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Tajikistan: Two-year anniversary of the arrest of human rights defender Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov – he should be released immediately 

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Tajikistan: Two-year anniversary of the arrest of human rights defender Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov – he should be released immediately 
Tajikistan: Two-year anniversary of the arrest of human rights defender Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov – he should be released immediately 

Today marks the sad anniversary of the arrest of lawyer and human rights defender Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov in Tajikistan. First arrested on 28 May 2022, he has now spent two years behind bars, serving a 16-year-long prison sentence in retaliation for his human rights work. The organisations issuing this statement – International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), the Tajikistan Civil Society Coalition against Torture and Impunity, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR, Poland), Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), as well as International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders – are increasingly worried about Manuchehr’s state of health and call again on the Tajikistani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him.

“Manuchehr was arrested and imprisoned for no other reason than his tireless work to help the most vulnerable victims of human rights violations. We will not give up fighting against his unjust sentence until he is released and allowed to return home to his family” – Brigitte Dufour, Director of IPHR

On 9 December 2022 Tajikistan’s Supreme Court found Manuchehr guilty under articles 187, part 2 (participation in a criminal organisation) and 307 (3), part 2 (participating in the activities of a banned organisation due to its extremist activities) of the Criminal Code, sentencing him to 16 years’ imprisonment in a strict regime penal colony. 

Manuchehr is the Director of the Lawyers Association of Pamir (LAP), one of the few civil society organisations in Tajikistan’s Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) that works to promote and protect human rights.

On 25-28 November 2021, mass protests erupted in Khorog, GBAO, over the extrajudicial killing of a young man, Gulbiddin Ziyobekov. After the protests settled, Manuchehr joined the “Commission 44”, consisting of representatives of local civil society and law enforcement agencies, to investigate the events. Given his professional experience, Manuchehr was included in the Joint Investigation Team headed by the Prosecutor General’s Office and helped secure lawyers for victims of indiscriminate violence during the November 2021 protests.

However, May 2022 saw a renewed crackdown on protests in Khorog and Rushan District of GBAO.  On 28 May 2022, Manuchehr was arrested along with a dozen members of Commission 44 for alleged “participation in a criminal association” and “publicly calling for violent change of the constitutional order”. Their trial began on 20 September 2022, and was held behind closed doors at a detention facility of the State Committee for National Security (SCNS) in Dushanbe. Following his conviction, Manuchehr was transferred to a prison facility in the capital.

Manuchehr’s health has deteriorated significantly in detention. In particular, he suffers from back problems. The authorities should ensure that he has access to adequate medical assistance for these health problems and that his treatment complies fully with international standards as long as he remains behind bars.

In addition to human rights NGOs, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other international human rights experts have repeatedly raised concerns about Manuchehr’s imprisonment and called for his release. The Tajikistani authorities should heed to these calls, promptly release him and allow him to reunite with his family.

** For more information on how to take action in support of Manuchehr, as well as for Russian and Tajik versions of the video above, go here **

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