1 March 2007
Asma Jahangir, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, issued the statement that follows. Ms. Jahangir is an independent expert appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Asma Jahangir, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, has carried out her mission to assess the situation relating to her mandate in Dushanbe. Owing to an unfortunate emergency, she had to cut her visit short and return home to attend to a personal matter. As such, she was unable to travel to Khujand and Isfara but her team will be wrapping up the visit and receive submissions from private individuals as well as organizations in the field.
The Special Rapporteur was deeply impressed by the cooperation extended to her by the Government of Tajikistan. She met the Minister of Education, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the State Counsellor of the President of the Tajik Republic on Social Development and Public Relations, the Deputy Interior Minister, the Prosecutor General, the Minister of Culture as well as the Deputy Minister of Culture.
In addition, she has been able to collect first hand information and materials on the state of freedom of religion or belief in the country, inter alia, by meeting members of various religious associations, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) and non-governmental organizations as well as lawyers. Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur sincerely appreciated the outstanding support of the United Nations Tajikistan Office of Peace-building (UNTOP) in facilitating the mission.
On her departure, the Special Rapporteur noted that the Government of Tajikistan by and large respects the freedoms of all religious communities and individuals. However, there are challenges they face and some contentious issues are in the process of being resolved. It is therefore most appropriate that the Government is encouraged by the international community during this transitional period to adopt a balanced approach, particularly when adopting specific legislation and policies. All actions in this sphere should respect the right to freedom of religion or belief. The Special Rapporteur further noted that the population should be protected, especially vulnerable individuals, from harassment by non-State actors in the name of religion.
The Special Rapporteur trusts that the Government of Tajikistan is engaged in seeking the most appropriate approach in dealing with these complex issues. She hopes that the Government will adopt creative and delicate means to address these pressing matters. The Special Rapporteur will deal with these points and further issues relating to her mandate in detail in her mission report to be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
For use of the information media; not an official record.