Call to Release Tajikistan Political Activist Nizomiddin Nasriddinov

Urgent Plea to Drop Charges and Safeguard Human Rights

Leading human rights organisations jointly issued a passionate appeal today, urging Tajik authorities to release Nizomiddin Nasriddinov, a dedicated political activist, and to abandon the unfounded charges against him. Nasriddinov, who was recently extradited from Belarus at the request of the Tajik government, is at the center of an international outcry for justice.

Nasriddinov, a staunch advocate for democratic reforms in Tajikistan, has been associated with Group 24, an opposition political group that has been vocal about the need for reform and has openly critiqued the government through social media since its inception in 2011. In a controversial move, Tajikistan’s Supreme Court labeled Group 24 a terrorist organization in late 2014, rendering affiliation with the group illegal under Tajikistani law.

Fleeing to Germany in October 2015, Nasriddinov and his family were granted refugee status in April 2017, where they have resided ever since. Nasriddinov has actively participated in international forums, shedding light on Tajikistan’s human rights situation and political landscape. Notably, Group 24 clarified that Nasriddinov ceased to be a member of their organization in 2018.

Nizomiddin Nasriddinov

In November 2017, Tajik authorities charged Nasriddinov under article 307-1 of the Tajikistan criminal code, accusing him of “public calls for extremist activities.” The prosecution cited Nasriddinov’s reposts of Group 24 and the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan’s articles on Facebook, along with a YouTube video in which Nasriddinov criticized Tajikistan’s leadership and administration.

On January 8, 2023, Belarusian authorities apprehended Nasriddinov upon Tajikistan’s request while he was crossing the border from Lithuania. The Prosecutor General’s Office of Belarus decided on February 21 to extradite Nasriddinov to Tajikistan, arguing that article 307-1 of the Tajikistan criminal code corresponds to article 361 of the Belarus criminal code, dealing with “Public calls for actions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus.”

Both countries are parties to the 2002 convention on legal assistance and legal relations in civil, family, and criminal matters (the Chisinau Convention), which stipulates that if both nations criminalize the same actions, the legislation serves as a legal basis for extradition. However, article 89(f) of the convention asserts that extradition should not proceed if there are valid reasons to believe that the request for extradition is politically motivated.

Despite strong protests from regional and international human rights organizations, Belarusian authorities rejected Nasriddinov’s asylum plea and deported him to Tajikistan on July 24, even before his appeal options had been exhausted. This action violated multiple international conventions, most notably the nonrefoulement principle, which forbids the transfer or removal of individuals when there is substantial evidence of potential harm upon return, including persecution, torture, ill-treatment, or other grave human rights violations.

Nonrefoulement is explicitly safeguarded in international human rights law through agreements such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, all of which Belarus and Tajikistan are signatories to. The extradition of Nasriddinov to Tajikistan also breached the Chisinau Convention, as he is being persecuted solely for his political beliefs and, therefore, should have been shielded from extradition.

Based on the most current information available, Nasriddinov is being held in a temporary detention center managed by the infamous Tajik security service, known by its Russian-language acronym GKNB, where the risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment is alarmingly high.

Anonymous sources have suggested that law enforcement agencies are contemplating modifying Nasriddinov’s charges to article 307 of the Tajikistan criminal code, which pertains to “Public calls for a violent change in the constitutional order of the Republic of Tajikistan.” This change would entail a lengthier prison sentence and strongly indicates an attempt to silence a critic and political opponent by subjecting him to an extended period of incarceration.

In December 2022, Mary Lawlor, the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, emphasized the extreme vulnerability of human rights advocates in Tajikistan following her visit to the country. She raised concerns about the severe persecution they face for engaging in legitimate activities to promote human rights, enduring unjust trials resulting in long prison terms, and suffering inhumane conditions in detention.

Tajikistan has recently experienced a grave human rights crisis, marked by the government’s abduction, disappearance, and execution of numerous political opponents and dissidents. Additionally, hundreds of intellectuals, lawyers, and peaceful opposition members have been imprisoned on fabricated political charges.

The government has relentlessly suppressed freedom of expression, clamped down on the media, and outlawed all forms of political dissent. Torture is systematically practiced within the penitentiary system, and impunity for egregious human rights violations remains the norm.

The urgent calls are clear:

  1. Tajik authorities must refrain from escalating Nasriddinov’s charges and instead drop all charges against him.
  2. Dushanbe should promptly release Nasriddinov, as there is no substantial evidence of a crime committed in his peaceful activism and criticism of the authorities.
  3. Nasriddinov should be permitted to leave Tajikistan and reunite with his family in Germany.

This plea for justice resonates not only within Tajikistan but across the international community, emphasizing the need to safeguard human rights and protect those who champion them.

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