With Tajikistan marking its Independence Day on 9 September 2023, global civil society alliance CIVICUS and the Brussels-based International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) call on Tajikistani authorities to immediately release imprisoned human rights defender Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov, and other activists and journalists detained for their human rights activities.
“Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov is a peaceful human rights lawyer and activist who has sat in jail for far too long on trumped-up charges,” said Mandeep Tiwana, CIVICUS Chief Programmes Officer. “As Tajikistan celebrates its national day, the authorities must free him and others unjustly imprisoned without hesitation.”
Authorities arrested Manuchehr on 28 May 2022 while he was a member of “Commission 44,” an official body investigating a November 2021 extrajudicial killing which sparked mass protests in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO). Prosecutors falsely charged Manuchehr with participating in a criminal association and publicly calling for violent change of the constitutional order. After a closed trial which failed to meet international fairness standards, Tajikistan’s Supreme Court sentenced him to 16 years’ imprisonment in December 2022.
“It is completely absurd that the government appointed someone to a commission to investigate and report on human rights violations and then charged that same person for doing the work they were commissioned to do,” said IPHR director Brigitte Dufour. “Manuchehr should be released immediately.”
Manuchehr’s continued detention is symptomatic of the ongoing civic space restrictions in Tajikistan, which is one of the world’s most repressed countries. Tajikistan authorities have repeatedly levelled trumped-up charges of “extremism” and “terrorism” against journalists, bloggers and activists who criticise the government. CIVICUS Monitor, which assesses civic space worldwide, rates Tajikistan as “closed,” its worst possible ranking.
CIVICUS and IPHR recognise Manuchehr as part of the Stand As My Witness campaign, which advocates for the release of jailed activists and human rights defenders worldwide.
“Manucher Kholiqnazarov has spent 15 months in detention,” said Brigitte Dufour, Director of IPHR. “It is clear he is being persecuted for his commitment to fight human rights violations and injustice in Tajikistan, and he is not the only one. Tajikistan should free Manuchehr immediately, and with him all the other human rights defenders who sit behind bars just for standing up for human rights!”