Tajikistan: Heavy prison sentences for rights defenders from Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous region

19/12/2022
Urgent Appeal
Mark de Jong via Unsplash

New information
TJK 002 / 0622 / OBS 046.1
Sentencing /
Violation to fair trial guarantees /
Arbitrary detention /
Torture and ill-treatment
Tajikistan
December 19, 2022

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Tajikistan.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the sentencing and ongoing arbitrary detention of Ms Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva, human rights defender, journalist and representative of the Pamiri minority; Mr Manuchehr Kholiknazarov, head of the Pamir Lawyers Association and member of "Commission 44”; and Messrs Faromuz Irgashov and Khursand Mamadshoev, both members of “Commission 44”. The “Commission 44” initiative was created by a group of lawyers, human rights defenders and activists in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous (GBAO) region to investigate police brutality that took place in the region in November 2021 and left several people dead and dozens injured.

On December 9, 2022, the Supreme Court of Tajikistan sentenced Ms Mamadshoeva to 21 years of imprisonment; Mr Kholiknazarov to 15 years; Mr Irgashov to 30 years; and Mr Mamadshoev to 18 years. These convictions can be appealed.

The trial was held behind closed doors, and all of them attended it from prison and without access to their lawyers or the evidence used against them. Their relatives were not allowed to attend the trial. The charges against them remained unknown at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal.

Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva, Manuchehr Kholiknazarov, Faromuz Irgashov and Khursand Mamadshoev remain detained in pre-trial detention No. 1 in the city of Dushanbe.

The Observatory recalls that Ms Mamadshoeva and Messrs Faromuz Irgashov and Khursand Mamadshoev were arbitrarily detained in May 2022 amid a crackdown on civil society, human rights defenders and independent journalists in GBAO region. Tensions in GBAO have run high since May 14, 2022, when protesters gathered in the region’s capital Khorog to call for an effective investigation into the police brutality in November 2021. The authorities responded to protests with an “anti-terrorist operation” in Badakhshan, which led to violent dispersion of the protests by the military and special forces by using tear gas grenades and live munition, regular Internet cut-offs, and arbitrary arrests of over 200 individuals. Independent journalists who covered the protests and the violence against the demonstrators were subjected to threats, attacks and confiscation of equipment, and human rights defenders were criminalised and arbitrarily detained on trumped-up charges.

After the May 2022 events, Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva was charged with “publicly calling for violent change of the constitutional order” (Article 307, part 2 of the Criminal Code of Tajikistan). Her case was classified, and her lawyer was placed under a non-disclosure obligation. On May 24, 2022, the Tajik state TV broadcasted a video of Ms Mamadshoeva in which she confessed to be amongst the organisers of the protests. The circumstances of production of this video are unknown, but there are grounds to believe that the confession was coerced or given under torture.

Manuchehr Kholiknazarov, Faromuz Irgashov and Khursand Mamadshoev were charged with “participation in a criminal association” (Article 187, part 2 of the Criminal Code of Tajikistan).

On December 9, 2022, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, following an official country visit to Tajikistan, reported that human rights defenders working on the above-mentioned repression in GBAO are being pressured by countless visits, questions and inspection from the Tajik authorities. Civil society organisations working on the freedom of expression and fight against torture in the region have faced increasing targeting, which has negatively affected civil society actors’ ability to operate across the country. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders’ request to visit the GBAO region was declined by the authorities.

On May, 22, 2022, the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues expressed concern over the impact the use of counter-terrorism operations to quell protests could have in creating more violence in GBAO region, and called on the authorities of Tajikistan to immediately implement prevention measures that meet international human rights standards. These calls have been disregarded by the authorities.

The Observatory strongly condemns the sentencing and ongoing arbitrary detention of Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva, Faromuz Irgashov, Khursand Mamadshoev and Manuchehr Kholiknazaro, and urges the authorities in Tajikistan to immediately quash their convictions, release them and to put an end to the judicial harassment against them. The Observatory calls on the authorities to put an immediate end to the targeting of peaceful protesters, human rights defenders and journalists reporting on human rights issues in Tajikistan.

Actions requested:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva, Faromuz Irgashov, Khursand Mamadshoev and Manuchehr Kholiknazarov, as well as of all human rights defenders in Tajikistan;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva, Faromuz Irgashov, Khursand Mamadshoev and Manuchehr Kholiknazarov;

iii. Quash the convictions of Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva, Faromuz Irgashov, Khursand Mamadshoev and Manuchehr Kholiknazarov, and guarantee their right to due process and a fair trial;

iv. Conduct an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment against Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva in order to hold those responsible accountable;

v. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva, Faromuz Irgashov, Khursand Mamadshoev, Manuchehr Kholiknazarov and all human rights defenders in Tajikistan so they can carry out their work without any hindrance or fear of reprisals;

vi. Guarantee in all circumstances the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association in Tajikistan, as enshrined in international human rights law and particularly in Article 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Addresses:

· Mr. Enomali Rahmmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, H.E. Mr. Enomali Rahmmon. Email: mail@president.tj
· Mr. Muzaffar Ashurion, Minister of Justice of Tajikistan. E-mail: ijozattj@mail.ru
· Mr. Sirojiddin Muhriddin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan. Email: info@mfa.tj
· Mr. Umed Bobozoda, Ombudsperson of Tajikistan. Email: info@ombudsman.tj
· Mr. Yusuf Rahmon, General Prosecutor of Tajikistan. Email: info@mfa.tj
· Permanent Mission of the Republic of Tajikistan to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: tajikistanmission@bluewin.ch
· Embassy of the Republic of Tajikistan in Brussels, Belgium. Email: taj-emb@edpnet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Tajikistan in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, December 19, 2022

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
• Tel OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39

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