The UN CERD called for an end to the repression against the Pamirs in Tajikistan

Based on the results of the consideration of the state report at the 109th session, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination addressed its recommendations to the authorities of Tajikistan. They respond to the problems raised in the alternative report of ADC Memorial.

The situation of the Pamiri peoples was at the centre of the session’s debates. In its recommendations, the Committee expressed regret that the country’s authorities persist in non-recognizing the Pamiris as a specific group with ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural characteristics. However, the Committee was dissatisfied with the incompleteness of statistical data on some other groups as well, such as ethnic minorities, for example, Yaghnobi, migrants, refugees, etc.

As it’s said in the Concluding Observations, “The Committee is seriously concerned over the tensions in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) with reports of the use of lethal and excessive force against protesters in the region, followed by prolonged internet shutdowns and subsequent violent attacks, arbitrary detentions, threats and harassment of the members of the Pamiri minority (art. 5).

The Committee recommends that the State party: (a) Carry out as soon as possible, an impartial and transparent investigation surrounding the events in GBAO since November 2021, in accordance with applicable international standards. (b) Take all the necessary measures to prevent further escalation of violence in the region, including by responding to the grievances of the Pamiri minority. (c) Engage in a constructive and open dialogue with the Pamiri minority. (d) Implement conflict-prevention measures that meet international human rights standards, including measures to protect the Pamiri minority.”

Speaking about the under-representation of ethnic groups in government bodies, administration and public life, the Committee mentioned the Pamiri peoples as well and called on the country’s authorities to take special measures to overcome this problem.

The Committee paid serious attention to the protection of the linguistic rights of ethnic minorities, expressing concern about the lack of adequate support for the study and expansion of use, in particular, of the Yaghnobi and Pamiri languages. The Committee recommended:

(a) Adopt special measures and allocate additional resources to ensure sufficient opportunities for children and young people from ethnic minorities to learn and be educated in their mother tongues, particularly during pre-primary and basic education, through the adequate provision of trained teachers and textbooks in minority languages; (b) Empower and develop appropriate competencies of regional and local authorities concerning minority education and support the participation of minorities in the process of policy formulation at the regional and/or local level; (c) Take effective measures to ensure the preservation of minority languages, particularly the Pamiri and Yaghnobi languages; (d) Support the inclusion of the Pamiri languages in the education system and in television and radio broadcasts.

An important recommendation of the UN CERD relates to the unlawful application of the law on combating terrorism against civil society organizations, human rights defenders and journalists. It also applies to the convicted Pamir activists. The Committee recommended that the State party: (a) Carry out effective, thorough, and impartial investigations into all reported cases of arbitrary arrests and detention, intimidation and harassment of, and threats and reprisals against human rights defenders, members of civil society organizations and journalists belonging to minorities, as well as those advocating for their rights, establish accountability for perpetrators and provide remedies to the victims; (b) Review the definition of “terrorism” and related offences contained in the Law of the Republic of Tajikistan on Combatting Terrorism and provisions of the Criminal Code, in line with international human rights standards, and ensure that this legislation is not used to arrest, detain or prosecute human rights defenders, members of civil society organizations, and journalists, including those working on the rights of minorities, in the exercise of their rights to freedom of opinion and expression and their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association; (c) Take all the necessary measures, including through the adoption of a specific law on the protection of human rights defenders, to ensure that all human rights defenders, including those working on minority rights, are recognized and can carry out their peaceful and legitimate activities without fear of restrictions, judicial prosecution, and reprisals; (d) Take all the necessary measures to ensure that civil society organizations can operate freely without undue restrictions, excessive administrative burdens, threats, or any other form of persecution.

The Committee once again expressed concerns about the situation of the Mugat/Jughi group and noted with regret the reluctance of the Tajikistan authorities to adopt an action plan to improve the situation of this minority, although in the previous recommendations and in the General Comment No.27 (2000) on discrimination against Roma groups, the Committee pointed out the importance of positive measures. The CERD urged the authorities to adopt such an action plan or strategy to improve the situation of Mugat/Jughi, paying particular attention to the situation of women and girls, their protection from discrimination and stigmatization, ensuring their right to education, work, health care and adequate housing. The Committee also recommended organizing educational campaigns to promote tolerance towards the Mugat community.

Some other important recommendations of the Committee relate to the situation of migrants, refugees and stateless persons, improvement of anti-discrimination legislation, national Human Rights protection mechanisms.

Within one year of the adoption of the recommendations, the authorities of Tajikistan should report about implementation of the priority recommendations: bringing the Criminal Code in line with Article 4 of the Convention and criminalization of acts of racially motivated violence and incitement to racial discrimination(para 12), improving the situation of Mugat/Jughi (para 16),  and measures to prevent deportation of Afghan nationals (para 24).

The Committee requested Tajikistan’s authorities to pay particular attention in the next periodic report to two recommendations of high importance: concerning Pamiri peoples (para 14) and the situation of civil society, human rights defenders and journalists (para 36).

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