Update: On March 29, a court in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, convicted Abdullohi Shamsiddin on charges under article 307 of the Penal Code, on “public calls to violent change of the constitutional order of Tajikistan.” He was sentenced to seven years in prison. No credible evidence for the conviction has been made public. The trial started on March 28 and did not adhere to fair trial standards, including the right of defendants to challenge the evidence used against them, based on information available. Authorities should publicly present the evidence used to justify his conviction and in the meantime he should be immediately released from detention.
It’s been two months since Abdullohi Shamsiddin, a Tajik opposition activist living in Germany, was deported by German authorities to Tajikistan.
Since being put on a plane on January 18 and arriving in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, his exact whereabouts are not known, though reports indicate he is in jail in the capital.
There is serious and well-founded concern over his wellbeing in Tajikistan, a country with a terrible human rights record where opposition activists, human rights defenders, and journalists are jailed on politically motivated charges. Torture in prison is widespread.
There are questions why German authorities deported Shamsiddin despite international law banning “refoulement”: returning a person to a country where he or she is at risk of being subjected to torture or other cruel or inhuman treatment, a legal prohibition also contained in several treaties to which Germany is a party.
Shamsiddin, 33, who had been living in Germany since 2009, was active in Germany in the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), once Tajikistan’s main opposition party but banned there in 2015. Many IRPT leaders and family members are in jail there, some on long prison terms. Shamsiddin’s father, a refugee in Germany, is a leading party member.
Shamsiddin applied unsuccessfully for asylum in Germany three times. German authorities and courts have told media that they did not believe Shamsiddin will face torture because they doubt his identity. His case is complex, as laid out here because it involves him changing his name and several convictions in Germany.
Despite the complexity some things are clear: German authorities were aware of his identity as Abdullohi Shamsiddin since Tajikistan confirmed this after a refugee hearing last year, according to a report. German authorities also knew of the danger of torture: the German foreign ministry recently reported that rule of law and independent judiciary do not exist in Tajikistan, noting evidence of torture in prison and that IRPT supporters are jailed.
Germany received assurances from Tajikistan that Shamsiddin would not be mistreated if he were returned, according to people familiar with the case. However, when a country has an awful record on torture such as Tajikistan, such assurances carry no weight, in practice or legally. Germany should press Tajik authorities to release Shamsiddin or make clear the reason for his detention and take steps to ensure he is not mistreated.
German authorities should launch an enquiry into the circumstances of this deportation and investigate why it allowed the removal of a person to a country where there is a clear danger of torture.