MRG condemns sentencing of Pamiri civil society leaders in Tajikistan
Today, a number of prominent Pamiri civil society leaders were sentenced to prison terms up to 21 years in the Gorno-Badakson Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) of Tajikistan. Among them is journalist Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva, who received the longest sentence.
This news comes just two days after the conclusion of a Human Rights Dialogue between the Tajikistani government and the European Union. Pamiri civil society leaders, journalists, activists and human rights defenders have been subjected to ongoing persecution as part of a broader attack on human rights in the region. Today’s sentencings demonstrate the government’s paltry regard for the EU-Tajikistan dialogue.
Minority Rights Group International (MRG) reiterates its deep concern at the charges and subsequent sentencing brought against these activists and journalists. There was no evidence of credible charges or due process and it is likely that any ‘confessions’ were obtained through torture and other forms of coercion.
MRG believes the charges and sentencing form part of a wider attempt by the Tajikistan authorities to dismantle any collective leadership amongst communities in Pamir. The moves are also an attempt to silence voices that might succeed in bringing international attention to the ongoing and widespread human rights violations in the region.
A statement released by the EU on Wednesday echoed the urgent call for an independent investigation into human rights violations in the GBAO region. It reiterated the need for the Tajikistani government to recognize and uphold international standards of human rights. Though the EU did recognize the damage to fair trials and freedom of expression, it failed to recognize the systematic nature of the rights violations targeting not only activists and journalists but the region’s entire population.
In light of today’s events, we call on the EU to note the increasing importance that the state’s full cessation of, and cooperation with an investigation into, the human rights violations in the region are made prerequisites for any further progress towards GSP+ status. Tajikistan is currently seeking the status on an EU scheme that cuts duties on imports from a country that agrees to implement international conventions on human rights, labour rights, the environment and good governance.
The GBAO region has been subjected to widespread militarization and securitization since November 2021. The region has been held in a de facto state of siege until this summer, with the one road into the region blocked. The use of both online and offline surveillance on the general population has been widespread. An eight-month internet shutdown severely limited the population’s ability to share evidence of their repression with the international community.
Pamiris have had their livelihoods, right to work, education, access to healthcare and ability to freely practice their culture and religion severely impacted. This clampdown on daily life is leading to emigration and a de-population of this indigenous region.
MRG urges the international community, civil society and the media to follow what is happening in the GBAO region and call for the protection of Pamiris’ rights.
Photo: A photo of Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva.
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