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?
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.
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.
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.
Source: Mirage News