In the recent period, Tajikistani authorities have carried out a series of raids in the fight against so-called crimes against morality. These raids give rise to concern in the light of due process rights, the right to non-discrimination and other fundamental rights. An open letter on this topic has been sent to Tajikistan’s interior minister by a number of Tajikistani NGOs, as well as NGOs from other countries, including IPHR.
The letter has been prepared as part of a project on, among others, non-discrimination issues implemented jointly by Nota Bene (Tajikistan) and Kazakhstan Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, IPHR and Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights.
To: Minister of Interior of the Republic of Tajikistan,
General Lieutenant Ramazon Hamro Rahimzoda
18 June 2014
Dear Minister Rahimzoda,
We are writing to you on behalf of a number of human rights NGOs with regard to measures taken in the fight against so-called crimes against morality in Tajikistan, which give rise to concern in the light of human rights provisions laid down by national law, as well as international agreements ratified by your country.
In recent days, mass detentions have been carried out as part of raids undertaken in the fight against so-called crimes against morality. According to a communiqué issued by the Ministry of Interior on 12 June, as a result of raids carried out on 6-10 June, over 500 individuals were detained and subsequently photographed, fingerprinted and forced to undergo medical tests for sexually transmitted diseases. The same communiqué states that 16 criminal offenses related to sex trade have been revealed during the raids, while 26 individuals have been charged with administrative offenses, which supposedly include practicing prostitution as this constitutes an administrative offense in Tajikistan. The communiqué also states that three individuals suspected of “homosexual behavior” are among those detained. Judging from this information, the vast majority of those detained do not appear to have been charged with any offenses.
We are concerned about reports received by local NGOs according to which detentions carried out in at least Dushanbe have involved violations of procedural rights protected by national law, as well as international human rights treaties to which Tajikistan is a party. These include failure to promptly register detentions and bring detainees before a judge, to grant detainees access to a lawyer from the moment of their apprehension and to ensure that detainees are not subjected to degrading or brutal treatment. According to information obtained by local civil society representatives, individuals detained in Dushanbe have faced insults, beatings and blackmail attempts.
It is of also of concern that detained individuals apparently have been targeted for compulsory registration of personal information, including their finger prints and compulsory medical tests for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV on the mere suspicion that they are involved in prostitution or other offenses without any court review of their cases. Tajik legislation prohibits compulsory testing for HIV and other diseases, as well as compulsory fingerprinting of individuals who have not formally been determined to be criminal suspects.
Moreover, in accordance with international standards, homosexuality is neither a criminal nor administrative offense under current Tajikistani legislation. National legislation and international human rights treaties ratified by Tajikistan also prohibit any form of discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In view of this, the reported detention of at least three individuals solely on the basis of their sexual orientation is a serious violation of both national and international law that is also likely to contribute to further fuelling intolerance and hostility against members of sexual minorities, who are in a highly vulnerable situation in Tajikistan.
It is our understanding that the recent law enforcement raids have been carried out following statements made by you at a meeting held on 5 June 2014, where you called for intensified measures in the fight against so-called crimes against morality. According to official information communicated on the website of the Ministry of Interior, you gave instructions to carry out raids across the country to detain individuals suspected of being involved in offenses such as prostitution, procuring and running brothels, to subject them to compulsory testing of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as to register them in a special data basis.
While the Tajikistani authorities have an obligation to take effective measures to combat trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation, such initiatives should be implemented strictly in accordance with national and international law and applicable human rights standards. It is essential to ensure that government policies in this area, in particular operations carried out by law enforcement bodies uphold the rule of law, protection of human dignity, the principle of non-discrimination and other human rights guarantees, while also reflecting best international practice with respect to preventing trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation. This should include measures to provide assistance, protection and opportunities for rehabilitation to victims of tracking and sexual violence rather than measures that stigmatize and punish them, as well as measures to deal with socio-economic and other underlying factors that contribute to problems of sexual exploitation in the country.
In this context, we would like to remind you of the conclusions and recommendations made by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) when reviewing the situation in Tajikistan last October. The Committee called on the Tajikistani authorities to address root causes of sexual exploitation and prostitution, including poverty, as well as to provide assistance and services to victims of exploitation such as shelters, legal, medical and psychosocial assistance and to foster access to alternative income-generating opportunities for them. The Committee also called for a review of the legal framework of the country to ensure that women in prostitution are not criminalized and to step up efforts to discourage the demand for prostitution in the country.
In view of the above, we call on you to:
- Ensure that all allegations of violations of the rights of those who were detained during the recent raids are promptly and thoroughly investigated;
- Put an end to arbitrary, stigmatizing and discriminatory raids in the fight against so-called crimes against morality, including compulsory medical testing and the creation of a data basis with personal information about those detained during such raids;
- Focus on implementing measures recommended by the CEDAW, other international bodies and NGOs working in this area for how to combat sexual exploitation, in particular with the aim to address root causes;
- Provide adequate protection and assistance to victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation; and
- Ensure that any initiatives aimed at enhancing moral or family values in the country are in full compliance with Tajikistan’s international human rights obligations.
We thank you for your attention.
Pamira Association of Lawyers, Tajikistan
Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, Tajikistan
Independent Human Rights Protection Center, Tajikistan
Independent School of Journalists, “Tajikistan – XXI century”
Public Fund “Nota Bene”, Tajikistan
Office of Civil Liberties, Tajikistan
Rights and Prosperity, Tajikistan
Equal Opportunities, Tajikistan
Human Rights Center, Tajikistan
Legal Support, Tajikistan
Development of Civil Institutions, Russia
All-Ukrainian “League of Life”
All Ukrainian Association “Reducing Gibberish”
Women for Freedom, Georgia
Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law
Krasnodar Regional Public Health Organization “Equal Dialogue”, Russia
International Partnership for Human Rights, Belgium
Non-commercial Partnership for Improving the Quality of Life of Women Affected by HIV Infections and Other Socially Significant Diseases “EVA”
NGO “Silver Rose”, Russia
NGO “New Sector”, Georgia
Regional Advocacy Network for the Rights of Sex Workers in Central and Eastern European Countries and Central Asia (SWAN)
Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights
Cherkasy Regional Department of the All-Ukrainian Network PLWH
Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association, Turkey
Health and Social Development Foundation, Bulgaria
For other recent information on Tajikistan, see:
Human rights protection in Tajikistan to be discussed at EU meeting 16/06/14
Tajikistan: Open letter on hazing 29/05/14
UN rights review: NGOs highlight Tajikistan’s failure to protect vulnerable groups 26/05/14