The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined twelfth and thirteenth periodic report of Tajikistan, with Committee Experts commending the State on its improved treatment of migrants and asylum seekers, and asking questions on discrimination against the Pamiri minority and human rights defenders.
Yanduan Li, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Tajikistan, commended Tajikistan for the adoption of the amnesty law on 18 December 2019 and the introduction of amendments to article 249-3 of the Code of Administrative Offences, offering congratulations on the improvement of the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers.
However, Ms. Li noted that in October 2022, Special Procedure mandate holders expressed grave concerns regarding the deportation of 30 Afghan nationals, including refugees, asylum seekers and Afghans with expired visas, which put them at risk of suffering serious human rights abuses. What measures were being taken or envisaged to ensure the full respect of the principle of non-refoulement of Afghan nationals and to guarantee their right to access justice?
Sheikha Abdullah Ali Al-Misnad, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Tajikistan, asked about measures being taken to combat discrimination and negative stereotypes against the Pamiri minority. Were there any conflict-prevention measures, and measures being taken and envisaged to ease the tension in the region and to promote a constructive and open dialogue between the Pamiri minority and the authorities from the State party?
A Committee Expert asked about human rights defenders, many of whom had been imprisoned and assassinated - could the State party implement specific legislation to protect human rights defenders. Violence was alleged to have been committed by the security forces - had the State party investigated the perpetrators and passed any sentences?
Introducing the report, Muzaffar Ashuriyon, Minister of Justice of Tajikistan and head of the delegation, said Tajikistan had a legal framework which prohibited any form of discrimination and ensured the equal rights of citizens, irrespective of their ethnic origin, sex, attitude to beliefs, and membership of voluntary organizations or any other social group.
The delegation said in recent years, significant crimes had been committed in the autonomous regions where the Pamiri lived, including murders, rapes, drug trafficking, and possession of illegal and unregistered weapons, which crimes were encouraged by the leaders of criminal groups. Military operations aimed to apprehend only the leaders of these groups. Guns and tons of illegal drugs had been taken by the Government forces. These terrorist groups aimed to change the Constitutional order and publicly uphold extremism that sought to overthrow the State. The region was now calm and economic development was proceeding better, with business and Government structures working normally and attracting investment.
Mr. Ashuriyon said the Pamiri, and people living in other remote areas, were Tajiks and not ethnic minorities.
The delegation also said that Tajikistan complied with its obligations regarding the granting of refugee status to foreigners seeking asylum. The law on refugees had been brought in line with international standards and guidelines on working with refugees had been introduced. Refugees were deported when they committed violations of the law that put the safety of citizens at risk. It was possible to appeal deportation decisions.
A plan had been developed, the delegation announced, to draft a law on the protection of human rights defenders, taking into account international experience.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Ali Al-Misnad thanked the delegation for their participation in the dialogue. The Committee expressed hope that the concerns raised, including regarding the situation of the Pamiri, would be addressed by the State party through new measures that respected human rights.
Mr. Ashuriyon, in his concluding remarks, said Tajikistan had made many achievements in the field of human rights, and the dialogue would contribute to the implementation of the State's obligations. The Government had already established a mechanism for the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations. It would continue to make efforts to improve legislation and consistently implement the provisions of relevant international legal acts and recommendations of United Nations bodies.
The delegation of Tajikistan consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment; Executive Office of the President; Ministry of Interior; Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population; Ministry of Education and Science; Ombudsman in the Republic of Tajikistan; and the Permanent Mission of Tajikistan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of Tajikistan after the conclusion of its one hundred and ninth session on 28 April. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here. The programme of work of the Committee’s one hundred and ninth session and other documents related to the session can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 27 April at 3 p.m. for a meeting with Judge Patrick Robinson. It will close its one hundred and ninth session at 4 p.m. on Friday, 28 April.
Report of Tajikistan
The Committee has before it the combined twelfth and thirteenth periodic report of Tajikistan (CERD/C/TJK/12-13).
Presentation of the Report
MUZAFFAR ASHURIYON, Minister of Justice of Tajikistan and head of the delegation, said Tajikistan had a legal framework which prohibited any form of discrimination and ensured the equal rights of citizens, irrespective of their ethnic origin, sex, attitude to beliefs, and membership of voluntary organizations or any other social group. Tajikistan constantly worked to implement the norms and standards of international instruments, and it had included the definition of racial discrimination contained in the Convention in its Constitution. The provisions of the Convention were directly applicable. A law on equality had been adopted, rejecting all forms of racial discrimination, and ensuring all rights for all persons, providing effective safeguards against all forms of discrimination.
The law on the Ombudsman’s Office should be noted - this was the relevant body to ensure equality in the Republic. There was particular focus on establishing equality between men and women, and laws had been adopted ensuring this, along with equal opportunities, including in economic, social and cultural spheres and others. In 2014, Tajikistan had acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. A law had been passed in 2013 on the elimination of violence within the family, including measures to support victims and members of disadvantaged families. A whole range of mechanisms had been adopted to prevent domestic violence, stop crime, register warnings for immoral behaviour in the family, and provide protection.
A national strategy had been adopted up until 2030 with the purpose of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including the full elimination of poverty and a switch to sustainable means of consumption and energy use. These were main priorities for the sustainable development of mankind. Tajikistan was conducting a medium-term development programme for the country for the period 2020-2025, which included ensuring food security, fighting corruption, and social security, all of which and others were national priorities for which a wholesale strategy had been adopted.
Alongside the indigenous and ethnic group of the Tajiks, who made up the absolute majority of the population, there were some 100 other ethnic groups, including Russians, Uzbeks, Tatars, Kyrgyz, Turkmens and other nationalities, peoples and minorities. Education was provided in mother tongues, including the aforementioned groups, and including English. There were no restrictions on the basis of race and social position in society. National and ethnic minorities had all rights, including participation in elections, use of media, and choice of religion. The publication of documents calling for religious, national or ethnic enmity or calling for violent overthrow of the Government were banned. The country regulated religious institutions within international standards and laws. All persons had the right to receive the religious education of their choice, either singly or with others.
Everybody had the right to free healthcare in State facilities. Legislation provided for equal and free access to primary health care to refugees, victims of trafficking, and other minorities. Mandatory testing for HIV/AIDS was carried out under the law to prevent HIV/AIDS infection. An increasing number of tests made it possible to provide timely measures for treatment. Treatment was provided by the State and public institutions, including for drug addicts and workers in the sex industry. Healthcare reforms sought to improve the quality of healthcare to combat COVID-19 and other communicable diseases through the State network for healthcare for all in the country.
Tajikistan was unflaggingly working to build a social State that ensured a decent standard of living and happiness for all inhabitants, and the delegation looked forward to providing more information.
Questions by Experts
SHEIKHA ABDULLAH ALI AL-MISNAD, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Tajikistan, said the report did not provide disaggregated data on the ethnic composition of the population, on relevant social and economic indicators, and on the enjoyment of rights under the Convention by minorities and non-citizens. She asked for comprehensive data on the ethnic composition of the population, including asylum seekers, refugees, stateless persons, and migrant workers, and on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, disaggregated by ethnic and national origin. She also asked whether the State party intended to ratify the amendments to article 8 of the Convention and make the optional declaration under article 14 of the Convention.
The Committee commended the State party for its adoption of the law “On Equality and Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination,” which included race, skin, colour, origin, ethnic background, and nationality in the list of protected grounds against discrimination and covered direct and indirect discrimination. However, there was concern that this law did not include the ground of descent. Concerns also remained that the existing legislation was not in full compliance with article 4 of the Convention, and Ms. Ali Al-Misnad asked for information on measures taken or plans to condemn and criminalise all acts of racial discrimination.
Ms. Ali Al-Misnad also asked for disaggregated data by age, sex, and ethnic or national origin, on complaints of racial discrimination received by law enforcement and other investigative bodies, the Office of the Ombudsman, national courts, and other complaint mechanisms, and information on investigations, prosecutions, convictions, and sanctions imposed and the remedies provided to victims in these cases. Were the training and activities mentioned by the State party based on the analysis requested by the Committee and what had been their impact on facilitating the submission of racial discrimination complaints and in raising awareness of the rights under the Convention, particularly among vulnerable groups?
Were there any training programmes for law enforcement officials, prosecutors, judges, and other public officials on the identification and registration of incidents of racial discrimination? How was the Government working to ensure that victims of discrimination had access to effective remedies and redress, including legal remedies and support services? What measures had been taken to ensure that the Commissioner for Human Rights achieved full compliance with the Paris Principles, particularly with regards to guaranteeing its independence.
The Committee required information on measures taken to combat discrimination and stigmatisation against Roma/Jughi people, and if the State party had adopted an action plan for improving the situation of these people, addressing issues such as extreme poverty, unemployment, unregistered housing, ethnic profiling and police violence, obstacles in obtaining birth registrations and personal documents, and ensuring that they were protected from exploitation and harmful traditions, such as polygamy and early marriages.
What measures were being taken to combat discrimination and negative stereotypes against the Pamiri minority, including measures taken to protect the Pamiri, including any conflict-prevention measures, and measures taken and envisaged to ease the tension in the region and to promote a constructive and open dialogue between the Pamiri minority and the authorities from the State party?
Ms. Ali Al-Misnad also asked for disaggregated data regarding the representation of ethnic groups other than Tajik, including women, in all levels of public administration; what measures had been taken to ensure the political representation and effective participation of persons belonging to minority groups in political life and to ensure that ethnic groups other than Tajik had a voice in decision-making processes that affected their communities. Finally, she asked whether there were ongoing investigations surrounding the killing and wounding of activists in the 2022 anti-terrorist operation, and what measures were being taken to ensure that human rights defenders, journalists belonging to ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, as well as those advocating for their rights, could conduct their work and activities in a safe and enabling environment without the fear of restrictions or judicial prosecution, and of being designated as “terrorists.”
YANDUAN LI, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Tajikistan, commended Tajikistan for the adoption of the amnesty law on 18 December 2019 and the introduction of amendments to article 249-3 of the Code of Administrative Offences, offering congratulations on the improvement of treatment of migrants and asylum seekers. She asked for information on measures taken to repeal regulations that restricted the right of asylum seekers and refugees to enjoy freedom of movement and residence; and information on the right to work, health, education, and other basic services that refugees and asylum seekers could access. How did the State party ensure that all asylum seekers had effective access to fair and efficient asylum procedures and were not penalised for irregular entry or stay? There were some reports that Afghan asylum seekers who had arrived in the State party since July 2021 were deprived of the issuance of residence permits, which was a pre-requisite for filing an asylum application, and Ms. Li asked for information on this matter and the situation of Afghan asylum seekers.
GUN KUT, Committee Expert and Follow-up Rapporteur, said the previous concluding observations were adopted in 2017. A follow-up report was received right on time, and the Committee appreciated this. The contents of the follow-up interim report were evaluated and a letter sent to the State party. Two issues were highlighted in previous concluding recommendations: one on participation in public and political life, and Mr. Kut pointed out that the Committee had urged the State party to ensure equitable participation of persons from all ethnic minorities in all State institutions through the adoption of special measures. The periodic report indicated that the Civil Service Act was amended in 2020, but the Committee required further information on the situation.
Another issue was the situation of the Roma/Jughi community, and the Committee had previously urged the State party to adopt a strategy and plan aimed at improving their situation. The interim report questioned the necessity of such a strategy, and the Committee had regretted this position, urging the State party at the time to ensure Roma/Jughi children had access to quality education and to higher education, adopt special measures to improve their rights to adequate healthcare and housing, and other points. The report addressed this in two short paragraphs and did not really address it as expected by the Committee, which wished to hear more about the issue.
A Committee Expert asked about human rights defenders, many of whom had been imprisoned and assassinated - could the State party implement specific legislation to protect human rights defenders. Violence was alleged to have been committed by the security forces - had the State party investigated the perpetrators and passed any sentences? How many civil society organizations had been involved in the presentation of the report? How many racial discrimination cases had been dealt with during legal consultations, and what was the result of these consultations held in legal clinics?
One Expert pointed out the unfairness of there being only one day for asylum seekers and refugees to appeal against decisions taken in their regard, asking whether there had been any such appeals, and had they succeeded? Did such appeals go to a court that was judicially constituted? To what extent was access to public health free? Was the health of women members of ethnic minorities, such as the Roma, monitored and was this included in the formulation of public health policies? Did Tajikistan consider the Pamiri to be a separate ethnic group? Did Tajikistan have any special measures as foreseen in the Convention to prohibit discrimination against any ethnic groups and also to facilitate their participation in public life and national institutions?
SHEIKHA ABDULLAH ALI AL-MISNAD, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Tajikistan, asked what was the definition of autonomous for the State? She also asked what was the definition of terrorism used, as it did not follow the definition used by the United Nations, putting it in danger of affecting the human rights of the indigenous population. There were reports that Tajikistan severely curtailed the freedom of religion and belief, in particular with regard to certain Muslim groups. There had been very little communication between civil society in Tajikistan and the Committee. Could the State party provide statistics on the self-liquidation of non-governmental organizations in 2022 and 2023?
Responses by the Delegation
MUZAFFAR ASHURIYON, Minister of Justice of Tajikistan and head of delegation, said the Pamiris were not considered to be a minority, as they were true Tajiks and had lived so for centuries. Historical studies showed that they had never considered themselves to be a minority. Independent experts, including from the United Kingdom, had also considered that they were not a minority. The term Pamiri was used for the Tajik inhabitants of a particular region. Under the 2020 census there was an Internet questionnaire on determination of ethnic identity and no person in the region identified as Pamiri, but as Tajik. In future the report would not refer to Pamiris.
The delegation said in 2020 the Population and Housing Census was held, as it was every 10 years, and was carried out on the basis of scientific principles, confidentiality, accessibility, and open source data. It was held both online and offline. To produce the tables, international and statistical classifications were used for administrative boundaries. For the first time, it included nationalities in the census, with new ethnic minorities included. Results would be published over two years, namely 2022-2024. On housing, there was no detailed information in the report as regarded national minorities. There was a 1.4 per cent increase of the Roma/Jughi population. All of the rights of the Jughi were protected in Tajikistan.
Under the Constitution, everybody was entitled to select a profession, health and safety at work, and social security. Social protection was guaranteed to the unemployed, with compensation provided. From 2018 to 2022, many thousands of unemployed were able to receive the benefit under the State Programme to support employment. It was paid out in full and of course covered all national minorities, the delegation said.
Each recommendation made by the United Nations was worked on in the context of the national report and would be examined and discussed carefully. On resources for the adoption of the law, the Ombudsman had a department for the elimination of all forms of discrimination and issued a report every year on these matters. On criminalisation of discrimination in the Criminal Code, currently there was mention of discrimination in 11 articles, including on racist grounds, which was an aggravating circumstance for sentencing. The Government was drafting a new Criminal Code, and this issue would be discussed, including the definition of discrimination. With regard to the term “autonomous”, this was established due to regions being very remote with very harsh conditions, and autonomy provided the regions with certain advantages including higher pay, representation of the region at the Parliament, guarantees that the borders could not be changed, and others.
On freedom of movement, in particular for asylum seekers and migrants, their rights were not restricted, but their place of residence ensured safety and security, and this was why they were registered at that place. Given the security situation in Afghanistan, people had been moved from the border regions due to security concerns.
Tajikistan was committed to all its obligations and commitments that it had subscribed to under international documents. All military operations carried out in the autonomous regions had been to re-establish peaceful conditions and stop organised criminal groups from perpetrating criminal acts and disturbing the peace in this region, aiming to stop their illegal meetings and acts. Participants in illegal meetings were informed that if they voluntarily ceased illegal meetings, they would not be subjected to legal and criminal proceedings. Some did so, but some incited youth to commit violent acts, and Governmental bodies had to use tear gas to end this unrest, in line with international practice. Nobody was harmed by these.
In recent years, significant crimes had been committed in these autonomous regions, including murders, rapes, drug trafficking, and possession of illegal and unregistered weapons, which crimes were encouraged by the leaders of criminal groups. The military operations aimed to apprehend only the leaders of these groups. Guns and tons of illegal drugs had been taken by the Government forces. Some terrorist groups from Afghanistan had provided a portion of these illegal weapons. These terrorist groups had organised massive unrest, aiming to change the Constitutional order and publicly uphold extremism that sought to overthrow the State. There was a need to further examine where these criminal gangs obtained their weapons; it was possible some of them were left over from the civil war of the 1990s and were used today to terrorise the population and threaten law and order in certain regions, impeding their right to carry out a normal life. The region was now calm and economic development was proceeding better, with business and Government structures working normally and attracting investment.
On minority access to health services, improving access was part of the national strategy 2020-2030. Equal access by all was being improved by modernising human rights, and introducing contemporary standards in the improvement of the health services. Medical assistance was being provided in remote areas. The Jughi lived in a number of remote areas, and ante-natal care was provided to them. On assistance provided to that population, the Government had provided measures to stem the spread of COVID-19 through a Presidential Edict, providing a special subsidy to ethnic and disadvantaged families. On the coverage of Afghan refugees through the education system, the delegation said 57 institutions were involved in the teaching of Afghan children, including girls.
The Ombudsman’s Office was in compliance with the Paris Principles and it worked to provide appropriate coverage. With the spread of COVID-19, some activities had had to cease for a while, but it had resumed its work. With the support of the Government and technical assistance by partners, the financial share of the Ombudsman was increasing every year. In July 2022, a law was adopted on equality and elimination of all forms of discrimination, and in that connection there was a new structural unit, which required amendment of the law. The Government was working on a legislative package.
On the claim that the Ombudsman’s Office was not responding to complaints, the delegation said it responded in timely fashion to all complaints, and there was not a single one that was not resolved, including by working with the relevant Governmental bodies. Where there were human rights violations, the Ombudsman followed up. The Office would contact State bodies to ensure compliance. Twenty complaints had already been resolved this year. The Ombudsman had free access to every complainant in detention and always got in touch.
Questions by Committee Experts
SHEIKHA ABDULLAH ALI AL-MISNAD, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Tajikistan, said some questions had not yet been clearly answered. She suggested the State party should do more to tell the world about the conflict being due to criminal activities, as this information had been found nowhere by the Committee, on the contrary, it found alternate information. She also asked why the Palmiri were not treated like Tajiks, and whether the State party had investigated the reason for the issues of conflict in the region.
YANDUAN LI, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Tajikistan, thanked the delegation for the information provided. She asked for further details on the national and ethnic makeup of refugees and asylum seekers. The Committee was looking forward to the replies.
An Expert asked about the mobile legal centres and the profile of those working within them? What was the nature of the decisions which the Ombudsman could take with regard to those involved in judicial inquiries and the Courts? What was included in access to health services and could it be disaggregated by ethnic minorities and regions? Which mechanism heard appeals for judgements of expulsion and was it judicially constituted? What measures had the State party taken to enhance representation of ethnic minorities in political institutions? Why were the Pamiris called Pamiris and not Tajiks?
Responses by the Delegation
MUZAFFAR ASHURIYON, Minister of Justice of Tajikistan and head of delegation, said the Pamiris were Tajiks, but as inhabitants of the Pamir mountain ranges, they had taken the name of the mountains where they lived.
Questions by Committee Experts
SHEIKHA ABDULLAH ALI AL-MISNAD, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Tajikistan, asked about the reasons for the continuous tension in the Pamiri region over several decades.
The Committee commended the State party for its efforts to eliminate trafficking in persons. However, there were concerns expressed by the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons in 2021 over the limited actions taken by the State party to address internal trafficking, particularly of women and children belonging to minority groups and disadvantaged groups, such as women migrant workers. How was this legislation implemented in practice? What were the results of the work of the Inter-Ministerial Commission for Combatting Trafficking in Persons, and its national action plan for the period 2018–2021?
What measures were being taken by Tajikistan to protect women and children from minority groups and disadvantaged groups from becoming victims of trafficking, and what assistance and reparations were provided to the victims? Did the State party have plans to sign cooperation agreements with neighbouring countries in order to prevent, combat, and sanction cases of trafficking in persons?
Ms. Ali Al-Misnad called for data on attendance, completion and dropout rates at the primary and secondary levels of education of children belonging to ethnic minorities, in particular Pamiri and the Jughi, disaggregated by sex, ethnicity, disability and geographical location. In 2018, about 1,329 Jughi children were reportedly enrolled in general education institutions, which seemed to be an extremely low proportion compared to the number of Jughi people according to the State party, which was over 12,000. What was the current number of Jughi children enrolled in general education institutions? What measures were being taken to promote their access to and participation in school education, vocational training and higher education, especially for girls?
According to the State party report, several schools offered classes for children of minorities in their own language. There were general education institutions in which courses were taught in Tajik, Russian, English, Uzbek, Turkmen, and Kyrgyz, and higher education institutions also provided education in Tajik, Russian and English. However, there were reportedly not many schools for ethnic minorities that met their educational needs and these languages, particularly the Pamiri languages, were not present in the media. What measures were being taken to preserve and protect minority languages, culture and history, and introduce these languages in the educational curricula and activities, and in the media?
In its last concluding observations, the Committee encouraged Tajikistan to continue its measures to ensure the identification, registration and regularisation of stateless persons; and to adopt the amnesty law and accede to the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The Committee welcomed that the Amnesty Act was adopted on 18 December 2019. It promoted the regularisation of the legal status of foreign nationals and stateless persons unlawfully residing in Tajikistan. How was the act being implemented? What measures were being taken to grant citizenship to refugees? How did the amendment of the law on civil registration ensure birth registration of all children born in Tajikistan, regardless of their parents’ legal status or the availability of identity documents? Did the State party have a plan to ratify in the near future the Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness?
There were four freedom fighters who had reportedly been imprisoned. What had they been charged with, and what was their current status?
YANDUAN LI, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Tajikistan, said that in October 2022, Special Procedures mandate holders reported that Afghan nationals, including women, children and persons with disabilities, faced ongoing risks of refoulement and the denial of access to justice in Tajikistan. They expressed grave concerns regarding the deportation of 30 Afghan nationals, including refugees, asylum seekers and Afghans with expired visas, which put them at risk of suffering serious human rights abuses. What measures were being taken or envisaged to ensure the full respect of the principle of non-refoulement of Afghan nationals and to guarantee their right to access to justice?
How was the asylum assessment process consistent with international human rights obligations? What measures had been taken to combat the risks of abuse, sale, and sexual exploitation of undocumented or unaccompanied children? What measures were envisaged to ensure adequate protection of children from such abuses, including access to rehabilitative services for child victims?
There were no statistics collected by the State party on services provided by labour and employment agencies for ethnic minorities. How did the New Labour Code of 2016 and the State Labour, Migration and Employment Monitoring Service support minorities and vulnerable groups?
What procedures had been put in place to grant citizenship to refugees? How did the amendment of the law on civil registration ensure the registration of all children born in the State party, regardless of their parents’ legal status or availability of identity documents?
Under article 12 of the Family Code, if one of the parties to a marriage was a foreign national or a stateless person, they needed to provide supporting documentation of their residence in the country for at least one year before the marriage and present the marriage contract. What were the reasons for such requirements? Did the requirement to present the marriage contract also apply to nationals? What measures were being taken to ensure that these requirements, if applied, did not unduly hinder the right to marriage and the choice of spouses? Was the State party considering reviewing these requirements?
According to a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the stateless population, while having access to health care, could not benefit from social allowances provided as part of the national COVID-19 response plan. Ms. Li called for information on the stateless population’s access to health care and social allowances during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What had been the impact of the human rights education programme regarding issues of racial discrimination? What were the policies and plans to combat racism and build tolerance, acceptance and respect of different ethnic minorities within the education system, in accordance with the Convention and the Durban Declaration? How did the school system promote acceptance and tolerance towards different minorities?
A Committee Expert wished the delegation and the people of Tajikistan well on the occasion of the end of Ramadan and the Eid.
Another Committee Expert said that persons without legal documents did not have access to basic human rights. Had Tajikistan lifted requirements of children to have legal documents to access education and basic health rights?
One Committee Expert said the Committee welcomed the work of the Public Services Agency, which had collected statistics on the number of ethnic minorities and women in the public service. Could this data be disaggregated by ethnicity? Some migrants from Afghanistan had been expelled from Tajikistan despite having the proper documentation. Why was this? Refugees and asylum seekers reportedly had limited access to education, housing and health. What measures were being taken to resolve this issue?
A Committee Expert said there were over 2,000 civil society organizations in Tajikistan. How many had worked with the State party in drawing up the report? How did the State work with civil society organizations?
Given the high rate of abuse and killings of human rights defenders, were there sanctions issued to police force members who committed abuses against human rights defenders? There were various grounds for arrest of human rights defenders within anti-terrorism measures. Did the State intend to adopt genuine legislation to protect human rights defenders?
What was the percentage of the population that was of African descent? What measures were being taken to promote the Decade of People of African Descent? What was the representation of minorities in the prison population?
A Committee Expert said that in some districts, there were minorities living separated from other ethnicities. Had these ethnicities chosen to live apart from other residents, or was the separation forced? The Expert congratulated the State party for measures encouraging education in mother tongue languages. How did this work in practice? Could every child access education in their mother tongue?
Responses by the Delegation
MUZAFFAR ASHURIYON, Minister of Justice of Tajikistan and head of delegation, said the population in the Pamiri area were far from the capital and did not have access to all services. The Pamiri, and people living in other remote areas, were Tajiks and not ethnic minorities.
After the civil war, a large amount of weaponry remained in private hands. Part of the population continued to spread sedition. Many civilians were threatened with weapons and forced to demonstrate against their will. An agreement had been reached and amnesties were put in place pertaining to participation in these demonstrations. Members of criminal gangs had created so-called “non-governmental organizations”. One such organization had received grants from external organizations that it did not report. Another leader of a non-governmental organization had posed as a human rights defender while carrying out killings and leading criminal actions. The Committee had not received sufficient information about their harmful actions. Last year, 180 non-governmental organizations had been liquidated by court order, and around 100 other organizations had closed due to lack of funds.
Free legal assistance was provided through State legal aid centres. Over 150,000 vulnerable citizens had received free assistance from these centres. Centres existed in all regions of the State. Lawyers participated in legal cases as required.
Currently, there were 5,891 refugees registered in Tajikistan. Most were from Afghanistan. Refugees were deported when they committed violations of the law that put the safety of citizens at risk. It was possible to appeal deportation decisions.
A plan had been developed to draft a law on the protection of human rights defenders, taking into account international experience.
The Family Code listed conditions for marriage between nationals and foreigners or stateless persons. Marriage contracts listed the couple’s obligations regarding property, children and support for spouses who required care. Some stateless persons came to Tajikistan to carry out trade or business, and carried out fictitious or temporary marriages to engage in these activities. These provisions had been adopted to prevent such actions. Foreigners, asylum seekers and refugees’ children were registered in the civil registry. There were no practical obstacles in this regard.
In detention facilities, there were around 1,600 persons belonging to ethnic minorities, the majority of whom were Uzbeks.
The delegation said everyone was equal before the law irrespective of their nationality, beliefs, gender and other factors. All citizens had an equal right to employment. Discrimination in labour relations was prohibited. Persons who believed that they had suffered from workplace discrimination could bring their cases to the courts. A resolution had been adopted to establish quotas for hiring minorities and persons with disabilities. Inspections of places of employment were carried out by the State Labour Service to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups were protected. From April to July 2020, hospitals were inspected to ensure that the rights of hospital staff were being respected in the context of COVID-19 quarantines. The State promoted equal employment opportunities for all citizens. Social payments had been set up to prevent mass unemployment. Non-governmental organizations had worked with State departments to promote the employment of the population.
Legislation on elections required that material related to elections had to be printed in all national languages and regional languages. Representatives of national minorities were included in political parties and the national parliament.
A Government resolution had been issued in 2019 to promote the employment of women and a national strategy for empowering women from 2022 to 2030 had also been developed. Women were a reliable part of the labour force. Mostly, women worked in the education, health and agricultural sectors. There had been growth in the employment rate of women over the reporting period, by as high as 16 per cent in certain sectors. Growth in the employment rate of women had been 10 per cent higher than that of men. The Government had developed draft amendments to legislation to prioritise the selection of women in civil service positions. The number of women in the State civil service had increased by 243 over the reporting period. Women held 26 per cent of positions in the civil service. Women held positions in the national parliament, judiciary and local governments. Women held managerial positions in the civil service, including heads of departments and chairs of local self-government bodies.
The population living in the Gorno-Badakhshan Oblast had risen by around 10 per cent over the reporting period. Over one billion somoni had been invested in this region to create over 1,000 jobs, 70 business enterprises and education facilities, 50 health facilities, as well as sports, trade, transport, water supply and housing facilities. A strategy for the development of the region had been established, which included multi-billion somoni projects for housing, tourist infrastructure development, industrial development, and environmental protection. A project to develop Khorog city from 2020 to 2025 was also in place to improve infrastructure, roads and water supply. A hydro-electric station was also being built in the region. An educational facility for children with disabilities had been established in the region. Food supply points had been established in the region to ensure stable food prices and a constant food supply.
A targeted social support programme provided support to 205,000 people from low income and vulnerable groups in 2022.
There were over 50 non-governmental organizations working in various human rights areas that the State had worked with to prepare the State report. These organizations had provided proposals to revise the report that had been incorporated in it. Non-governmental organizations worked with the Government to implement the recommendations of United Nations human rights treaty bodies. The Government sought to create the best possible conditions for non-governmental organizations, and worked with them to find solutions to the issues faced by the State.
The Government was implementing measures to eliminate statelessness and to ratify the two conventions on statelessness. Over 1,500 Afghan families lived in the country. These families could move around freely, but their places of permanent residence were restricted to ensure their safety.
There were 1,000 Muslim Brotherhood supporters who had taken part in terrorist operations in the State. They actively carried out propaganda work to recruit citizens. They were connected to Islamic State and other terrorist organizations. The activities of these organizations were prohibited in Tajikistan and other States in the region. The main goals of these organizations were to spread fundamentalist Islamic ideology. The National Alliance of Tajikistan had been determined by the Supreme Court to be a terrorist organization. It promoted extremist views and actions. Criminal proceedings had been brought against the leader of the Alliance.
Tajikistan was taking active measures to combat trafficking in human beings domestically and internationally. It was not a destination country. The Government had a medium-term national plan to 2024 to combat trafficking. In the reporting period, 327 cases of trafficking in human beings had been identified; 226 of these cases had been judicially processed. Around 200 victims of trafficking had been identified, the majority of whom were women. The Government and civil society organizations had been active in aiding victims, providing medical, legal, social, food and education assistance. A centre had been set up to coordinate support and preventative measures. A database to record all trafficking crimes had also been set up, as had a national hotline for reporting trafficking; 152 law enforcement officers had been trained in combatting trafficking in human beings. An inter-departmental committee had been established to combat trafficking in human beings within the Ministry of the Interior. The committee presented annual proposals on State policies to kerb trafficking and address its root causes.
Tajikistan complied with its obligations regarding the granting of refugee status to foreigners seeking asylum. The law on refugees had been brought in line with international standards and guidelines on working with refugees had been introduced. Refugees had the right to social benefits and to employment. They were issued documents certifying their refugee status. Violations of rules for living in Tajikistan could lead to expulsion.
Foreigners and stateless persons living in the country for at least six months had a right to request a permanent residency permit. Refugees were issued with temporary residency permits. There were currently 10 applications for residency permits under consideration.
Legislation on health guaranteed the right of all to quality State health care services, including stateless persons and non-citizens. Health care was provided for free to all persons. The World Health Organization had certified Tajikistan as being polio and malaria-free. In mountainous regions, populations could reach health centres within 10 minutes, or were provided with assistance by mobile health units. The State’s anti-HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis programmes were also effective. Lack of identification was not a barrier to accessing health care. Sixty per cent of health care workers were doctors, and 9,000 nurses were employed by the State. All persons in the country had received four COVID-19 vaccinations, coverage of which was 95 per cent.
The State policy on multilingualism made it possible for all minority ethnic groups to study in their mother tongue. Education on ethnic traditions of minorities was also provided. State bursaries were provided to various ethnic groups to facilitate their education. Children from ethnic minorities such as the Roma were required to participate in the education system. There were no separate schools for the Roma. Roma children could choose the language in which they studied. There were 1,200 Roma children enrolled in school. Considerable efforts had been made to encourage the enrolment of Roma children in school by a dedicated working group. Four Jughi students were attending higher education; and 685 schools worked with 20,000 students from ethnic minorities. There was regular monitoring of non-Tajik language teaching. A plan of action to train teachers at ethnic minority schools was being developed.
All issues relating to human rights fell under the mandate of the Ombudsman, which received complaints from citizens. The Ombudsman could request that criminal cases were undertaken against State officials. The Ombudsman’s Office could take part in criminal proceedings. It had taken part in seven cases in 2022. It had received 16 complaints from persons in detention in 2022, which it had investigated through prison visits. The Ombudsman prepared an annual report on the state of human rights in the country.
Follow-Up Questions by Committee Experts
SHEIKHA ABDULLAH ALI AL-MISNAD, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Tajikistan, said the information given was too general, for example regarding the employment of minority women and support for minority university students whose internet access had been cut off. Why was the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast subjected to significant military force?
YANDUAN LI, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Tajikistan, asked about protection measures for children and women from abuse and sexual exploitation during deportation processes.
One Committee Expert called for information on mobile legal consultations by the Ombudsman’s Office. What did such consultations consist of, and who used these services? Had racial discrimination cases been reported? Could the Ombudsman’s Office represent victims in court cases?
Another Committee Expert asked about the representation in the public service of ethnic minority groups not mentioned by the delegation. Why were places of residence imposed on refugees and asylum seekers? Did this not restrict freedom of movement?
A Committee Expert welcomed the State party’s cooperation with non-governmental organizations and the draft law on the protection of human rights defenders. They expressed hope that the draft law would be adopted within a reasonable timeframe.
One Committee Expert said that Tajikistan had not recognised the Committee’s competence to receive individual communications. The Expert encouraged the State party to do so.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said legislation was in place that protected women and children in the deportation process. Such persons were required to be examined by courts on the day they were received, as were appeals of deportation orders. Appeals needed to be examined within 24 hours and were not subject to fees. A mechanism for extending the time period for appeals was also in place.
Ethnic minorities made up around 6 per cent of civil servants. There were no women of ethnic minorities in management positions in the civil service.
The Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast was a remote location that was facing social and economic issues. Additional investment was needed to support the population living in the region and develop the region. There were criminal factions in the Oblast that had been spreading sedition. There had been a 57 per cent decrease in crime in the region over the past year. The situation would continue to improve in future, as the Government worked to provide favourable conditions for social and economic development.
Internet access within two universities was limited during COVID-19 lockdowns, but this had not affected students’ ability to complete their education at these universities.
The State census had reported that there were no persons of African descent in Tajikistan. No events had thus been held to mark the Decade of People of African Descent.
SHEIKHA ABDULLAH ALI AL-MISNAD, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Tajikistan, thanked the delegation for their participation. The Committee expressed hope that the concerns raised, including regarding the situation of the Pamiri, would be addressed by the State party through new measures that respected human rights.
MUZAFFAR ASHURIYON, Minister of Justice of Tajikistan and head of delegation, thanked the Committee for the constructive dialogue, in which the positive changes and the problems facing the State were considered. Tajikistan had made many achievements in the field of human rights. The Government had developed a National Strategy for the Protection of Human Rights for the period up to 2030, which defined the long-term goals and objectives of the Government in the field of human rights and promoted good governance. The strategy contained, among other things, the recommendations of United Nations human rights bodies, and also took into account the Sustainable Development Goals. The dialogue would contribute to the further qualitative implementation of Tajikistan's obligations in the field of human rights.
The recommendations made would be carefully analysed and discussed with the participation of representatives of Government agencies and civil society. The Government had already established a mechanism for the implementation of these recommendations. Since 2012, it had adopted and implemented more than 20 national action plans to implement the recommendations of United Nations human rights bodies. The Government would continue to conduct constructive dialogue with the Committee, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as with other United Nations treaty bodies; make efforts to further improve legislation; and consistently implement the provisions of relevant international legal acts and recommendations of United Nations bodies.
Produced by the United Nations Information Service in Geneva for use of the information media; not an official record.
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