UN Special Rapporteur condemns arrest of journalists and bloggers in Tajikistan
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03:01 / 2024-04-13

UN Special Rapporteur condemns arrest of journalists and bloggers in Tajikistan

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UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Mary Lawlor in May published the findings of her visit to Tajikistan in December last year and condemned the arrest of journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders.

In an appeal to the Government of Tajikistan, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; the Special Rapporteur on minority issues; the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment bring to its attention “information, and follow up on a country visit by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and previous communications sent to your Excellency’s Government, on the alleged arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and criminalization of human rights defenders Mr. Daler Bobiev (Daler Imomali), Mr. Avazmad Ghurbatov (Abdullo Ghurbati), Mr. Zavqibek Sohibov (Zavqibek Saidamini), Mr. Abdusattor Kotibov (Abdusattor Pirmuhmmadzoda), Mr. Abdulmajid Rizoyev, Ms. Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoyeva, Mr. Manouchehr Kholiqnazarov, Mr. Faromouz Irgashov, and Mr. Khoushrouz Jumayev (Khushom Guliam).”

The appeal notes that they are concerned about these human rights defenders’ alleged arbitrary arrests and detentions and, in several cases, alleged home searches and seizure of electronic devices.

“We are also gravely concerned about the alleged instances of torture and ill-treatment, including in order to extract false confessions, as well as the allegations that, in the cases of Mr. Sohibov, Mr. Kotibov, and Mr. Jumayev, they were subjected to enforced disappearance in the initial stages of their deprivation of liberty,” the appeal says.

They reportedly also express serious concerns about the apparent pattern of using extremism- and terrorism-related charges against human rights defenders and minority activists, particularly those defending the rights of the Pamiri minority, allegedly to discredit them and justify further secrecy around their cases.

Referring to article 10 of the UDHR and article 14 of the ICCPR, which guarantees everyone the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of their rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against them, they reiterate that the decision to hold closed judicial hearings does not alleviate the Government’s obligation to inform families of the individuals concerned of their exact whereabouts.

They also expressed concern about the allegedly restricted access to lawyers and the reported pressure due to which some lawyers do not take up human rights defenders’ cases.

“All this, together with the use of heavy sentences, sends a clear and chilling message to human rights defenders in Tajikistan to cease work or face heavy penalties, and results in a serious shrinking of civic space in the country,” the appeal says.

They note that they issued this appeal in order to safeguard the rights of the abovementioned individuals from irreparable harm and without prejudicing any eventual legal determination.

It is to be noted that all of them were sentenced to prison terms of between seven and thirty years in December last year.

They were charged with spreading false information, participation in extremism community and collaboration with banned organization. The journalists themselves and their relatives reject these charges as absolutely unfounded.

International groups, including Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), have called on the Tajik government to release the reporters and end its campaign against the free press.

A report released by the CPJ on December 14 last year says arrest and conviction of independent journalists and bloggers makes Tajikistan the leading jailer in Central Asia. The report, in particular, notes that the prisoners were tried secretly behind closed doors in detention centers, not courts, and sentenced to lengthy prison terms amid allegations of torture.

Tajikistan was ranked 152nd out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders' 2022 World Press Freedom Index, and Not Free in Freedom House's 2022 Global Freedom Status, with a score of 8/100.

The appeal notes that they are concerned about these human rights defenders’ alleged arbitrary arrests and detentions; combo photo / Asia-Plus.

https://www.asiaplustj.info/en/news/tajikistan/society/20230801/un-special-rapporteur-condemns-arrest-of-journalists-and-bloggers-in-tajikistan

 


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