London (28/11 – 58)
Tajikistan’s human rights record continues to deteriorate amid an increased crackdown on freedom of expression and the political opposition, as well as the targeting of independent lawyers, journalists, and family members of opposition activists abroad. Freedom of assembly is severely curtailed with any local protests, such as a series of protests in the Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region (GBAO), violently quashed.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Programme Office in Dushanbe, the OSCE Transnational Threats Department, and the Permanent Representation of France to the OSCE organized a study visit to Paris for government officials from Tajikistan, familiarizing them with France’s approach to the protection of soft targets from terrorist attacks.
The study visit serves as a basis for further OSCE capacity-building and technical support to Tajikistan on soft targets protection, with a focus on preventing terrorist threats while upholding respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The study visit takes place alongside recent OSCE and partner activities in the field of soft targets protection, including the 2023 Workshop to Raise Awareness and Launch the Republic of Tajikistan’s Roadmap on Countering Terrorist Threats against Vulnerable Targets and a 2022 Central Asia-focused regional workshop on vulnerable targets protection from terrorist attacks. The study is within the framework of the OSCE Dushanbe’s office unified budget project “Supporting Tajikistan’s National Strategy and Action Plan on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism for 2021-2025”, which seeks to assist in implementing its counter-terrorism commitments in line with pertinent OSCE standards and principles.
During the study visit, held from 20 to 22 November 2023, officials from Tajikistan met with representatives of the city of Paris and the national Government. They discussed the design of emergency plans in public spaces, including schools, hospitals, religious sites and shopping centres. They also discussed threat analysis procedures, the evolution of legislative frameworks on terrorism prevention, human rights-compliant approaches to the protection of public spaces and public engagement.
“France’s experience in the fight against terrorism in general, and in particular on protecting vulnerable targets in a terrorism context can be very beneficial for further enhancing our national efforts in this area. It was a fruitful and informative study visit,” said Zafar Safaralizoda, Deputy Head of the Directorate on Human Rights Guarantees under the Presidential Office and Head of the delegation of Tajikistan on this study visit.
“One of the OSCE’s greatest strengths is the expertise and experience of its participating States and their willingness to share with one another. We thank the Government of France for welcoming the delegation of Tajikistan in their country and making available the expertise necessary to truly grasp how schools, public spaces, houses of worship and other soft targets are protected from terrorist attacks,” said Jukka Tuononen, Head of the Politico-Military Department and Officer-in-Charge of the OSCE Programme in Dushanbe.
Tajikistan government continue to repress and violate human rights within in the country, especially in the GBAO. Authorities’ use of prison and torture to obtain confessions remains a serious concern. The government blocks access to various websites that post information critical of the government and harasses human rights groups.
Freedom of religion and belief is severely limited. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people are subjected to wide-ranging discrimination and homophobia. Domestic violence against women is a serious problem, despite the adoption of a law in 2013 that provided some human rights protections in this area. Border conflicts with Kyrgyzstan have resulted in many deaths and serious human rights violations.
The confrontation between the residents of GBAO, who are Pamiris, and the official authorities of Tajikistan has been ongoing since 2012. In 2018, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon authorized the use of the regular army to suppress protests in the autonomy. Since then, acts of civil disobedience have periodically occurred in Gorno-Badakhshan, which the security forces have harshly suppressed.
The latest clash between GBAO residents and security forces occurred after rallies in Khorog on May 14 and 16, 2022. On May 18, in the Rushan district of the region, where, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, about 200 people blocked the Dushanbe-Khorog highway to prevent the arrival of a large convoy of security forces to the administrative center of Gorno-Badakhshan. After this, the anti-terrorist operation began. As a result, more than 40 local residents died. Dozens of people were detained, many of them were convicted.
Eight United Nations experts are awaiting a response from Tajik authorities to a letter expressing concern about the fate of convicted journalists and civil activists. UN experts and special rapporteurs in their letter demanded an explanation from Dushanbe regarding reports of gross violations of the rights of nine convicted journalists and bloggers, as well as civil activists. The letter dated 12 May 2023, is published here. UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor has visited Tajikistan earlier to address the human rights violations in the country.
Tajikistan also announced the detention of five Pamiris in June of this year, presenting them as “leaders of an organized criminal group in the city of Khorog”. Among those convicted are Tolib Ayombekov, Nazhmiddin Sherchonov, Imumnazar Shoishirinov, Munavvar Shanbiev and Niyozsho Gulobov.