Posts Tagged ‘Tajikistan’

In Tajikistan lawyers have to be human rights defenders

September 29, 2019

In June, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared the detention of Buzurgmehr Yorov a violation of international law.
In June, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared the detention of Buzurgmehr Yorov a violation of international law.

For more than five years now, lawyers’ ranks have been thinned as the Tajik authorities imposed new rules to disbar lawyers and, in some cases, brought criminal cases against lawyers who defended political opponents. According to RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, known locally as Ozodi, there are only around 850 lawyers in Tajikistan, a country of more than 9 million people. Yorov’s situation is one of the best-known. He had taken on clients who were almost surely targeted by the government. In 2015, Tajik authorities withdrew the registration of and then banned the country’s leading opposition party, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), then later declared it an extremist group and claimed it was behind what the government said was a coup attempt. There is scant evidence to support the claim of an attempted coup and even less evidence connecting the IRPT to the purported coup’s alleged mastermind, who was killed by Tajik security forces. More than a dozen senior IRPT leaders were detained at the end of September 2015. Yorov said he would defend them in court, meeting with one of them on September 26. Two days later, he said publicly that his client was being tortured; shortly after that, Yorov was himself taken into custody.

In October 2016, Yorov and fellow rights lawyer Nuriddin Makhamov were found guilty of fraud and inciting national, racial, local, or religious hatred. Yorov was sentenced to 23 years in prison, but additional time was added to his sentence in two successive trials. At one of those trials, Yorov was given two extra years for contempt of court for quoting 11th-century poet Ibn Avicenna.*

On September 18, the Association of Central Asian Migrants announced Yorov was being given the first Fayziniso Vohidova award. The prize is named after a rights lawyer who died earlier this year. Yorov’s brother, Jamshed, accepted the award on his behalf. Buzurgmehr Yorov has since been shortlisted for the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, whose winner should be announced on September 30. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/29/ilham-tohti-one-of-the-finalists-for-the-vaclav-havel-human-rights-prize/]

A September 10 statement by the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists expressed concern about the Tajik Anti-Corruption Agency’s “acts of intimidation” against a group of lawyers. The statement mentions Abdulaziz Abdurahmonzoda, a member of the independent Lawyers Union of Tajikistan.

Abdurahmonzoda is being charged with fraud. Prosecutors allege that he demanded a $500 bribe from a man named Saidmurod Saidov, who came seeking Abdurahmonzoda’s legal services.

Abdulaziz Abdurahmonzoda
Abdulaziz Abdurahmonzoda

According to the International Commission of Jurists, “Following the initiation of the inquiry of the allegations of ill-treatment, the head of the Anti-Corruption Agency of Dushanbe allegedly sent requests to a number of district courts of Dushanbe to obtain information about civil and criminal cases in which Saidbek Nuriddinov had participated as a lawyer.” Saidbek Nuriddinov is the chairman of the Lawyers Union of Tajikistan.

In 2013, Yorov, Fakhriddin Zokirov, Ishoq Tabarov, and Shukrat Kudratov were the defense attorneys for Zayd Saidov, a successful and former minister of industry who suddenly faced charges ranging from financial crimes to sexual relations with a minor and polygamy, after he declared earlier in the year that he planned to establish a new political party. In December 2013, Saidov was found guilty and sentenced to 26 years in prison (three more years were added in a later trial).

In June, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared the detention of Buzurgmehr Yorov a violation of international law. Rights groups including Human Rights Watch, Freedom Now, and Lawyers for Lawyers have repeatedly called for an end to the crackdown on lawyers in Tajikistan and the release of those who have been imprisoned.

https://www.rferl.org/a/finally-a-defense-of-tajikistan-s-lawyers/30185435.html

Ilham Tohti one of the finalists for the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize

August 29, 2019

Photo courtesy of Martin Ennals Award

Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur scholar who has been serving a life sentence in Chinese prison since 2014, has been chosen as a finalist for the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize.  [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/vaclav-havel-prize-for-human-rights-pace].  The Germany-based Ilham Tohti Initiative e.V. (ITI) had nominated Prof. Tohti to the Prize on April 29, with support of four other human rights activists and NGOs. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/15/today-ilham-tohti-completes-his-fourth-year-in-chinese-detention/].

The decision as to the Prize winner will be made by the Selection Panel on 29 September 2019, and its name will be announced in the Chamber of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, on 30 September 2019 at 12:30pm. The award ceremony for the Prize will subsequently take place in the presence of all three shortlisted candidates. Two other candidates, who have also been shortlisted are Mr Buzurgmehr Yorov (Tajikistan) and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights.

The UNPO is currently campaigning for Mr. Tohti to also be awarded the Sakharov Prize saying that such prizes are an excellent way in which the international community can continue to show support for the Uyghur people in the face of hostile oppression.

China’s predictable reaction came quickly: “Beijing slammed on Thursday the nomination of a jailed academic from China’s Uighur minority for one of Europe’s top human rights awards, saying it equated to “supporting terrorism”.

https://unpo.org/article/21639

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-says-uighur-award-nomination-is-supporting-terrorism

Leading Tajik human rights defender Faiziniso Vohidova died

January 7, 2019

Radio Free Europe (RFE) announced on 4 January 2019 that Faiziniso Vohidova, a Tajik lawyer who defended dissidents for decades, died at the age of 55.

Faiziniso Vohidova in 2016
Faiziniso Vohidova in 2016

Faiziniso Vohidova was a graduate of Moscow State University and started her career as a lawyer in 1995. She was one of the last lawyers in Tajikistan who provided legal assistance to opposition figures, journalists, and victims of torture. Steve Swerdlow, researcher with Human Rights Watch, called Vohidova’s death “a huge loss for Tajikistan” and described her as a brave “lawyers’ lawyer.

[Vohidova] was an amazing combination of fierce intellect, sharp wit [and] principle. [For] duration of Tajikistan’s independence she has been part of that small group of activists and lawyers who have sought to make it live up to the democratic pronouncements written in its Constitution,” Swerdlow wrote on Twitter, adding that she was “unafraid to take on the toughest battles, fight for justice till the end, no matter what the odds.”

Rajabi Mirz, an independent journalist and rights defender in Tajikistan, told RFE/RL that Vohidova was “the last pillar” of those challenging the authorities in Tajikistan. “She was one of the few who cared about Tajikistan’s future,” Mirzo said.

https://www.rferl.org/a/faiziniso-vohidova-tajik-lawyer-who-defended-dissidents-for-decades-dies-at-55/29691242.html

OSCE and Human Rights Defenders at the Warsaw meeting: no smooth sailing

September 28, 2016

The Diplomat wrote under the title “OSCE Manages to Irritate Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Human Rights Advocates, Too” a good piece summarizing the situation at the latest annual human rights conference (officially the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting), taking place from 19-30 September 2016, in Warsaw.

Most attention should go to the recurring reprisals against HRDs and in particular (when they are out of reach through exile) against their family: Read the rest of this entry »

European Parliament zooms in on human rights defenders in Cambodia, Tajikistan and Vietnam

June 9, 2016

A press release of 9 June 2016 reports that the European Parliament – in three resolutions voted on Thursday – focused on:

Opposition in Cambodia

MEPs deplore the worsening climate for opposition politicians and human rights activists in Cambodia and condemn all acts of violence, politically-motivated charges, arbitrary detention, questioning, sentences and convictions imposed on them. The Cambodian authorities should revoke the arrest warrant for, and drop all charges against, Sam Rainsy, President of the leading opposition party, the CNRP, and also immediately release the five human rights defenders still in preventive custody, namely Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, Lim Mony and Ny Chakra. All politicians, activists and human rights defenders should “be allowed to work freely without fear of arrest or persecution”.

Given that the EU is Cambodia’s largest development assistance partner, with a new allocation of €410 million for 2014-2020, Parliament calls on the European External Action Service (EEAS) to make the “amount of EU financial assistance dependent on improvements in the human rights situation in the country”. EU member states, foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, the EEAS and the EU Commission should also set out clear benchmarks for the forthcoming elections in Cambodia, consistent with international law on freedom of expression, association and assembly, it adds.

Prisoners of conscience in Tajikistan

Parliament is deeply concerned about increases in the detention and arrest of human rights lawyers, political opposition members and their relatives in Tajikistan. Restrictions on media freedom and internet and mobile communications, and restrictions on religious expression are also worrying in this country, it adds. MEPs call for the release of all those imprisoned on politically-motived charges, including, well-known businessman and government critic Abubakr Azizkhodzhaev, opposition figure Zaid Saidov, activist Maksud Ibragimov, opposition deputy leaders Mahmadali Hayit and Saidumar Hussaini, and 11 other members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT).

The EU has a “vital interest in stepping up political, economic and security cooperation with the Central Asian region via a strong and open EU-Tajikistan relationship”, says the resolution. But “political and economic relations with the EU are deeply linked to the sharing of values relating to respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”, adds the text.

Protesters in Vietnam

MEPs deplore continuing human rights violations in Vietnam, including “political intimidation, harassment, assaults, arbitrary arrests, heavy prison sentences and unfair trials, perpetrated against political activists, journalists, bloggers, dissidents and human rights defenders”, and call on the government of Vietnam to put an “immediate stop to all harassment, intimidation, and persecution” of these individuals. “The increasing levels of violence perpetrated against Vietnamese protesters” demonstrating throughout the country in May 2016 to express their anger over “an ecological catastrophe that decimated the nation’s fish stocks” are worrying, note MEPs. The Vietnam government should respect the right to freedom of assembly in line with its international human rights obligations, the findings of the investigations into the environmental disaster should be published and those responsible should be held accountable, they add.

The resolution also calls on the Vietnam government to put an end to religious persecution in the country, to amend legislation on the status of religious minorities and to withdraw the fifth draft of the law on belief and religion, currently being debated in the National Assembly, as it is “incompatible with international norms of freedom religion or belief”.

Source: Human rights: opposition in Cambodia, prisoners of conscience in Tajikistan, continuing violations of human rights in Vietnam

Nigina Bakhrieva works to end torture in Tajikistan

December 27, 2015

OMCT in its series “10 December, 10 Defenders” focused on Nigina Bakhrieva in Tajikistan. Nigina Bakhrieva’s visceral sense of justice was passed on to by her parents, as she quickly demonstrated by following in the footsteps of her father – a prosecutor – in standing firmly for the rule of law. “It’s what I learned as I child, “ she says. “When I witness human rights abuses, I cannot be indifferent; I take action.OMCT-LOGO

And her career could not have been more ominous. Nigina started law school in Tajikistan, at the doorstep of Taliban-led Afghanistan, at the very outbreak of the bloody civil war that followed the country’s independence, graduating five years later, in 1997, as the war ended, leaving behind a devastated country with some 100,000 people killed and 1.2 million displaced. After teaching law at the Tajik state university, Nigina became a consultant providing capacity-building expertise for various organizations. Moving quickly into human rights, she went to work for the United Nations Tajikistan Office for Peace Building where she reviewed national legislation to make sure it conformed to international human rights standards.

Thus, while still as a budding lawyer and founder of the Bureau on Human Rights and Rule of Law of Tajikistan, Nigina helped to litigate with success Tajikistan’s first-ever human rights case before the United Nations Human Rights Committee – something unheard of in Tajikistan until then. Her work for the abolition of the death penalty in her country led to a moratorium being adopted in 2004.

In 2009, she created Nota Bene, which leads the Anti-Torture Coalition of 17 leading human rights organizations and activists in Tajikistan. The work initially seemed to pay off handsomely: at the beginning of 2014, Tajikistan had pledged to implement international human rights standards both in law and practice. The Government, however, has recently been limiting the scope of action in the country of human rights lawyers and organizations. It has indeed been made mandatory for non-governmental organizations to declare all foreign funding. What is more, limiting access to the legal profession and placing it under the Ministry of Justice has compromised its independence.

It is worrying that it has become nearly impossible to find lawyers in Tajikistan willing to accept to defend torture cases for fear of criminal prosecution,” reported the OMCT in the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders on 30 November. http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/tajikistan/2015/11/d23494/

As one of the few lawyers who have not given up on combatting the widespread use of torture and other forms of abuse, especially in the armed forces, Nigina is among the key players pushing for full transition of Tajikistan to the rule of law. “The work is hard”, she says. “Each time we re-live with the victims what they went through, and it is horrifying,”

For change to occur, though, the system must work and all actors must do their bit, she explains, detailing every step of the process: individuals must lodge complaints when they are subjected to torture or ill-treatment; the Government must follow a zero-tolerance-for-torture policy; the Prosecutor must respond to every complaint by thorough and effective investigation; courts must punish all those found guilty – not only the direct perpetrators, but also their superiors, who failed to prevent the crime; jail terms should be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime; finally, the Government should compensate all victims of torture.

— by Lori Brumat in Geneva

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/human-rights-lawyer-kudratov-in-tajikistan-sent-9-years-to-penal-colony/

Source: Tajikistan: Meet Nigina: Towards a functioning system that leaves no room for torture / December 3, 2015 / Links / Human rights defenders / OMCT

Reprisals against Human Rights Defenders continue says UN report

September 17, 2015

Reprisals against human rights defenders continue and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (fortunately) continues to give it prominence. A newly released United Nations report names 20 nations that have taken action against rights defenders and activists over the past year. Here the version of the New York Times (Nick Cumming) of 15 September 2015:

Those who give evidence to United Nations human rights investigators are facing increasingly severe reprisals, the United Nations Human Rights Council said Tuesday in a report naming 20 countries that took action against rights defenders and activists in the past year. The instances included intimidation and reprisals against the council’s commissions of inquiry on Eritrea and the 2014 war in Gaza, as well as people cooperating with United Nations investigators and staff monitoring human rights developments, the council’s president, Joachim Rücker, reported. “The types of acts reported seem to have become more varied and severe over time, targeting not only the individuals or groups concerned, but also their families, legal representatives, nongovernmental organizations and anyone linked to them,” he said in the report, which covers events in the year up to the end of May. The penalties it cited ranged from threats and travel bans to imprisonment, torture, sexual violence and disappearance. The list was not exhaustive, leaving out cases where naming individuals might endanger them.

In a statement to the council, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for human rights, expressed concern on Monday about China’s detention of more than 100 lawyers and Russia’s stigmatization of nongovernment organizations getting overseas funding, but the report includes only one example of intimidation in each country.

It describes the torture of Sadriddin Toshev, a prisoner in Tajikistan, beaten in front of other inmates by prison officials who cited his interaction with a United Nations investigator on torture. Mr. Toshev was later charged with fraud, accused of deliberately wounding himself to discredit prison officials and of distributing false information, the report said.

Among other cases, the report cites a five-year prison sentence which it says was imposed in Iran on Mohammad Ali Taheri for cooperating with the United Nations expert monitoring human rights there. It also describes the violent arrest of a human rights defender in Myanmar by 10 plainclothes security men as he was on his way to provide evidence to the council-appointed expert assessing developments there.

“Such acts not only show a complete disregard for the functioning of the United Nations as a whole but also highlight the fact that, despite repeated calls for action by states to end all such violations, impunity continues to surround them,” the report said.

Having written so often about this topic, a link to previous posts is all this is needed: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/ 

Source: Retribution Increases Against Those Aiding Human Rights Inquiries – The New York Times

Human rights lawyer Kudratov in Tajikistan sent 9 years to penal colony

January 13, 2015

On 13 January Asia-plus reported that a court in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, sentenced Sukhrat Kudratov to nine years in a penal colony for bribery and fraud. Kudratov’s real crime, it appears, was defending opposition activist Zaid Saidov in 2013.  Last year, another one of Saidov’s lawyers, Fakhriddin Zokirov, was arrested on forgery charges. He was released after eight months on the promise he would no longer defend Saidov. Steve Swerdlow of Human Rights Watch called Kudratov’s jailing “a serious setback for the freedom of expression and the independent legal profession in Tajikistan.”

At the time of the arrest, Frontline Defenders called him “one of few lawyers in Tajikistan who defends opposition activists, victims of police torture, and those accused of ‘religious extremism“. Dushanbe-based Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law named Kudratov their human rights defender of the year in 2011.

Tajikistan Jails Prominent Human Rights Lawyer | EurasiaNet.org.

JOINT NGO RECOMMENDATIONS ON ENSURING PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN CENTRAL ASIA

May 21, 2014


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From 20-21 May 2014 there was in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, a Regional Workshop on Implementing the Human Dimension Commitments and Enhancing the role of Civil Society. An important contribution was the joint statement by six NGOs containing recommendations to protect human rights defenders in Central Asia.  The text in its totality follows below:  Read the rest of this entry »