Tajik restrictions on opposition, civil society, media ‘eroding’ rights, says UN expert

Tajikistan’s Parliament in session. Photo: World Bank/Gennadiy Ratushenko

10 March 2016 – An independent United Nations human rights expert today voiced concern over the increasing Government restrictions on opposition parties, civil society and the media over the past year in Tajikistan.

“The people of Tajikistan enjoy fundamental protections under their Constitution and human rights law, but those protections are eroding as the Government punishes dissent, limits access to alternative voices in the media and online, and shrinks the space for civil society,” David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said at the end of a week-long official visit to the Central Asian country.

The expert voiced particular concern over the recent ban of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) and the prosecution of at least 13 of its leaders in secret trials.

“The Government accuses the IRPT and its members of serious crimes, but it has refused to give public access to the trial and evidence,” Mr. Kaye said, urging the Government to release all persons detained on political grounds and ensure due process and a fair trial.

He also drew attention to the attacks on members of Group 24 and other independent politicians. Criminal cases have also been brought against lawyers defending opposition leaders, and other critical voices also reported harassment.

During his visit, the expert received numerous reports from journalists of pressure to refrain from covering issues of public interest, especially those related to the political environment. The Government raised its national security concerns, which are grounds of concern for any government, he said.

“Yet banning peaceful political opposition forces and harassing lawyers, journalists and activists undermine security and generate tensions and long-term instability,” he pointed out.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also reported a deterioration of the space for their work. “New amendments to the Law on Public Association pertaining to foreign funds place a burden on many NGOs,” Mr. Kaye said.

On the blocking of websites and networks, including mobile services, the Special Rapporteur underscored that these measures are disproportionate and incompatible with international standards, urging Parliament to consider adopting legislation that would impose restrictions on the Government’s ability to block the Internet and mobile communications.

“Tajikistan maintains a very good and open dialogue with various human rights mechanisms,” he said, underlining his intention to work further with the Tajik Government to improve the legal and political environment for fundamental rights.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

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