In another blow to civil society in Tajikistan, the Independent Center for Human Rights Protection (ICHRP) has been liquidated by court order on spurious and unsubstantiated grounds. International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) consider the accusations levelled against ICHRP to justify this harsh measure to be contrived and far-fetched and to have been clearly aimed at silencing the NGO because of its human rights work. The forced closure of ICHRP is contrary to Tajikistan’s international human rights obligations and at odds with its bid to join the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) trade regime, which requires compliance with core international human rights treaty obligations, including those protecting the right to freedom of association.
We call on the Tajikistani authorities to immediately reverse the decision to liquidate ICHRP and to allow the organisation to carry out its important human rights work unhindered.
According to Asadullo Hakimzoda, Deputy Minister of Justice, the Somoni District Court in Dushanbe ruled to liquidate ICHRP on 26 January 2023, in response to a claim from the Ministry of Justice.2 On 14 December 2022, after conducting an inspection of the organisation, the Ministry of Justice accused ICHRP of several alleged violations of its statutes and national law. Hakimzoda explained that during the inspection a number of deficiencies had been identified in the Centre’s activities, in particular, the organisation was accused of late submission of financial reporting notices. According to media reports, the absence of branches and representative offices of the Centre in the regions of Tajikistan was considered one of the violations.
According to Tajikistan’s Ministry of Justice, some 500 NGOs were liquidated in the country in 2022. This is 3,5 times more than the year before, when 138 NGOs were closed down.
IPHR and OMCT believe that that none of the allegations presented so far provided sufficient grounds to justify the closure of the NGO, and that the decision to liquidate the organisation was a retaliatory measure as ICHRP has been a thorn in the side of the authorities because of its independent, critical and efficient human rights work. In recent years, ICHRP has mainly worked on issues which the authorities perceive as sensitive, such as housing rights, and the provision of legal assistance to victims of forced evictions and other vulnerable groups such as journalists and victims of torture.
The court decision to close ICHRP comes against the background of a seriously deteriorating environment for civil society organisations and activists in Tajikistan. In particular NGOs, activists and lawyers working on human rights have been subjected to threats and intimidation by the authorities aimed at making them drop or refrain from taking up politically sensitive issues or cases. New reporting obligations have been introduced for NGOs, in particular with respect to their funding and many groups have been subjected to intrusive inspections of their activities by the Tax Committee, national security services, the Ministry of Justice and various other state bodies. In addition to being time-consuming and stressful for the targeted organisations, such inspections have often resulted in warnings and sanctions because of alleged violations of the law, and some other NGOs have also been liquidated, similar to ICHRP.
Read the full statement here.