United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Tajikistan, 30 January 1996, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3f1c.html [accessed 13 October 2015]
This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
TAJIKISTAN The Government of President Emomali Rahmonov, composed of a coalition dominated by Tajiks from the Kulyab region who were victorious in the 1992 civil war, continued in power. However, Rahmonov appointed several non-Kulyabis to key government positions. Elections for the Majlisi Oli, the new Parliament created under the 1994 Constitution, were held in February. For the first time candidates were nominated by political parties. The opposition coalition of nationalists and Islamic groups defeated in the 1992 civil war boycotted the elections. Intimidation and a restricted nomination process also limited voters' choice of candidates. There were credible reports of electoral fraud. Consequently, a Majlisi Oli dominated by supporters of the Government was elected. Under U.N. auspices, the Government and the external opposition continued to engage in peace talks aimed at ending the civil conflict. A May round of talks resulted in agreement on several confidence-building measures which remained unimplemented at year's end. Shuttle diplomacy by the United Nations assisted the two sides' top leaders, President Rahmonov and Mullah Abdullah Nuri, Chairman of the United Opposition Forces of Tajikistan, to conclude an August 17 protocol on principles for achieving national reconciliation. At a December round of talks in Ashgabat, the parties initiated discussion on key political issues but reached no agreements, and their positions remained far apart. Earlier the two sides agreed to extend the standing cease-fire until February 26, 1996. However, the Government, the opposition, and the Russian border forces reported several alleged violations of the cease-fire to the U.N. of Observers to Tajikistan (UNMOT). Internal security is the responsibility of the Ministries of Interior, Security, and Defense. The Russian Army's 201st Motorized Rifle Division remained in the country, as part of a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping force established in 1993. This unit, along with Border Guards from Russia and other CIS members, and a newly created Tajikistan Border Guard, were responsible for guarding Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan. Some regions of the country, however, remained effectively outside the Government's control. Opposition forces, supported by Afghan and Arab Islamic mercenaries, and localized bandit units used parts of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) and the Gharm Valley for training and as a base for launching isolated, low-intensity attacks. Members of the security forces and government-aligned militias committed numerous serious human rights abuses. The economy, which is largely centrally planned and highly dependent on cotton and aluminum, continued to decline. Much of the country's industry stood idle at year's end. The Government implemented some initial economic reforms. Despite the introduction in May of its own national currency, the Tajik ruble, the Government remained behind in paying salaries and pensions. There were critical shortages of fuel for heating, transport, and industry. Uzbekistan periodically suspended natural gas sales to Tajikistan because of nonpayment of bills and for political reasons. Shortages of wheat and flour, although less severe than in 1994, remained a social and political problem. Responding to earlier food shortages, some farmers increased food production on their private plots and rented land. Incomes have declined significantly since the Soviet period, with annual per capita income estimated at $400. The Government's human rights record improved slightly, although serious problems remain. Members of the security forces and government-aligned forces committed several extrajudicial killings, were responsible for disappearances, and regularly tortured and abused detainees. The Government prosecuted few perpetrators of these abuses, although in some cases the security officials responsible were reprimanded and transferred to other areas. A new Minister of Interior took steps to remove from his Ministry some of the professionally unqualified and worst human rights abusers. Prison conditions remained life threatening, and the Government continued to use arbitrary arrest and detention. 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. The Government restricts freedom of speech and freedom of the press and largely controls the electronic media. No genuine opposition media existed. The Government limits citizens' rights to change their government. The authorities strictly control freedom of assembly and association for political organizations. One new political party and a branch of one of the four banned opposition parties were allowed to register in 1995. Three opposition parties and a branch of the fourth, affiliated with the armed opposition, remained suspended. The Government cooperated cautiously with the offices of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki and the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Dushanbe. The external opposition also committed serious human rights abuses. An opposition commander killed a journalist; he was later removed from his command. Opposition forces reportedly murdered several Russian army officers and government militia officers in Dushanbe, Gharm, and Gorno-Badakhshan. Also, representatives of the armed opposition forcibly prevented repatriation of Tajik refugees from northern Afghanistan.
Respect for Human Rights
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Extrajudicial Killing
There were a number of extrajudicial killings--perhaps as many as 50--but fewer than in 1994. Ministry of Interior militia members killed five supporters of the opposition from Fayzabod, one of whom was tortured in detention before being killed. Their deaths may have been revenge killings for an earlier ambush of eight militia men by unidentified persons. There were also several credible reports that Ministry of Interior forces killed detainees in the Gharm valley, several after being tortured. Similarly, there were reports that the Faizali brigade, a militia group nominally incorporated within the Ministry of Defense and dominated by Kulyabis, committed murders in the Kurgan Teppe area of Khatlon region. According to credible reports, the security forces and government-affiliated militias operated with the tacit approval of some high-ranking government officials. However, President Rahmonov publicly spoke out against the abuses of the security forces, ordered the professional credentials of members of the security forces to be examined as a means of dismissing unqualified staff, and removed fellow Kulyabi Yaqubjon Salimov as Interior Minister and transferred him to Ankara as Ambassador. The new Interior Minister, Saidamir Zuhurov, dismissed some of the nonprofessionals brought into the Ministry by his predecessor, some of whom are accused of the worst human rights abuses in the Ministry. Although some Interior Ministry officers were arrested for killings in the Kolkhozobad, Panj, and Bokhtar districts of Khatlon region, none has been arrested in the Gharm valley. However, the ranking responsible Interior Ministry officer in the Gharm Valley was transferred out of the area in December, along with hundreds of other security officers. Also, some of the Interior Ministry checkpoints at which some of the worst human rights abuses in Gharm occurred were dismantled. Three deputies of the Majlisi Oli were assassinated--Izzat Kuganov, the commander of the Faizali Brigade; Zainiddin Muhiddinov, a collective farm director; and Ainullo Negmatov, Chief of Administration for the Parliament--and an attempt was made on a fourth, Abdulmalik Salihov, chairman of the Shahrinau district government. Members of a rival militia, "the Mahmoud Brigade," are widely blamed for the first, and unidentified persons for the second and third. In another case, a bureau chief of the Ministry of Interior reportedly went into hiding after a criminal investigation was launched against him for the killing of a driver involved in a traffic accident in which the Interior Ministry official's brother died. The assassination of Faizali Brigade Commander Kuganov in June initiated a tense period of relations between this brigade (the Eleventh, under nominal control of the Ministry of Defense) and a rival brigade, "the Mahmoud Brigade" (the First, also under nominal control of the Ministry of Defense). Tensions came to a head in September, when the First attacked a headquarters of the Eleventh in the Kurgan Teppe area. Up to 40 combatants and some civilians were killed in the resultant fighting. Also, an UNMOT officer was killed in connection with the brigades' rivalry. Government efforts to redeploy, disband, or disarm the two brigades have been largely ineffectual. Approximately 24 Russian Army officers, soldiers, and staff were killed in Tajikistan in 1995. About six died in January from a New Year's Eve champagne poisoning, widely attributed to the opposition. Others were shot or stabbed to death in Dushanbe, including three in September. A mini-bus transporting Russian military medical staff was hit in February by a rocket-propelled grenade in Dushanbe; two nurses died and five were injured. In most cases, the Russian border forces and the Government blamed the opposition, while the armed opposition usually denied the charges. Few have been arrested and prosecuted in the individual cases. The opposition probably killed many of the Russian army staff; however, there is some evidence that interservice rivalry and drunken rowdiness resulted in some of the Russian deaths. Similarly, about a dozen Ministry of Interior militia staff, local government officials, teachers, and collective farm officials were murdered in the Gharm valley. Again, the Government blamed either the opposition or bandits while the armed Tajik opposition headquartered in northern Afghanistan usually denied these charges. Some were probably committed by the opposition, some by independent warlords, and some by competing government militias for varying motives, including political. According to opposition sources, opposition commander Rizwan killed Nafasbek Rahmonov, the former editor of the Muftiyat's weekly, Minbar-I Islam, in northern Afghanistan in May or June. For this and other murders, Rizwan was reportedly removed from his command.
Some Gharmi- and Pamiri-origin men disappeared, although many fewer than in 1994, at the hands of the security forces. The Government has not been active in investigating claims of previous disappearances, claiming insufficient resources for this purpose. Also, some young men thought to have disappeared had, in fact, been forcibly conscripted. There were no developments in the 1993 disappearances of the sitting judge Tagobek Shukurov or the surgeon and Democratic Party Dushanbe branch chairman Dr. Ayniddin Sadukov.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Security officials, particularly those in the Ministry of Interior, regularly beat detainees in custody. Security forces were responsible for the widespread use of systematic beatings and, in some instances, the torture of prisoners and detainees. In some cases, mistreatment increased if victims made formal allegations of abuse. Security officials sometimes planted drugs on beaten detainees and threatened arrest for the more serious charge of drug possession if the detainees did not sign statements absolving their captors of charges of abuse. In contrast to previous years, there were no reports of rape or threat of rape of women in prison or detention. Prison conditions improved slightly, as a result of better rations and the donation of medicines by international relief groups. However, prison conditions remained harsh and life threatening. Most prisons are still overcrowded, unsanitary, and disease ridden, resulting in serious threats to many prisoners' health. Family members are allowed access to prisoners. The Government continues to deny the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) requests for full access to prisoners.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Criminal Code has not been significantly amended since independence, and it therefore retains many of the defects inherited from Soviet times. Revision of the Criminal Code is a high priority of the Majlisi Oli. The system allows for lengthy pretrial detention and provides few checks on the power of procurators and police to arrest persons. The Government continued to arrest political opponents arbitrarily, although in fewer numbers than in 1994, and is known to hold prisoners in incommunicado detention. Public order, which broke down during the civil war, has yet to be fully restored, and the virtual immunity from prosecution of armed militia groups has further eroded the integrity of the legal system. Nonetheless, some progress was made toward establishing public order and the rule of law in 1995. Some persons were disarmed. A new, more progressive General Prosecutor sought more vigorously than his predecessor to apply the rule of law. Five of seven members of opposition parties arbitrarily arrested in Fayzabod in May were later released under international pressure. Similarly, a journalist, Mirzo Salimpur, arrested in May for articles he wrote in an opposition newspaper in 1993, was conditionally released by the Procurator General's office after the international community took an interest in the case. Legally, police may detain persons arbitrarily and without a warrant for a period of 72 hours, and the procurator's office may do so for a period of 10 days after which the accused must be officially charged. At that point, the Criminal Code permits pretrial detention for up to 15 months. The first 3 months of detention is at the discretion of the local procurator, the second 3 months must be approved at the regional level, and the Procurator General must sanction the remaining time in detention. The Criminal Code maintains that all investigations must be completed 1 month before the 15-month maximum in order to allow the defense time to examine government evidence. There is no requirement for judicial approval or for a preliminary judicial hearing on the charge or detention. In criminal cases, detainees may be released and restricted to their place of residence pending trial. There are credible allegations of illegal government detention of members or relatives of members of opposition political parties. In most cases, the security officers do not obtain arrest warrants and do not bring charges. Some of those released claimed that they were mistreated and beaten during detention. Once a case is entered for trial, the law states that it must be brought before a judge within 28 days. However, it is common for cases to languish for many months before the trial begins. One such case, however, was resolved in 1995 when the Procurator General dropped the case against Onihol Bobonazarova, who was placed under house arrest in 1993 pending resolution of the continuing investigation of alleged antigovernment activities during 1992. As a result, she was permitted to travel abroad again. Opposition sources maintain that security forces detained dozens of persons unlawfully and without charge. The law precludes visits to persons in pretrial detention. Article 19 of the Constitution states that no one can be exiled without a legal basis; no laws have been passed so far setting out any legal basis for exile. There were no reports of the use of forced exile.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The November 1994 Constitution states that judges are independent and subordinate only to the Constitution and the law; it prohibits interference in their activities. However, judicial officials at all levels of the court system are heavily influenced by both the political leadership and, in many instances, armed paramilitary groups. Local-, regional-, and republic-level judges are, for the most part, poorly trained and lack understanding of an independent judicial function. Parliament passed three laws in November codifying the new Constitution's provisions on the judicial system. However, these new laws had not been completely implemented by year's end. The court system remains unmodified from the Soviet period. There are several tiers of courts: city, district, regional, and republic levels, with a separate but parallel military tribunal. Higher courts serve as appellate courts for lower ones. The November 1994 Constitution establishes additional courts, including a Constitutional Court. According to the law, trials are public, except in certain cases involving national security or the protection of minors. The court will appoint an attorney for those who do not have one. A defendant may choose his or her own attorney but may not necessarily choose among court-appointed defenders. Arrested persons are often denied prompt, and in some cases any, access to an attorney. The prosecutor's office is responsible for conducting all investigations of alleged criminal conduct. In theory, both defendant and counsel have the right to review all government evidence, to confront witnesses, and to present evidence and testimony. No groups are barred from testifying, and all testimony is theoretically given equal weight, regardless of ethnicity or gender. Ministry of Justice officials maintain that defendants benefit from the presumption of innocence, despite the unmodified Soviet legal statute which presumes the guilt of all brought to trial. Although the pressure exerted on the judicial system by armed paramilitary groups and vigilantes operating outside of government control diminished in 1995, it still was sufficient to lead in some cases to the dismissal of charges and dropping of cases. The Government holds political prisoners, although estimates of the number vary widely. According to one international human rights organization, scores of political prisoners remain in government custody. The Government and the Tajik opposition agreed at the fourth round of inter-Tajik talks in Almaty to exchange prisoners and subsequently exchanged several lists of prisoners of war and political prisoners. The largest opposition list totaled 171 names of political prisoners believed by the opposition to be in government custody, although the list likely includes many names of persons who were missing, dead, or had defected. No prisoners were exchanged in 1995.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Articles 22 and 23 of the Constitution provide for the inviolability of the home and prohibit interference with correspondence, telephone conversations, and postal and communication rights, except "in cases prescribed by law." Police may not enter and search a private home without the approval of the procurator. In some cases, police may enter and search a home without permission, but they must then inform the procurator within 24 hours. Police are permitted to enter and search homes without permission if they have compelling reason to believe a delay in obtaining a warrant would impair national security. There is no judicial review of police searches conducted without a warrant. There are continuing credible reports of arbitrary illegal search and seizure by government forces.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts
As a result of the extensions of the September 17, 1994, cease-fire and the continuation of the inter-Tajik talks under U.N. auspices, the level of conflict in Tajikistan during 1995 was much lower and geographically much more limited than in 1994. Nevertheless, there was a series of small-scale incidents along the Tajikistan/Afghanistan border, particularly along the Gorno-Badakhshan section, usually involving the Russian border forces and the Tajik opposition. Often the initiator of the escalation in hostilities was obscure. In one series of incidents in January, the Russian border forces killed an opposition field commander, triggering retaliation by the opposition, who kidnaped and later killed a school teacher, kidnaped and later released under U.N. mediation four local truck drivers, and killed and beheaded nine Russian border forces troops. In another series of incidents in April, a Russian border force convoy was ambushed by the opposition east of Kalai Khumb, resulting in an escalation of activities by both sides. Ultimately, 42 Russian border troops, including 4 Russians, 17 Kazaks, and 21 Tajiks and several times that number of opposition troops were killed. In retaliation, Russian border forces shelled Afghan villages across the border, and Russian planes bombed the opposition's headquarters and other targets in Taloqan, northern Afghanistan, resulting in scores of dead and wounded, including many Afghan civilians. An opposition faction kidnaped briefly the chairman of the Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous oblast government in April in Khorog but released him in exchange for an opposition prisoner. From October to December there was sporadic, low-level fighting in the Miandu Valley east of Tavildara, where the opposition infiltrated additional forces from the nearby Vanj Valley and Afghanistan. The Government also reinforced its positions with troops from the first brigade from Kurgan Teppe. The Government side used air power to bomb opposition positions and villages. Approximately 25 government soldiers, an unknown number of opposition troops, and a few civilians died in the fighting. The opposition unilaterally released 17 prisoners of war of Pamiri origin of an original 54 captured or defected during the fighting in October in Tavildara.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Despite Article 30 of the Constitution and the 1991 law protecting freedom of speech and press, the Government severely restricts freedom of expression in practice. Journalists, broadcasters, and individual citizens who disagree with government policies may not speak freely or critically. The Government exercises control over the media, both through legislation and through the dismissal and harassment of journalists and broadcasters for their political or ethical convictions. For example, one journalist was dismissed upon his return to the country for speaking critically of the Tajikistan Government while in the United States. Also, the head of the Khorog local television station was fired after the station broadcasted a written statement by the head of the Tajik opposition. Some journalists were threatened with violence by armed men for writing or publishing articles critical of the Government. The U.S. nongovernmental organization (NGO) Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that many Tajik journalists were afraid to meet with a visiting CPJ group in September. The Government also controls the printing presses and the supply of newsprint and broadcasting facilities, and subsidizes virtually all publications and productions. Some newspapers were threatened with heavy fines for various, sometimes spurious, violations of financial rules and regulations. Editors fearful of reprisals exercise careful self-censorship. Nevertheless, several new, semi-independent publications appeared. Two journalists were killed in 1995. In addition to Minbar-I-Islam editor Nafezbek Rahmonov, killed by an opposition commander (see Section 1.a.), the local British Broadcasting Corporation stringer and cultural figure, Muhiddin Olimpur, was killed by unknown persons in Dushanbe in December. The new Procurator General opened investigations of at least three previous murders of journalists. The February 1994 Supreme Soviet decree remained in force; it suspended the activity of all independent electronic media until a new law on the media was adopted. However, it was not strictly enforced; 9 of 14 independent television stations broadcast periodically during 1995. Academic expression is limited to some extent by fear of reprisals, but much more so by the complete reliance of scientific institutes upon government funding. There were no new reports of professors going into hiding or being arrested.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of association and peaceful assembly. In practice, the authorities exercise strict control over organizations and activities of a political nature, while free assembly and association are permitted for nonpolitical associations, including trade unions. Freedom of association is circumscribed by the legal requirement that all organizations must first register with the Ministry of Justice. This process is often slowed by the cumbersome requirement to submit all documents in both Russian and Tajik. The Ministry of Justice's verification of the text inevitably delays the final granting of registration. Once registered an organization must apply for a permit from the local executive committee in order legally to organize any public assembly or demonstration. In the spring, there were work actions by teachers in the Leninabad region, by workers at the Dushanbe silk factory, by workers at the central government printing factory in Dushanbe, and by workers at the Yavan heat and power company. None was sanctioned by the trade unions or local executive committees. Most protested the Government's failure to pay full salaries and poor working conditions (see Section 6). Also, in August, citizens demonstrated peacefully in Kulyab against the Government's lifting of price controls on bread and wheat and the incompetence of some political appointees. The Government neither sanctioned nor tried to suppress these demonstrations. There are six political parties officially registered with the Government. According to the law, a political party must have at least 500 members to register. Three of the four political parties suspended in 1993--the Islamic Revival Party, the Rastokhez National Movement, and the Lali Badakhshan Movement for the Autonomy of the Pamirs--remained suspended. In July a branch of the fourth suspended party, the Democratic Party of Tajikistan , headed by Shodmon Yusef--who remained in exile pending the dropping of criminal charges against him--was allowed to register as a political party. Followers of the other branch of the Democratic Party which remained aligned with the armed opposition were not allowed and did not attempt to reregister as a political party.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion. Church and state are separate in Tajikistan, and neither the law nor the Government places restrictions on religious worship. However, according to the Law on Freedom of Faith, the Committee on Religious Affairs under the Council of Ministers registers religious communities and monitors the activities of the various religious establishments. While the official reason given is to ensure that they are acting in accordance with the law, the practical purpose is to ensure that they do not become overtly political.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution provides for the right of citizens to choose their place of residence, to emigrate, and to return. In practice, the Government generally respects these rights, with some regulation. The Government has stipulated that both citizens and foreigners are prohibited from traveling within a 25-kilometer zone along the Republic's borders with China and Afghanistan without permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In practice, however, international aid workers and diplomats travel freely in these regions without prior Government authorization. Residents of Dushanbe and those travelers wishing to remain in restricted areas longer than 3 days no longer need to hold a permit, although they must still register with central authorities. There are no legal restrictions on changing residence or workplace. Current regulations require registration at the local Ministry of Interior office upon arrival and departure. The city of Dushanbe introduced a special registration system and tax on citizens visiting the capital for periods longer than 72 hours. Citizens who wish to travel abroad must obtain an exit visa. There is no evidence that these are withheld for political reasons. Tajikistan does not yet have a law on emigration. Currently, those wishing to emigrate to countries formerly within Soviet Union notify the Ministry of Interior of their departure. Persons wishing to emigrate beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union must receive the approval of the relevant country's embassy in order to obtain a passport. Persons who settle abroad are required to inform the Tajikistan embassy or Tajikistan interests section of the nearest Russian embassy or consulate. Persons who wish to return to Tajikistan after having emigrated may do so freely by submitting their applications to the Tajikistan embassy or Tajikistan interests section of the nearest Russian embassy or consulate. The Government adjudicates requests on a case by case basis. There is no indication that people, other than those who fled Tajikistan for political reasons after the civil war, are prevented from returning. Under the 1994 refugee law, a person granted refugee status is guaranteed the right to work and move freely throughout the country. In July the Central Department of Refugee Affairs (CDR) under the Ministry of Labor took over the registration of refugees from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in accordance with the 1951 Convention on Refugees and Tajikistan's 1994 Law on Refugees. The CDR registered some 200 Afghan refugees. An unofficial policy of denying residence permits to Afghan spouses of Tajik returnees allowed the Government to deny any official status to these persons or their children. Also, the closure of the Afghan bazaar in Dushanbe denied a livelihood to many registered Afghan refugees (see Section 5). Tajik refugees continued to return from northern Afghanistan, as did internally displaced persons from Gorno-Badakhshan, to the Dushanbe and Khatlon regions, leaving approximately 19,000 refugees in Afghanistan and 6,000 internally displaced persons in Gorno-Badakhshan. While significant problems remain with illegal occupation of returnees' homes by those loyal to the victorious Popular Front militias, significant progress was made, particularly in the Khatlon region, in evicting the occupiers. Less progress was made in Dushanbe. Ministry of Interior forces beat three Pamiri internally displaced persons, who had returned to Dushanbe from Gorno-Badakhshan in August, and threatened them with trumpedup drug charges. News of this incident spread quickly to Gorno-Badakhshan, perhaps dampening the enthusiasm of some Pamiris to return to Dushanbe. The Ministry launched an investigation into the incident. Representatives of the armed opposition in Afghanistan continued their efforts to dissuade Tajiks from returning, using threats, disinformation, and physical force in the refugee camps. There is no legal basis for forcible repatriation, nor is there any evidence to suggest that it was practiced.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The Government limits the right of citizens to change their government peacefully and freely. The Government of President Rahmonov remains dominated by a coalition composed of Kulyabi regional political interests, although the base of the Government was broadened slightly when some non-Kulyabis were appointed to several key government positions in 1995. Three of the four opposition parties suspended in 1993 remain suspended; a branch of the fourth, the Democratic Party of Tajikistan, reregistered in 1995. This party joins five other legal parties. Most of the opposition party leaders and party activists remained either jailed or in exile abroad, waiting for the U.N.-mediated inter-Tajik talks on national reconciliation to produce agreements on wider political participation. The 1994 Constitution provides for three branches of government: an executive, with a president elected to a 5-year term, a 181-member parliament (Majlisi Oli) also elected every 5 years, and a semiindependent judiciary. In accordance with the Constitution and under a parliamentary election law adopted in December 1994, elections for the Majlisi Oli were conducted on February 26. The elections were seriously flawed by the restriction of nominations, voter intimidation, ballot box stuffing, and the practice of "family" voting. In contrast to the November 1994 presidential election, there was low interest and low turnout for the February parliamentary elections. The deputies elected to the Majlisi Oli were overwhelmingly progovernment. Although the Government invited international observers, international organizations such as the OSCE declined to send monitors. The February elections marked the first time political parties were able to nominate candidates. Although the suspended external opposition parties boycotted the election, all four registered political parties nominated candidates and each succeeded in electing some. Most successful candidates, however, were nominated by workplaces and local councils in the old, Soviet-era practice. Since all the chairmen of regional and district governments were presidential appointees, government officials exerted considerable influence over the nomination process at the council and workplace level. Consequently, many district government chairmen themselves as well as other progovernment commanders of popular front militias and state enterprise officials were nominated. Pressure and intimidation were used in some cases to ensure that such candidates were unopposed. A restrictive interpretation of the elections law by the Central Election Commission (CEC) permitted each political party a theoretical maximum of 64 nominees (one for each of Tajikistan's administrative districts), rather than 181 (one for each electoral district), thus reducing the possibility of choices before the electorate. The Party of Popular Unity, the party of defeated presidential candidate Abdumalik Abdullajanov, was singled out for special harassment and pressure in the nomination process. The CEC disqualified several of the party's nominees, including Abdullajanov. These actions later were upheld by the Supreme Court in what some observers believed was a foreordained decision. There are no barriers to female participation in the electoral process, although since the removal of Soviet-era quotas the number of female deputies has declined. At year's end, there were 5 female deputies in the Majlisi Oli, a female deputy prime minister, 2 women serving in positions with the rank of minister, and 18 women with the rank of deputy minister.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government's record on dealing with international and nongovernmental investigation of alleged human rights abuses was mixed. Lingering fear of persecution by government or extragovernmental elements has precluded efforts by citizens to form their own human rights organizations. The Government has not interfered, however, with citizens' and government officials' participation in international and local seminars sponsored by the OSCE, ICRC, U.N. agencies, NGO's, and foreign governments on such topics as the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and international humanitarian law. Chairman Safarali Kenjaev of the Majlisi Oli Law Legislation, and Human Rights Committee conducted several committee hearings outside Dushanbe on human rights abuses. The Government, particularly the Ministry of Labor, worked closely with the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration on behalf of refugees and internally displaced persons and with UNMOT and the U.N. Secretary General's Special Representative in the course of the inter-Tajik talks. The UNHCR reported that the Government's responsiveness, including that of local authorities, was greater than in 1994 in investigating cases of illegal housing occupation and accusations of crimes against returnees, although not all cases were brought to successful conclusions. The OSCE's mission in Tajikistan expanded in September to include four additional staff to assume the human rights monitoring function of the UNHCR, as the latter phased down its operation in the Khatlon region. The Government cooperated in this handover of responsibilities. Similarly, the Government supported the OSCE's decision to establish a national human rights institution. It proposed an ombudsman appointed by the President in consultation with the OSCE and engaged in extensive discussions with the OSCE on the mechanisms to do so. However, when the OSCE brought complaints of parliamentary election irregularities to the authorities' attention, the Government's cooperation with the organization was mixed. Similarly, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, although allowed to continue to operate its office and generally given access to officials, reported that such access did not always lead to government responsiveness. The ICRC intensified contacts with government entities concerned with prisoners but still was not given full access to prisoners. The Committee to Protect Journalists was permitted to travel to Tajikistan and met with journalists and Government officials.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution provides for the rights and freedoms of every person regardless of nationality, race, sex, language, religious beliefs, political persuasion, social status, knowledge, and property. It also explicitly states that men and women have the same rights. In practice, however, some discrimination continued as a result of conservative cultural traditions and the lingering hostilities from the 1992 civil war.
No official data are available on the prevalence of spousal abuse, nor are there NGO's that monitor this problem. Wife beating, however, is a common problem. Conservative Muslim traditions, especially in rural areas, resulted in many cases of wife beating going unreported. There is no evidence that police officials and government organs do not prosecute responsibly those complaints that are filed. In each of the past few years more than 100 cases of rape have been investigated. The threat of rape is used to coerce women, who rarely go out alone and almost never at night. Laws exist against keeping brothels, acting as a procurer, making or selling pornography, infecting another person with a venereal disease, and sexual exploitation of women. Inheritance laws do not discriminate against women. However, in practice inheritances are usually handed down to the sons because of tradition and Islamic law. The participation of women in the work force and in institutes of higher learning is one of the more positive legacies of the Soviet era. There is no formal discrimination against women in employment, education, or housing, and in urban areas women can be found throughout government, academic institutes, and enterprises. However, in rural areas, women tend to marry young, have large families, and only rarely receive university education. Due to the prevalence of large families, women in rural areas are also much less likely to work outside the home. Articles in the Criminal Code protect women's rights in marriage and family matters, but often are not enforced, particularly in rural areas. With the assistance of the U.N. Development Program, the Government established a small Women in Development Unit to galvanize other government agencies and enterprises to consider women's needs and encourage greater women's participation in development activities and projects.
The Government is committed to children's rights, having acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and helped organize seminars with U.N. Children's Fund to publicize the obligations under this international treaty. However, due to the faltering economy the extensive official social security network for child welfare continued to deteriorate. For each child, women are provided 3 years of maternity leave and monthly subsidies, which were increased at the time price controls on bread were lifted. Education is compulsory up to the age of 16, although this law is not currently enforced. All health care is free. However, the Government's lack of financial resources left it unable to fulfill many of its obligations for the provision of subsidies and care for mother and child health. UNICEF became interested in a new phenomenon in Tajik society, street children in the capital Dushanbe, caused by the depressed economic situation.
People with Disabilities
The 1992 Law on Social Protection of Invalids stipulates the right of the disabled to employment and adequate medical care. In practice, however, the Government does not require employers to provide physical access for the disabled. The absence of basic technology and the financial means to implement the technology available to assist the disabled results, in practice, in high unemployment and widespread discrimination for disable persons. There is no law or regulation mandating accessibility for the disabled.
After the civil war, over 90,000 people of primarily Gharmi and Pamiri origin fled to Afghanistan to avoid reprisals by progovernment forces. The repatriation of Tajiks continued during 1995, with government encouragement. While making a good faith effort to assist with the repatriation of refugees, particularly those from Afghanistan, the Government did not fulfill many of its pledges, including the payment of reconstruction fees for returning refugee families. However, in general, security for returning refugees improved, with the UNHCR reporting far fewer cases of murder, rape, and harassment of returnees than in 1994. Similarly, according to the UNHCR, local procurators took a more active stance in investigating alleged crimes against returnees. However, some procurators and judges continued to be subjected to threats and intimidation for investigating or trying charges against militia members, often of Kulyabi origin. The Government, with limited effectiveness, conducted another disarmament campaign during 1995, aimed at the general population throughout Tajikistan and local militias and warlords, particularly those around Dushanbe and in the Kurgan Teppe area. In southern Tajikistan, Dushanbe, and even some parts of the northern Leninabad region, Kulyabi-origin Tajiks continued to displace other ethnic groups in local government positions. However, in the Ministry of Interior, the new Minister started removing professionally unqualified staff, who frequently were of Kulyabi origin. With the exception of the trilingual (Tajik/Uzbek/Russian) school structure, neither the Uzbek nor the Russian language is afforded any official status in Tajikistan, despite the large numbers these ethnic minorities represent. The Government permits radio and television broadcasts in Russian and Uzbek, in addition to Tajik. In practice, Russian, is the language of interethnic communication and still widely used in government. Uzbek speakers represent approximately 26 percent of the population, and Russian speakers less than 2 percent. The lack of official status for the Russian language was a contributing factor to the steady exodus of Russian speakers from Tajikistan. While the Government has repeatedly expressed its desire for the Russian-speaking population to remain, economic conditions provide little incentive for them to do so. President Rahmonov and Russian President Yeltsin signed an agreement on dual citizenship, which the two Parliaments must still ratify. Members of the Government, particularly security forces, continued to discriminate against Afghan nationals by extorting bribes and not giving those who were victims of criminal elements even minimal police protection. Furthermore, the Government closed down the Afghan bazaar in Dushanbe, thereby depriving many registered Afghan refugees of a livelihood. The Central Department of Refugee Affairs under the Ministry of Labor in July took over from the UNHCR the registration of refugees. An unresolved problem stems from the unofficial Government policy of denying official status to the Afghan spouses of returning Tajik refugees (see Section 2.d.).
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Law on Social Organization and the Law on Trade Union Rights and Guarantees provide all citizens with the right of association. This includes the right to form and join associations without prior authorization, to organize territorially, to form and join federations and affiliate with international organizations freely, and to participate in international travel. The Federation of Trade Unions, a holdover from the Communist era, remains the dominant labor organization, although it has since shed its subordination to the Communist Party. The Federation consists of 20 professional trade unions and currently claims 1,500,000 members, virtually all nonagricultural workers. The separate Trade Union of Non-State Enterprises has registered 3,245 small- and medium-sized enterprises, totaling 49,578 members. This union's membership has declined since 1994 due to the economic difficulties and bankruptcies of some member enterprises. The Council of Ministers formally consults both labor unions during the drafting of social welfare and worker rights legislation. The Law on Tariff Agreements and Social Partnerships mandates that arbitration take place before a union may legally call a strike. Depending on the scale of the labor disagreement, arbitration can take place at the company, sector, or governmental level. In the event that arbitration fails, unions have the right to strike, but both labor unions have publicly disavowed the utility of strikes in a period of deepening economic crisis and high unemployment and espoused compromise between management and workers. While there were no official, union-sanctioned strikes, several wildcat strikes occurred. Workers in the Dushanbe silk factory struck in March, protesting the large number of Kulyabi appointments, particularly in the factory's security force, and the dismissal of the factory's director. Workers returned to work when the militia replaced the Kulyabi guards and the director returned to his office. Also in March, workers of the Yavan heat and power station struck for payment of delinquent salaries. Local Ministry of Interior militia beat organizers and strike activists, forcing them to return to work after 1 day. Some 600 workers of the government printing house in Dushanbe, where all newspapers and magazines are located, engaged in a walkout in March, protesting nonpayment of salaries. After being threatened with violence by Ministry of Security (KNB) officers, the workers returned to work. Teachers in various districts of Leninabad region struck in April for nonpayment of salaries by the Government. Partial salaries were paid and the teachers returned to work. None of these strikes had the sanction of the labor unions and so were illegal. However, the Ministry of Labor recognized that nonpayment of salaries to workers was a violation of International Labor Organization regulations.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The right to organize and bargain collectively is codified in the Law on Trade Union Rights and Guarantees, the Law on Social Partnerships and Collective Contracts, and the Law on Labor Protection. Participating in collective bargaining at the company level are employees, members of the trade union, and management. Negotiations involving an industry sector include officials from the relevant ministry and members of the union's steering committee for that particular sector. As the economic situation worsens, it is becoming increasingly difficult for enterprises to engage in effective collective bargaining. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination or the use of sanctions to dissuade union membership and a worker may not be fired solely for his or her union activity. Any complaints of discrimination against a labor union or labor union activist are first considered by a local labor union committee and, if necessary, raised to the level of the Supreme Court and investigated by the Ministry of Justice. The law requires employers found guilty of firing an workers because of union activity to reinstate them. There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Article 35 of the Constitution prohibits forced labor, except in cases defined in law. No such laws have been passed since the adoption of the new Constitution. Neither the Law on Labor Protection nor the Law on Employment, both predating the 1994 Constitution, specifically prohibits forced or compulsory labor. The Soviet practice of compelling students to pick cotton was officially banned in 1989. However, due to the lack of fuel and mechanical harvesting equipment, in the fall students in the Khatlon and Leninabad regions were again sent to the fields to pick cotton, as they were in 1993 and 1994.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
According to labor laws, the minimum age for the employment of children is 16, the age at which children may also legally leave school. With the concurrence of the local trade union, employment may begin at the age of 15. Workers under the age of 18 by law may work no more than 6 hours a day and 36 hours per week. However, children as young as 7 years of age participate in agricultural work, which is classified as family assistance. Trade unions are responsible for reporting any violations in the employment of minors. Cases not resolved between the union and the employer may be brought before the Procurator General, who may investigate and charge the leader of the enterprise with violations of the Labor Code.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The President, on the advice of the Ministry of Labor and in consultation with trade unions, sets the minimum monthly wage. After introduction of the new national currency, the Tajik ruble, the minimum monthly wage in December was $.51 (144 Tajik rubles). This wage falls far short of providing a decent standard of living for a worker and family. The Government recognizes this and has accordingly retained and increased a system of subsidies for workers and their families at the minimum wage. With the new national currency, the Government started paying current--but not past-due--salaries, often only in partial amounts. The Government and the two trade union federations agreed in June to submit to the Majlisi Oli draft legislation abolishing limitations on maximum monthly salaries. The Government imposed the limit in January 1994 in response to the continuing economic crisis and shortage of banknotes. As factories and enterprises either remained closed or were shut down because of the declining economy, workers were laid off or put on compulsory vacation for periods up to several months. Some establishments, both governmental and private, compensated their employees in kind with food commodities or the output of that particular concern for which the employee worked. The employee could then sell or barter those products in local private markets. Citizens in rural areas intensified cultivation of food crops on their private or rented plots, while even urban residents started tending small vegetable gardens and raising livestock. The legal workweek for adults (over age 18) is 40 hours, with a weekly 48-hour rest period. Overtime payment is mandated by law, with the first 2 hours of overtime to be paid at one and one-half times the normal rate and the rest of the overtime hours at double time. The Government has established occupational health and safety standards, but these fall far below accepted international norms, and the Government does not actively enforce them in practice. The enforcement of work standards is the responsibility of the State Technical Supervision Committee under the Council of Ministers. It is virtually certain, given the continuing economic decline, that 1993 statistics, reporting that over one-fifth of the population worked in substandard conditions, greatly underreport the number working in substandard conditions. New statistics are not available. Workers can leave their jobs with 2 months' notice, but, given the bleak employment situation, few choose to do so. Under Article 13 of the Law on Labor Protection, workers can remove themselves from hazardous conditions without risking loss of employment.