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Tajikistan: UN Special Rapporteur’s visit offers opportunity for reform and to release imprisoned human rights defenders

Reacting to the visit of Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders to Tajikistan, which concluded on 9 December, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, said:

“In her capacity as UN Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor visited Tajikistan and met with some unlawfully imprisoned human rights defenders and independent journalists, before making a bold statement at the conclusion of the mission. Our hope is that this helps cast light on the deplorable human rights situation in the country and that the authorities will act on her recommendations. Imprisoned human rights defenders are subjected to extreme hardship and abuse in Tajikistan and kept in terrible conditions sometimes with minimal or no contact with the outside world. The situation of prisoner of conscience Buzurgmekhr Yorov deserves attention. But he is just one human rights defender among many who are unfairly imprisoned.”

Imprisoned human rights defenders are subjected to extreme hardship and abuse in Tajikistan and kept in terrible conditions sometimes with minimal or no contact with the outside world

Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director

“Languishing in jail for fighting for human rights and for representing the interests of other human rights defenders and civil society activists in court, Buzurgmekhr Yorov faces the frightening prospect of being cut off from the outside world, at risk of torture or other ill-treatment, and with no access to necessary medical treatment.”

“Buzurgmekhr Yorov must be released as he has committed no internationally recognizable crime and faces reprisals for his lawful work to protect human rights and establish justice. So must all those who have been imprisoned under false charges.”

Background

According to his supporters, prisoner of conscience Buzurgmekhr Yorov, a human rights lawyer and activist, was hospitalized in the prison infirmary on the evening of 23 November, after being moved to a punitive prison cell where he was allegedly subjected to torture a week earlier. Buzurgmekhr Yorov managed to get a note to his family from prison explaining that he was being transferred from Vakhdat penal colony to a high-security detention facility in the capital Dushanbe without the prospect of being able to communicate with the outside world for the next two years.

Buzurgmekhr Yorov is serving a 24-year prison sentence after being convicted on politically motivated charges, including fraud and “insulting the leader of the Nation,” following a series of blatantly unfair trials in 2016 and 2017. He has always denied the charges.