Item 6: Adoption of UPR Outcome for Tajikistan
22 September 2016
Delivered by Lucy Bye, ARTICLE 19
Mr. Vice President,
Tajikistan’s engagement with the UPR process has taken place at a time when there is an ongoing assault on the right to freedom of expression and democratic freedoms in the country.
We therefore regret that recommendations most relevant to these rights have either been rejected or accepted, with the heavy qualifier that that they are already implemented.
This could not be further from the truth: the crackdown on peaceful government opposition and critics of the government in Tajikstan has accelerated.
In June 2016, the deputy heads of the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party were sentenced to life imprisonment, with 12 more members receiving prison sentences ranging from 5 – 28 years on charges of “terrorism”, incitement to hatred, attempts to overthrow constitutional order and armed rebellion.
The trials took place behind closed doors, with no evidence provided publicly.
In August, two of these political prisoners, Kurbon Mannonov and Nozimdzhon Tashripov, died in prison. Tashripov’s family reported signs of torture on his body, including that his neck had been broken.
Freedom of expression is not protected online in Tajikistan, nor in the print and broadcast media.
Tajikistan continues to regularly block access to independent news websites and social media sites. This is particularly evident around major events, including the Constitutional referendum in May 2016.
Though defamation has been decriminalized, “insult” of the president and of state officials remains a criminal offence (Articles 137 and 330 Criminal Code), while civil defamation lawsuits are persistently used to stifle independent media reporting. New legislation enables a court to suspend media publications indefinitely.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression, in his preliminary observations on his visit to Tajikistan in March 2016, found that “a climate of fear has descended upon key sectors of civil society, stifling free expression in ways that will only lead to resentment and insecurity”, warning that “stability and economic growth cannot be achieved through the repression of dissenting views”.
We call upon Tajikistan to implement the Special Rapporteur’s preliminary recommendations. All individuals imprisoned on politically motivated charges must be unconditionally and immediately released, alleged torture or mistreatment investigated and accountability ensured, and the intimidation of civil society and the media must end.
The government must repeal all laws restricting freedom of expression, including online and for the media, and ensure a safe and enabling environment for civil society.