(Warsaw) – Governments and intergovernmental organizations should denounce the worsening human rights crisis in Tajikistan, Human Rights Watch and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said in a video released today during the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The United States and the European Union and its member countries, as well as the United Nations and the OSCE, should press for targeted sanctions absent immediate reform.
Tajikistan is in the midst of its most dire human rights crisis in 20 years, the organizations said. Over the past two years, authorities have arrested, imprisoned, and tortured opposition party members and banned as terrorist the country’s leading opposition party. The authorities have also arrested scores of lawyers, journalists, and anyone posting statements critical of the government on social media. While hundreds of activists have fled the country, the government has targeted perceived critics abroad, seeking their arrest and extradition to Tajikistan. Some critics abducted abroad have reappeared in Tajik custody.
“Tajikistan is in the midst of its worst crackdown since the country’s civil war two decades ago, with the authorities jailing hundreds of people for their peaceful political work,” said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Tajikistan’s human rights crisis is expanding by the day, but the response from Washington, Brussels, and other international partners has fallen seriously short.”
In the video, four victims of the crackdown describe how Tajik authorities have persecuted them for their peaceful exercise of freedom of expression.