U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Tajikistan
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Tajikistan, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1e16.html [accessed 25 January 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
TAJIKISTANTajikistan remains in the hands of a largely authoritarian government, although it has established some nominally democratic structures. The Government's narrow base of support limits its ability to control the entire territory of the country. The Government of President Emomali Rahmonov, comprised largely of natives of the Kulob region, continued to dominate the State. Tajikistan took a significant step toward national reconciliation after its 1992 civil war, with the signing of a comprehensive peace accord in June, and the inauguration of a Commission on National Reconciliation in July in Moscow. An amnesty agreement and accord on exchange of prisoners also were signed; the Commission on National Reconciliation met in Moscow in July, before moving to Dushanbe in September. Despite the agreement, the United Nations Mission of Observers to Tajikistan (UNMOT) reported two cease-fire violations in August. Under the peace accords, the opposition is allotted 30 percent of government positions but as of year's end, the Government still had not given the opposition any positions. The judiciary is not independent. Internal security is the responsibility of the Ministries of Interior, Security, and Defense. The Russian Army's 201st Motorized Rifle Division, part of a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping force established in 1993, remained in the country. The Russian Border Guard Force (RBF) reports to Moscow, has primary responsibility for guarding the border with Afghanistan, and is comprised mostly of Tajiks with some Russians and a limited number of other Central Asians, although the officer corps remains principally Russian. Some regions of the country remained effectively outside the Government's control, and government control in other areas existed only by day, or at the sufferance of local opposition commanders. Opposition forces based near Kofarnihon, east of Dushanbe, carried out a variety of attacks during the year. Some members of the security forces and government-aligned militias committed serious human rights abuses. The armed opposition also committed serious human rights abuses, including abductions and murders. There have been credible reports of threatening, extortion and abuse of civilian populations by both government and United Tajik Opposition units. The economy continued to be extremely depressed, and government revenue remains highly dependent on the government-owned aluminum and government-dominated cotton industries. Economic reform has been halting. Most Soviet-era factories operate at a minimal level, if at all, while privatization has moved ahead only slowly. As much as one-third of the total population is unemployed or significantly underemployed according to government estimates. Inflation increased during 1997, and the exchange rate declined substantially as the Government failed to maintain fiscal and budgetary discipline. Many, but not all, wages and pensions are being paid. However, because most yearly salary percentage increases are still meager and do not keep up with inflation, the sums remain extremely low and not enough to support adequate nutrition without supplemental income. Gross domestic product increased marginally, but remained as low as $200-$400 per person, according to official statistics. There were serious shortages of natural gas for heating and industry, largely as a result of continued disputes with Uzbekistan over natural gas purchases. Wheat acreage and the total harvest continued to increase dramatically as privatized farmers responded to their own and market needs for increased production, although state farm harvests continue to be mediocre. The Government's human rights record improved slightly, due principally to the reduced level of violence and the absence of widespread military conflict; however, serious problems remain. The Government limits citizens' right to change their government. Some members of the security forces were responsible for killings and beatings, and often abused detainees. These forces were also responsible for threats, extortion, looting, and abuse of civilians. Certain battalions of nominally government forces operated quasi-independently under their various leaders, who generally have government positions. These forces committed similar abuses. The government prosecuted few perpetrators for these abuses. Prison conditions remain life threatening, and the Government continued to use arbitrary arrest and detention. Basic problems of rule of law persist. There are often long delays before trials, and the judiciary is subject to political and paramilitary pressure. The authorities infringe on citizens' right to privacy. There has been public criticism of corrupt or criminal actions by Ministry of Interior employees, several dozen of whom were removed from their positions during the year. The Government severely restricts freedom of the press, restricts freedom of speech, and dominates the electronic media. No genuine opposition media appeared during the year, and the Government suspended and harassed independent local television stations. The authorities strictly control freedom of assembly and association for political organizations. Freedom of assembly is hindered. Two new political parties were allowed to register, bringing the total to 11; the 3 opposition parties and a branch of the fourth affiliated with the armed opposition remained suspended. The Government cooperated to a limited extent with the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Dushanbe, but did not establish a human rights ombudsman as recommended by the OSCE. The Government also did not establish its own ombudsman, despite its statement in 1996 that it would do so. Violence against women is a problem. Several armed clashes among ostensible government supporters occurred, resulting in civilian deaths, abuse, and property damage. The general weakness of government control and continuing decline in social order led to an increase in crime and violence, including politically-inspired violence. The armed opposition committed numerous serious abuses. Opposition forces were responsible for killings, kidnapings, abuse, threats, and extortion, including against civilians. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of Tajikistan in 1991, regional, political, and religious tensions led to a brief but violent civil war in 1992-93. A low scale guerrilla war continued until late 1996, led by a coalition of regionally based, democratic and Islamic groups, with a political base and refugee population in northern Afghanistan, against the winners of the civil war, a loose coalition of also regionally based, but more politically traditional, that is Communist, elements. By June a series of accords had been signed ending the civil strife and pointing to elections in 1998.