protection of Human RightsDefenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by OMCT and FIDH. The objectiveof this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repressionagainst human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanismimplemented by international civil society.
Formore information, please contact:
· OMCT: Iolanda Jaquemet / Roemer Lemaitre: + 4179 539 41 06 / + 41 22 809 49 39
· FIDH:Eva Canan: + 33 6 48 05 91 57