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Tajikistan: Human rights defenders face increasing threats in climate of fear, says UN expert

09 December 2022

DUSHANBE/GENEVA (9 December 2022) The authorities in Tajikistan must radically improve the situation of its human rights defenders, and dispel an intensifying climate of fear, a UN independent expert said today after a two-week official visit to the country.

“Some officials in the Tajik government are trying to engage positively with human rights defenders, and there has been some legislative progress. However, many of those who peacefully defend the rights of others are under increasing pressure,” the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor said in a statement.

“The situation of human rights defenders is deteriorating. Lawyers, journalists and others are being targeted for their human rights work. They have been confronted with a range of difficulties ranging from onerous administrative burdens, to harassment, threats, criminalisation, closed unfair trials and imprisonment,” Lawlor said. “A climate of corruption, the fear of persecution and a stranglehold on human rights defenders working on difficult issues have forced some to leave the country.”

The Tajik government should live up to its international obligations and commitments, and work with human rights defenders to build peaceful, fair and just societies.

During her visit, the Special Rapporteur held meetings with government authorities in Dushanbe, and also travelled to Khujand. She held discussions with the Ombudsman, members of Parliament, prosecutors, the Supreme Court and representatives of the international community. She also visited a pre-trial detention centre and met human rights defenders there. Her request to visit the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (province) was denied.

“The Tajik Government must realise that it is in its self-interest to promote and protect human rights defenders working to build just and fair societies,” Lawlor said. “I urge the Government to treat human rights defenders as allies, not adversaries.”

The Special Rapporteur will present a full report on her visit to the Human Rights Council in March 2024.

Ms. Mary Lawlor is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. She is currently Associate Professor of Business and Human Rights at the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) at Trinity College Dublin Business School. In 2001 she founded Front Line Defenders - the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders to focus on human rights defenders at risk. As Executive Director between 2001 and 2016, Ms. Lawlor represented Front Line Defenders and played a key role in its development. Ms. Lawlor was previously Director of the Irish Office of Amnesty International from 1988 to 2000, after becoming a member of the Board of Directors in 1975 and being elected its President from 1983 to 1987.

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of 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 more information and press inquiries, please contact Orsolya Toth ( / +41 79 444 37 81) or Suhrob Shoev ([email protected]) or write to [email protected])

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact Renato Rosario De Souza ([email protected]) ([email protected])

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter: @UN_SPExperts.

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