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Tajikistan: UN rights experts condemn conviction of journalist Khayrullo Mirsaidov

GENEVA (20 July 2018) – Two United Nations human rights experts* today called upon Tajikistan to reverse the conviction and sentencing of journalist Khayrullo Mirsaidov, calling it a clearly targeted measure against journalism and the public’s right to information.

“The conviction of Mirsaidov signals that the authorities are cracking down on reporting of corruption, rather than on corruption itself,” the experts said. “We strongly object to this kind of criminalization of one of the fundamental rights that people enjoy.”

Mr. Mirsaidov was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment on 11 July, after he was convicted of embezzling, misusing state funds and false reporting to police. The charges were brought after he had sent an open letter to the President and public officials, calling for them to address corruption by local authorities.

The case followed what has been reported as a deeply flawed investigation, during which Mr. Mirsaidov was forced to endure seven months of pre-trial detention.

“We are deeply concerned that this case did not even meet the basic requirements of due process,” the experts said.

In 2018, the authorities intensified a crackdown on journalists, human rights defenders, opposition members and lawyers. In his 2016 report to the UN Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression strongly criticized the attacks on the media and civil society organizations, including by pretextual charges such as embezzlement and tax evasion.

“We urge the authorities to ensure that existing legislation is not abused to prosecute individuals on unfounded grounds,” the experts stressed.

Mr. Mirsaidov’s lawyers have said that they will appeal against the conviction.

ENDS

* The experts: Mr. David Kaye, (USA) Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mr. Michel Forst (France) Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Proceduresof the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Tajikistan

For further information and media requests, please contact Ms Azin Tadjdini (+41 22 917 9400 / atadjdini@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 /  jlaurence@ohchr.org

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rightswww.standup4humanrights.org.