Human Rights Developments
U.N.-sponsored peace negotiations between the Afghanistan-based Tajik opposition and theTajik government in early 1995 and a meeting between the opposition leader Seyyed Abdollah Nuri and President Emomali Rahmanov in mid-1995 had limited success in furthering national reconciliation. The September 1994 cease-fire agreement was, however, extended to February 1996, although armed clashes continued along the Tajik-Afghan border. Failure in implementing confidence-building measures, such as prisoner exchanges, endangered the viability of further talks to be held before the end of 1995. Peace in Tajikistan was further endangered by the Tajik government's inability to exercise centralized control over large areas of the country, resulting in pro-government paramilitary and military forces' acting with near impunity even in the Kuliab area (south of Dushanbe), the residents of which dominate the government.
As in 1994, civil and political rights violations occurred throughout Tajikistan, even though there was a decline in the number of summary executions, disappearances and murders. In general, the government made no attempt to investigate such incidents or punish the perpetrators. In particular, a climate of fear and intimidation reigned over the Gharm region (northeast of Dushanbe) and in Kafarnihan (east of Dushanbe), where government forces continued to harass, detain, and abuse individuals, targeting in particular young men of Gharmi and Pamiri origin who were perceived to be opposition sympathizers. The presence of various opposition groups in the mountains of the Gharm region and a military build-up by the government there greatly increased tensions in that region.
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki received frequent reports of illegal searches of homes, as well as violations of due process rights of detainees, including the right to legal counsel, the right to a fair and public hearing by an impartial tribunal, and the right to be tried without undue delay. Many individuals detained even for short periods reported systematic beatings and torture in detention centers. In the Gharm area alone, at least six individuals died in detention or as a result of brutal beatings, torture, and shootings by the official militia forces. In addition, despite the announcement of several amnesties, the government continued to hold scores of political prisoners, and to detain without trial many who were arrested in early 1993 for having exercised their right to legitimate nonviolent dissent.
The government also maintained its suspension of opposition newspapers and continued to censor independent journalists. Editors of independent newspapers, who had already been practicing self-censorship, were regularly harassed by the government. As a result of the tight official control over the registration of new newspapers and paper distribution, no new journals emerged.
The Right to Monitor
Although more than forty associations and foundations have received official registration since 1990, including several dealing with human rights and women's issues, no indigenous nongovernmental organization confronted the government over human rights violations. Human rights were monitored by a small international community including several U.N. agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission to Tajikistan, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). In addition, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki has had a representative stationed in Dushanbe since 1994. Despite unsatisfactory response to our written and verbal protests, government officials did not directly interfere in our activities and on numerous occasions acknowledged, albeit with reservations, the importance of our interventions. The ICRC continued to be denied universal access to prisoners. In general, however, the government cooperated with the UNHCR and IOM in the repatriation and integration of returnees.
The Role of the International Community
The United Nations
The European Community
Russian Federation Policy
The Russian government continued to take a special interest in Tajikistan. Several agreements between the Russian and Tajik governments significantly strengthened Moscow's economic ties with the republic and provided for greater military involvement. The reinforced 201st Motorized Rifle Division continued to form the bulk of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping forces established in 1993. Despite their peacekeeping mandate, the forces are alleged by several sources to be involved in the hostilities. Russia also sought to safeguard the rights of ethnic Russians in Tajikistan.
The Work of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki
In May, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki released the report Return to Tajikistan: Continued Regional and Ethnic Tensions. In September, we submitted to the OSCE a critique of the activities of the OSCE's mission to Tajikistan. A report on human rights violations in the Gharm region was in preparation as of this writing.