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Tajikistan: On the road to total control?
Pamir Highway - Thomas Lipke/Unsplash
Tajikistan: On the road to total control?
Pamir Highway - Thomas Lipke/Unsplash

This report, which covers developments affecting the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly in Tajikistan for the period from October 2023 to March 2024, was prepared by International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) for the CIVICUS Monitor.

The reporting period has seen a significant deterioration in the environment for freedom of expression and freedom of association in Tajikistan as the authorities have intensified control over media and civil society, including non-governmental organisations and people who criticise – or who the state perceives as criticising – government policies.

The practice of imposing lengthy prison sentences on human rights defenders and those who criticise or who are perceived to criticise the authorities continues. Despite ongoing international calls for their immediate release, human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists who speak out against egregious human rights violations, including Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva, Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov, Daler Imomali, Abdullo Ghurbati, Zavkibek Saidamini and Abdusattor Pirmuhammadzoda, remain behind bars.

The authorities also attempt to tighten control over all book content. In October, the Deputy Minister of Culture, Davlat Safarzoda, allegedly announced at a workshop that the texts of books must be coordinated with the relevant bodies before publication.

There are serious concerns that transnational repression will further increase after Tajikistan ratified in February 2024 an “Agreement with the Russian Federation on co-operation in ensuring international information security.” The agreement is meant to facilitate cooperation between the two countries on combating threats to national security in the online space. However, there is concern that the parties intend to use it to detain and extradite persons expressing their opinions or exercising their rights to peaceful assembly on the Internet, as one area of activity considered as a particular threat is the “disseminat[ion of] information harmful to the socio-political and socio-economic systems, spiritual, moral and cultural environments” of the two states.

The authorities have tightened control over institutions related to the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO), and have launched a crackdown on exiled opposition figures and their family members. During the 14th round of the annual Human Rights Dialogue (HRD) held in Dushanbe in December 2023 between the European Union (EU) and Tajikistan, the EU reiterated its concerns about serious human rights violations, including the insufficient investigations into human rights violations by law enforcement agencies during the events in the GBAO in 2021-2022. Furthermore, the EU urged the government of Tajikistan to “immediately and unconditionally release human rights defenders, journalists and activists that remain imprisoned.“ (See also IPHR’s NGO briefings for the HRD)

The continuing climate of fear and repression in the country is reflected in Freedom House’s 2024 Freedom in the World report which ranks Tajikistan as among the 15 “worst of the worst” countries in relation to political rights and civil liberties, and among countries with the largest 10-year-decline of freedoms.

EXPRESSION

The situation regarding freedom of expression remains extremely worrying as the authorities continue to use prosecution as the main tool to suppress dissent, and use charges of “incitement to hatred”, “extremism” or “spreading false information” against journalists, bloggers and anyone who expresses the slightest sign of criticism against the authorities. At the same time, the authorities have stepped up action against critics outside Tajikistan (see section on transnational repression further below).

The state’s attitude towards independent media resembles a system of social relations in which a person is allowed to be owned by another person (lord, slave owner, master, master, lord). the independent media and journalists have long since ceased to be “watchdogs of democracy”, they are more like sick, helpless and frightened dogs chained to heavy chains, with a little bit of hope for freedom and defence left in their eyes. – (Human rights defender, anonymous)

In a worrying development, the authorities have tightened control over all book content (see also judgment in the cases of book author and businessman Abdukhalil Kholiqzoda, his editor Abduqodir Rustam and publisher Suhrob Rajabzoda below). In October 2023, the Deputy Minister of Culture, Davlat Safarzoda, allegedly announced at a workshop that the texts of books must be coordinated with the relevant bodies before publication. Although he initially emphasised that it was only “recommendations” and not an “obligation”, he reportedly made clear in a later letter to Asia Plus that publishing houses must print textbooks, scientific, political and religious literature “only after receiving recommendations from the relevant authorities”.

In a report published on 18th January 2024, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) criticised the Tajikistani authorities for imprisoning the highest number of journalists in 2023 compared with other countries in the region. At least seven journalists are currently serving prison sentences of between seven and twenty years – all of them convicted since late 2022 (Abdullo Ghurbati, Zavqibek Saidamini, Abdusattor Pirmuhammadzoda and Khurshed Fozilov received sentences of seven or seven-and-a-half years, Khushom Gulyam eight years, Daler Imomali 10 years, and Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva 20 years. (see also previous CIVICUS Monitor update). A CPJ visit to the country in late 2023 revealed that these penalties have intensified fear and self-censorship among journalists, aggravating the already restricted media landscape. In its analysis CPJ states that “more than a decade ago, Tajikistan’s media environment was relatively diverse and allowed for some criticism and debate, as long as local media avoided reporting on the President and his extensive family. Now, Tajikistan’s media are in their worst state since the violent years of the civil war”.

The recent convictions of an author, an editor and publisher show how rigorously the authorities crack down on the slightest hint of criticism of the government: according to media reports, on 23rd February 2024 Tajikistan’s Supreme Court sentenced author and businessman Abdukhalil Kholiqzoda to 6.5 years, his editor Abduqodir Rustam to 4.5 years and publisher Suhrob Rajabzoda to one year in prison after finding them guilty of inciting hatred. As reported in the previous CIVICUS Monitor update, Kholiqzoda was detained on charges of incitement of social, racial, national, regional, religious enmity or discord (under article 189, part 2 of the Criminal Code). The charges against the author are connected to his March 2023 memoir “Events of My Life” in which, the authorities allege, Kholiqzoda insulted state representatives instead of expressing gratitude for the President’s policies.

On 7th March 2024, independent newspaper Asia Plus found out from the Supreme Court press centre that Kholiqzoda’s prison term had been extended from 6.5 years to 9 years, with an additional sentence reportedly handed to him on 28th February 2024 for smuggling (Article 289 (2) of Tajikistan’s Criminal Code). The court reportedly also ordered Kholiqzoda to pay a fine of 76,800 Somonis (EUR 6,420).

The Tajikistani security services are increasingly also targeting “normal citizens” when they publish critical comments on social media channels, as illustrated by the recent cases of Shahboz Sharifbek and Mahmoudjon Bobomurodov:

  • According to media reports from March 2024, 23-year-old Shahboz Sharifbek was recently sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly making a “public call via social media for extremism activity.” The allegations are based on a video he recorded at his home in the village of Odili in the Vahdat district, where he accused local authorities of forcibly dragging his brother into a car to conscript him into the army and beating his grandmother and aunt. In the video, which was posted online in October, he reportedly also criticised President Emomali Rahmon.

Journalists and media outlets continue to engage in self-censorship, and the authorities responsible for regulating the media carry on controlling and interfering in media outlets’ editorial policies despite the fact that the Constitution and laws governing the media prohibit censorship and interference in professional activities.

For example, at the end of February, the director of the local TV station TRK Asia in Khujand was allegedly called by the Committee on Television and Radio and “invited to a conversation”. During the talk they made clear that they believed that some of the TV station’s programmes did not “comply with the law on culture” and “offended national values” and informed the director of the TV company that if he did not stop producing these programmes and remove them from Youtube, the Committee would have to revoke the licence of the private broadcaster.

LICENSING

On a positive note, last year’s merging of two laws “On Licensing of Certain Types of Activities” and “On the Permit System” (June 2023), provides for unlimited permits for media outlets (previously limited to 3-5 years). After their current permits expire, Tajikistani independent media outlets will be able to apply for new, open-ended licences and permits.

However, human rights defenders raise concerns as to the practical implementation of the law as well as the fact that the new law still requires licensing for audiovisual production, which – according to local and independent experts – should have been abolished in the new law.

Recently, the Committee on Television and Radio under the Government refused to issue broadcasting licences for audiovisual production to five out of the six companies who applied in 2023.

The Committee on Television and Radio has refused to answer journalists’ questions as to why the five media outlets were denied registration.

According to an independent media expert, the current laws require independent broadcasters to obtain several official authorisation documents:

  • A licence for radio and television activities from the Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting under the Tajik government;
  • A licence to produce and sell audiovisual products;
  • Permission to use radio frequencies from the Communications Service of Tajikistan;
  • A registration certificate from the Ministry of Culture for print media and news agencies. In order to obtain this certificate, a certificate from the State Committee on National Security of Tajikistan (SCNS) is reportedly required.

On the other hand, state-owned media outlets do not need to present these documents and also receive state subsidies.

ACCESS TO INFORMATION

Access to information about the ongoing border conflict between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan remains severely restricted.

As reported earlier in the CIVICUS Monitor, the border dispute between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan has escalated in recent years and during the past year government delegations from the two countries met to discuss the delimitation and demarcation of the border line. Tajikistani state media usually broadcast brief information about these meetings. Between January and the end of March 2024, the delimitation of the state border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan was discussed at three meetings with the participation of the heads of government delegations from both sides. Tajikistan’s state media reported “significant results” from these meetings, whereas the country’s independent media expressed concerns about denial of access to information on, inter alia, how the agreement was concluded and specifically which disputed territories were identified.

Access to information was also hampered in relation to the energy collapse that took place at the beginning of spring 2024 which paralysed Tajikistan’s infrastructure with massive disruptions to power and water supplies nationwide, particularly outside the capital, and telephone and mobile internet services were interrupted. The authorities refused to give journalists any information about the causes for the shutdown.

TRANSNATIONAL REPRESSION

Transnational repression continues against critical journalists, bloggers and members of the opposition who live outside Tajikistan as the Tajikistani authorities issue international arrest warrants through Interpol, put pressure on relatives who remain in the country and use targeted cyberattacks.

There are serious concerns that transnational repression will further increase after Tajikistan ratified an “Agreement with the Russian Federation on co-operation in ensuring international information security” in February 2024. The agreement is meant to facilitate cooperation between the two countries on combating threats to national security in the online space. One area of activity considered as a particular threat is the “disseminat[ion of] information harmful to the socio-political and socio-economic systems, spiritual, moral and cultural environments” of the two states. The document further commits to establishing and enhancing coordination through facilitating the exchange of information between Tajikistan and Russia’s law enforcement agencies, and their interaction to “identify, prevent, suppress and investigate offences and crimes” related to the use of information and communication technologies for criminal and extremist purposes. However, there is concern that the parties intend to use it to detain and extradite persons expressing their opinions or exercising their rights to peaceful assembly on the Internet.

On 16th February 2024, Freedom house released new data on transnational repression, putting Tajikistan in the top five of the most prolific perpetrators since 2014 (along with China, Turkey, Russia and Egypt).

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report from February 2024 also highlights repressive transnational actions by the Tajikistani government to target critics abroad, including killings, abductions and enforced disappearances, expulsions, extraditions and deportations, the misuse of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) arrests as well as the systematic targeting of relatives to exert pressure.

According to media reports, in February law enforcement authorities reportedly summoned the mother of exile-based journalist Anora Sarkorova to the Office for Combating Organised Crime where she was told that a criminal case has been opened against her daughter, but that she would be amnestied if “she returns and asks for forgiveness”.

(See more cases under Association, Political Opposition)

INTERNATIONAL REACTIONS

The international community has recently raised concerns about the encroachment on freedoms of expression in Tajikistan. For example, during the 19th EU-Central Asia Ministerial Meeting in Luxembourg on 23rd October 2023, the EU and the five Central Asian countries adopted a joint communiqué, highlighting the importance of safeguarding freedom of opinion and expression, including media freedom, and the need for protection from disinformation, fake news and hate speech.

On 18th January 2024, the EU Parliament issued a resolution on Tajikistan (State Repression against the Independent Media, P9_TA(2024)0039, emphasising its concern that “Tajikistan’s media are in their worst state since independence in 1991”, and condemning the “ongoing crackdown, including anti-extremism legislation, against independent media, government critics, human rights activists and independent lawyers (…) and the closure of independent media and websites”.

ASSOCIATION

The authorities continue to put pressure on civil society organisations, especially those based in GBAO.

On 12th March 2024, at the Human Rights Council’s 55th Session, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, presented the findings of her mission to Tajikistan which took place in November and December 2022, saying that “the dissolution of human rights NGOs signals a deteriorating environment for civil society and human rights defence in Tajikistan”, and that “human rights defenders working on so-called sensitive issues, including freedom from torture, the right to housing and compensation for requisitioned land, minority rights, freedom of belief and good governance, political rights, and particularly the right to free and fair elections, have been reportedly subjected to threats and intimidation.”

As reported in the previous CIVICUS Monitor update, in 2022 and 2023 the authorities closed more than 700 NGOs after summoning CSO representatives and threatening them with serious repercussions, such as the instigation of criminal cases against them or their relatives, unless they “voluntarily” closed their organisations.

Furthermore, Lawlor called on the Tajikistani authorities to release convicted journalists and civil society activists convicted on politically-motivated charges, including Daler Imomali, Abdullo Ghurbati, Zavkibek Saidamini, Abdusattor Pirmuhammadzoda, Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva, Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov, Faromuz Irgashev and Khushruz Jumayev.

Lawyers, journalists and others […] have been confronted with a range of difficulties ranging from onerous administrative burdens, to harassment, threats, criminalisation, closed unfair trials and imprisonment – Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, on her visit to Tajikistan.

From 9th to 20th October 2023, the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Dr. Fernand de Varennes, visited Tajikistan. In his conclusions he highlighted the prevalent lack of understanding among officials in relation to the implementation of the country’s international human rights commitments. He expressed particular concern towards the Jughi (Roma) community, users of sign languages, Uzbeks, religious minorities and the Pamiri community in GBAO, including their representation in the National Parliament, access to education in their mother tongue and freedom of religion. With reference to the violent events in November 2021 and May 2022 in GBAO, he called for an “impartial and transparent investigation according to international standards and measures to prevent tensions and escalation of violence in the region”, and stated that “responding to the grievances of the Pamiri minority is an important part of that de-escalation.”

On 11th December 2023, speaking at a civil society seminar on “Strengthening cooperation between civil society organisations and state institutions in Tajikistan” the head of the European Delegation to Tajikistan, Raimundas Karoblisexpressed his concerns regarding the closure of more than 700 NGOs in the country since 2022 and reiterated the European Union’s commitment to continue efforts aimed at enhancing cooperation between civil society and the government.

In relation to GBAO, IPHR’s research was able to confirm that several organisations in GBAO were first pressured to undergo a process of re-registration, only to subsequently be forcibly liquidated.

The authorities in GBAO have continued to tighten control over institutions related to the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a private international non-profit working to support poor communities in over 30 countries (see previous Monitor entry). In February 2024, Tajikistani authorities nationalised the land belonging to the AKDN on which the University of Central Asia in Khorog was built. The university was established in 2000 with a founding agreement signed by the presidents of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, and Prince Aga Khan IV, and was officially registered with the United Nations.

This is part of a broader trend where Tajikistani authorities have systematically expropriated assets belonging to the AKDN, including the Serena Hotel in Khorog, the Aga Khan Lyceum, early childhood development centres, a city park, the First Microfinance Bank office buildings, and the Aga Khan Medical Center, which once again raises concerns that the national government is trying to assert control over various sectors in GBAO.

POLITICAL OPPOSITION

During the reporting period there has been an intensification of the ongoing crackdown on opposition members in exile by the Tajikistani authorities. Specifically targeted are activists allegedly associated with banned organisations, those engaged in political activism abroad, or their family members. Over the reporting period, several opposition activists faced extradition to Tajikistan and subsequent conviction on charges of extremism or attempting to forcibly change the constitutional order.

The extradition of activists from the countries of the European Union such as Germany (see the case of Bilol Qurbonaliyev further below) are particularly concerning. In multiple cases, EU member states have complied with Tajikistan’s extradition requests for individuals critical of its authorities despite the risk of them being subjected to torture, ill-treatment, unfair trial and lengthy prison sentences upon their extradition, which is a violation of these states’ human rights obligations.

Recent developments have shown that the security situation in Turkey has continued to deteriorate for civil society activists and opposition members from Central Asia. Since February, two members of the opposition have gone missing, highlighting the increasing risks faced by activists in the country (see the cases of Suhrob Zafar and Nasimjon Sharifov below).

  • On 1st October 2023, Russian authorities extradited Asliddin Sharifov, brother of Shavkat Muhammadi, director of the exiled Tajik opposition media outlet Payom TV, to Tajikistan. Sharifov was detained in Russia’s Sverdlovsk Oblast in September 2022, and his trial lasted an entire year. According to his relatives, Sharifov is suspected of cooperating with banned organisations and promoting their activities through media channels and the Internet. He is reportedly accused of collaborating with the opposition movement Group 24 and IRPT, which carries a sentence of five to eight years’ imprisonment (under Article 307 (3), part 2 of the Criminal Code). Sharifov’s whereabouts remained unknown for over a month. According to media reports, Sharifov is being held in a detention centre in Khujand, but his relatives have not been able to visit him and the authorities have not provided any updates on his situation.
  • On 5th October 2023, the Ismoili Somoni district court in Dushanbe sentenced Nizomiddin Nasriddinov, a former activist of the opposition movement Group 24, to 8.5 years in prison for allegedly publicly calling to forcibly change the constitutional order. Nasriddinov was detained by Belarusian authorities in January 2023 while entering Belarus from Lithuania, and was extradited to Tajikistan in July of that year. The activist maintains his innocence.
  • The leader of the opposition movement Group 24, Suhrob Zafar, has been missing in Istanbul since 10th March 2024, raising concerns that he has been forcibly returned to Tajikistan. Having resided in Turkey since 2014, the activist recently received multiple threats. In 2014, Zafar, and the former leader of the movement Umarali Kuvvatov, deputy head Hussein Ashurov and movement member Abdurashid Khamidov were arrested and imprisoned at the request of Tajikistani authorities. However, they were later acquitted and released by the Istanbul court. Subsequently, Zafar was arrested and released multiple times by Istanbul police. There are fears that Zafar is at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment in Tajikistan. According to recent media reports, another Group 24 activist Nasimjon Sharifov, went missing in Istanbul in February 2024 and his current whereabouts remain unknown.
  • Another exiled member of Group 24, Bilol Qurbonaliyev, was deported from Germany in November 2023 for allegedly violating immigration rules and was subsequently detained in Dushanbe by the security services in December. Tajikistani authorities confirmed his arrest on 16th February 2024. The activist was among protesters against the visit of the president Emommali Rahmon in Berlin in September 2023. The opposition movement has repeatedly expressed concerns about the risk to Qurbonaliyev of torture and ill-treatment.
  • At the request of Polish border authorities, Asliddin Sherzamonov, son of Alim Sherzamonov, a Tajikistani opposition activist residing in Poland, was detained on 10th January 2024 in the city of Terespol on charges of violating the law. According to an interview with his father on Radio Ozodi he was released after the family intervened with the Polish Ombudsman, and warned “to voluntarily leave the territory of the European Union” where he had been living on a humanitarian visa. Further details of the case are unknown, as Polish authorities have not commented on the case. Sherzamonov had previously participated in international conferences to advocate for the rights of the Pamiri minority and on 1st December 2023 he condemned the actions of Tajikistan’s security services in GBAO (see previous CIVICUS Monitor update).
  • Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Germany to pressure Tajikistani authorities to release the son of an opposition activist associated with IRPT, Abdullo Shamsiddin, and allow him to leave Tajikistan. This call comes after the deportation of Shamsiddin from Germany in January 2023, and his sentencing in Tajikistan to seven years behind bars. HRW criticises Germany for deporting Shamsiddin, citing concerns about potential detention and torture due to his activist background. While the Tajikistani authorities have not officially commented, HRW reports that Shamsiddin was convicted in March 2023 for allegedly advocating violent overthrow of the government, however supporters claim that his supposed offence was simply ‘liking’ a post on social media. The content of the post remains unclear.
  • According to Radio Ozodi, opposition activist Ilhomjon Yakubov and his family members, including his 75-year-old mother, 80-year-old father and 52-year-old sister, were sentenced in absentia by a court in Khujand in December 2023. However this information only came to light in January 2024. Yakubov previously led the IRPT office in Sughd Oblast and currently leads the Central Asian Migrants Association and is a member of the EU-based National Alliance of Tajikistan (comprised of four exile-based opposition organisations).
  • The family of Rajabali Komilov, the head of the IRPT office in the southern Danghara district, confirmed his death in prison on 4th January 2024. Komilov was serving a 10-year sentence for involvement in a banned organisation. The exact cause of his death remains unknown, however, according to medical sources, he was in poor health and partially paralyzed. Human rights lawyers expressed their concern that the paralyses were a result of mistreatment and torture in prison.

The authorities also employ strong measures against those who allegedly view opposition materials, such as 60-year old Mahmoudjon Bobomurodov, head of a farm in Dousti district (Khatlon province). He was sentenced to five years in prison on 19th December 2023 for allegedly watching and promoting content from Isloh TV, a website associated with the political opposition. According to media reports, he was convicted under Article 307 (2) of Tajikistan’s Criminal Code, “advocating for changes to the country’s constitutional order through media platforms and the Internet.”

Reportedly, Bobomurodov had also written a letter to the TV station expressing concerns about the inadequate water supplies in the Dousti district.

TARGETING RELATIVES AS MEANS OF SUPPRESSION

Amidst the continuously deteriorating situation in the country, a new wave of targeted repression against the relatives of opposition members in exile started after President Rahmon’s official visit to Germany on 29th September 2023. The visit was met with anti-government slogans against the regime, while protesters at the rally threw eggs at the President’s car.

According to Radio Ozodi, more than 50 relatives of the exile-based protestors faced detentions and interrogation by Tajikistani security forces. While the authorities remain silent about the detentions, it is clear that the actions of security forces were aimed at exacting punishment on those who raised their voices in dissent.

A German-based Tajikistani activist, Farhod Odinaev, told Radio Ozodi that security forces asked his mother why protestors had thrown eggs at the President’s car, and detained his nephew for further interrogation. The mother of Sharoffidin Gadoev, another exiled Tajikistani activist, was also detained. A similar narrative can be seen in the Facebook post of another activist, Ubaidullo Saidi, where he mentions being summoned by security forces. Reportedly, security forces demanded that Ubaidullo Saidi return to Tajikistan in exchange for his father’s release, threatening to initiate a criminal case against his father if he did not. While dozens of protesters’ relatives were swiftly released, media reports indicate that at least seven male activists’ relatives were held for further questioning.

The protesters appealed for an international investigation into the extrajudicial arrests and large-scale human rights violations in Tajikistan.

The crackdown following the Berlin protest extended beyond detentions and interrogations, as authorities reportedly resorted to cutting electricity to at least three family homes of exiled opposition activists, seen by many civil society activists as an attempt at collective punishment.

On 12th October 2023, the stepmother of Suhrob Zafar (who went missing in March 2024 in Istanbul – see more information above) alleged that officials cut the electricity wires “upon a request from above”. Similarly, on 11th October 2023, the mother of Sharofiddin Gadoev reported that employees from the Farkhor district electricity department disconnected the power to her house. She was reportedly then detained and questioned for eight hours. On 18th October, Farhod Odinaev also voiced concerns over electricity cut-offs and pressure being exerted on their relatives following the protest.

ASSEMBLY

There has been no progress in relation to ensuring accountability for human rights violations perpetrated in connection with the authorities’ response to mass protests that took place in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) in November 2021 and May 2022 (see previous CIVICUS Monitor update.

During the 10th annual Cooperation Committee meeting between the EU and Tajikistan on 27th November 2023, the EU expressed concerns about the detention of human rights defenders, independent journalists and bloggers in Tajikistan, and called on the Tajikistani authorities to ensure accountability and prosecute those responsible for human rights violations in GBAO.

Despite numerous appeals by foreign diplomatic missions and international bodies such as the EP, and UN treaty bodies and special procedures, those human rights activists, defenders and journalists who were handed long prison sentences after unfair trials remain behind bars.

Human Rights Defenders behind bars in connection with the GBAO events

  • Journalist and activist Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva was charged with publicly calling for violent change of the constitutional order (Article 307, part 2 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced to 21 years of imprisonment in December 2022 together with dozens of other GBAO citizens.

During the meeting in Geneva of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women on 31st January 2024, the UN Rapporteur, Rangita de Silva de Alwis, raised concerns about imprisoned civil society activists, including Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva, questioning the extent to which her right to a fair trial is ensured.

In response, Abdurahmon Alamshozoda, Tajikistan’s First Deputy Interior Minister, defended the government’s position, alleging that Mamadshoeva has violated multiple laws by inciting riots through social media and collaborating with foreign intelligence services. The Minister also accused her of involvement in organised criminal activities against law enforcement and strategic facilities.

Sixty-six year old Mamadshoeva reportedly suffers from high blood pressure and requires urgent medical attention in prison.

  • According to press reports, imprisoned journalist Zavkibek Saidamini was transported from prison to Istikol hospital in Dushanbe for a medical examination in January 2024 in relation to back pain – he also requires urgent and specialised medical treatment.
  • Zavkibek Saidamini was accused of allegedly collaborating with banned opposition movements and imprisoned in November 2022 for seven years on charges which are widely believed to be politically-motivated (see previous CIVICUS Monitor report).

On 6th November 2023, human rights organisations, including International Partnership for Human Rights, Helsińska Fundacja Praw Człowieka, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Front Line Defenders, Amnesty International, Freedom Now and the Observatory for Protection of Human Rights Defenders, in light of the anniversary of Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov’s imprisonment, called on the Tajikistani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the human rights lawyer.

Kholiqnazarov is serving a 16-year sentence on trumped-up charges brought in retaliation for his human rights work during mass protests in Tajikistan in November 2021. He was sentenced to prison in December 2022 following his conviction on charges of participation in a criminal and banned organisation, which he denies. He now serves his sentence in inhumane conditions in prison, suffering from severe back pain.

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