DUSHANBE/GENEVA (9 December 2022) The authorities in Tajikistan must radically improve the situation of its human rights defenders, and dispel an intensifying climate of fear, a UN independent expert said today after a two-week official visit to the country.
“Some officials in the Tajik government are trying to engage positively with human rights defenders, and there has been some legislative progress. However, many of those who peacefully defend the rights of others are under increasing pressure,” the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor said in a statement.
“The situation of human rights defenders is deteriorating. Lawyers, journalists and others are being targeted for their human rights work. They have been confronted with a range of difficulties ranging from onerous administrative burdens, to harassment, threats, criminalisation, closed unfair trials and imprisonment,” Lawlor said. “A climate of corruption, the fear of persecution and a stranglehold on human rights defenders working on difficult issues have forced some to leave the country.”
The Tajik government should live up to its international obligations and commitments, and work with human rights defenders to build peaceful, fair and just societies.
During her visit, the Special Rapporteur held meetings with government authorities in Dushanbe, and also travelled to Khujand. She held discussions with the Ombudsman, members of Parliament, prosecutors, the Supreme Court and representatives of the international community. She also visited a pre-trial detention centre and met human rights defenders there. Her request to visit the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (province) was denied.
“The Tajik Government must realise that it is in its self-interest to promote and protect human rights defenders working to build just and fair societies,” Lawlor said. “I urge the Government to treat human rights defenders as allies, not adversaries.”
The Special Rapporteur will present a full report on her visit to the Human Rights Council in March 2024.