United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Tajikistan, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4f18.html [accessed 29 November 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 was ruled in 1993 by a coalition of regional and clan groupings which won a clear-cut military victory in a civil war racking the country, particularly its southern regions, during 1992. The winning coalition was supported by Russian, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and Uzbek forces. The Supreme Soviet (parliament) elected Imomali Rahmanov, Kulyab regional executive chairman, as its Chairman and Head of State in November 1992. Much of Rahmonov's support came from the victorious People's Front forces which originated in Kulyab and Kurgan-Tube, the Uzbek-dominated Hissar region which aided in the battle of Dushanbe, and members of the traditional northern economic elite of Leninabad. The defeated opposition comprised a coalition of self-declared democratic and Islamic groups and Islamic fundamentalists, a plurality of whom originate from the Garm-Kartogin region of the country, and Pamiris, who were traditionally underrepresented in the ruling coalitions during Soviet and pre-Soviet rule. The new Government gradually extended its control over all major towns and most roads throughout the country except in the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) where, by agreement with the regional authorities, its security forces did not enter. In return, the regional authorities pledged to control their own territory and to preclude operations by opposition forces. Although the Government by and large respected the agreement, the GBAO officials were unable to prevent armed opposition elements and their foreign allies (Afghan mujahedin) from using their territory for antigovernment attacks. Opposition forces, based in Afghanistan and supported by mostly fundamentalist Afghan forces, posed a serious military challenge to the Government and to CIS (principally Russian) units by staging frequent raids across the border in southern Khatlon province and western GBAO. Although these raids and incursions did not threaten central government control outside the border areas, they caused casualties, blocked roads, and interfered with the movement of relief supplies and refugees. The Government worked to reconstitute the principal elements of the former security forces: the Ministry of Interior, the National Security Committee, and the new Ministry of Defense. It sought to incorporate elements of the progovernment People's Front militia into these security organs, with limited success. Many People's Front units remained outside of central government control. These units, as well as the Ministry of Interior forces, committed numerous human rights abuses. The National Security Committee's forces and those of the Ministry of Defense were also responsible for abuses, though less frequently. The national economy, centrally planned and highly dependent on cotton exports, continued to suffer from the effects of the civil war, the severing of traditional economic ties to other republics of the former Soviet Union, and a series of natural disasters. The Government was unable to stem its collapse. Human rights violations were widespread in 1993. The Rahmonov Government was unable to follow a consistent policy to eliminate regional abuses and bring about reconciliation and political reform. While some senior government officials personally intervened when advised of human rights abuses, others reportedly acquiesced in or were complicitous in violations. Among the most serious reported abuses were government security forces' beating and torturing of detainees; vigilante torture and killing of civilians of Pamiri or Garm origin; government actions to curb political rights and a free press; and opposition intimidation and killing of civilians.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Extrajudicial Killing
Complete data on the number of political or extrajudicial killings are not available, but international agencies recorded at least 80 murders or disappearances in the period between March and October 1993, and the number is certainly higher. There is credible evidence that the progovernment People's Front militias, which after the civil war were to a limited extent incorporated into special battalions of the Ministries of Defense and Interior and the National Security Committee, were responsible for many deaths and disappearances. No government or security official has been prosecuted for an extrajudicial killing. During the civil war and until the consolidation of the Government's control over the capital, Dushanbe, in February, hundreds of fighters and civilians on both sides of the conflict disappeared or were murdered. The death toll was estimated at over 20,000. Paramilitary forces loyal to the Government were responsible for a pogrom against Pamiri and Garm-origin males in Dushanbe from December 1992 to February 1993 which resulted in the death of scores of persons. In the south, the locus of the civil war, fully armed special battalion members, although technically subordinate to the Ministries of Interior and Defense or National Security Committee, dominated local civilian and security authorities. The Government made no real effort to disarm the former militia fighters. In at least one instance, regular army troops of the Regar battalion were involved in the murder in Kabodian of three returnees from Afghanistan. Field workers of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in southern Tajikistan reported 28 known cases of death or disappearance of returnees since May 1993. The rate of deaths and disappearances increased in the latter half of the year. Opposition fighters, still active in the mountains to the northeast of Dushanbe, along the Tajik-Afghan border, and in the Gorno-Badakhshan region, conducted cross-border raids, culminating in the deaths of several score Russian and Tajik border guards. On July 13, 200 Tajik opposition and Afghan mujahedin forces brutally murdered 26 Russian border guards and several Tajik civilians in a raid. In addition, several local officials in regions that were former strongholds of the opposition were assassinated, presumably for cooperating with the Government.
The disappearance of Pamiri and Garm-origin men from Dushanbe and, in southern Tajikistan, of returnees from Afghanistan continued throughout 1993. Disappearances which occurred before March were referred by the international community to the Ministry of Interior's Committee on Disappeared Individuals. The Committee does not make public the number of missing recorded on its list. After February, law and order were gradually established in Dushanbe; however, Pamiri and Garm-origin men continued to disappear at the rate of one or two a month from the capital. There has so far been no successful prosecution for the disappearance or death of a returnee, though several arrests were made and trials were pending at year's end.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Credible reports indicate that Ministry of Interior forces used torture, degrading treatment, and excessive force against suspected supporters of the former opposition-dominated government, despite repeated statements of senior government officials to the contrary. Eyewitnesses and victims reported credibly on beatings administered by Ministry of Interior officials on the grounds of the Ministry of Interior complex in Dushanbe, specifically in the basement of the old Ministry of Interior building. In some instances, collaboration is suspected between Ministry of Interior forces and local armed groups, whereby Ministry of Interior forces avoid direct involvement in the administration of beatings. In southern Tajikistan, local police officials conducted nighttime raids to search for weapons and ammunition. Typically, police took people into custody and beat them until they revealed the location of a hidden weapon. Former chairman of the Tajikistan State Committee on Television and Radio Mirbobo Mirakhimov (see Section 1.d.) accused the Government of mistreatment during his pretrial detention. The Government refused to permit Moscow-based Helsinki Watch representatives to view Mirakhimov's colleagues without their shirts on, raising suspicions that charges of physical mistreatment were well founded. Government forces, progovernment militias, and opposition forces used rape as a weapon. During the February-March battles between government and opposition forces in the lower and upper Garm Valley, including the village of Nowabad, there was credible evidence that both sides were guilty of rape. Female refugees who returned to the southern districts of Kabodian and Shaar Tuz were particularly vulnerable. Progovernment militias kidnaped and raped scores of returnees, and returnee women remained afraid to leave their collective farms or villages.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Criminal Code has not been significantly amended since independence, and abuses endemic to the Soviet legal system are still evident. The system allows for lengthy pretrial detention and provides few checks on the power of prosecutors and police to arrest individuals. In addition, the Government arbitrarily arrested political opponents and frequently held prisoners in incommunicado detention. The breakdown of public order during the civil war and continued immunity of armed militia groups to prosecution further eroded the integrity of the legal system. Legally, police may detain persons arbitrarily and without arrest warrants for a period of 72 hours, and the prosecutor'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 18 months. The first 3 months of detention is at the discretion of the local prosecutor, the second 3 months must be approved at the regional level, and the Prosecutor General must sanction the remaining period in detention. There is no requirement for judicial approval or for a preliminary judicial hearing on the charge or the detention. In criminal cases, detainees may be released and restricted to their place of residence pending trial. In southern Tajikistan, international observers reported that police did not adhere to the 3-day detention rule; instead, police arbitrarily detained persons, failed to notify families, and released detainees or brought charges against them only in those cases in which international workers or influential friends of the detained intervened. In theory, detainees have the right to counsel after 24 hours of detention, with counsel to be provided free to the indigent. In practice, access to legal counsel varies widely. Officials of the former opposition-dominated government were arrested on politically motivated charges of treason, with indictments for the theft of state property added. Tajik and Turkmenistan security forces arrested Mirbobo Mirakhimov, Chairman of the State Committee on Television and Radio, in Ashgabat on January 8, 1993, charging him with treason. Three other television officials Akhmadsho Kamilov, Khayradin Kasymov, and Khurshed Nazarov were seized in Kyrgyzstan on January 17 and charged with conspiring in the violent overthrow of the 1991-92 Nabiyev government by using the mass media to promote the interests of the opposition. All four continued to be held at year's end; no trial date has been set. In June a Helsinki Watch delegation attempted unsuccessfully to visit these four. It rejected the Government's restrictions on the distance at which the prisoners could be viewed and the Government's refusal to permit a visual examination of the defendants to check for obvious injuries. Another politically motivated arrest was that of well-known poet Bozor Sobir, charged with inciting interethnic hatred and provoking the seizure of members of Parliament in April 1992. Sobir, the author of a poem denouncing Russian imperialism, allegedly criticized the Nabiyev government at a series of April rallies. In December Sobir was convicted and given a 4-year suspended sentence. In September the Government formally denied requests by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for access to persons in pretrial detention, except on a case-by-case basis. The Criminal Code prohibits access to those in pretrial detention, which the exception of immediate family members, except by special permission of the presiding judge. In highly politicized cases, judges have denied regular access by family members to those in pretial detention. The issuance of arrest warrants for moderate members of the opposition remaining in Tajikistan prompted the flight to Moscow of deputy chairman of the Rastokhez Movement Abdukikir Kholiqzoda and deputy chairman of the Democrat Party Abdunabi Sattorov. The Procurator General, following international community interventions with Head of State Rahmanov, quashed these two warrants, as well as a third issued for the arrest of former Democrat Party stalwart Saghib Nazarov. The warrants culminated in the arrest of a fourth colleague, Democrat Party executive member Oniho Bobonazarova, who was released from prison and placed under house arrest following the personal intervention of Head of State Rahmonov.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The court system remains unmodified from the Soviet period. There are several tiers of courts: the city, district, regional, and republic levels, with a separate but parallel military tribunal. Higher courts serve as appellate courts for lower ones. Local, regional, and republic-level judges are, for the most part, poorly trained and lack an understanding of independent judicial function. At all levels of the court system, officials are under the strong influence of local political leaderships and armed paramilitary groups. According to the law, trials are public, except in certain cases involving national security or the protection of minors. The court appoints an attorney for those who do not have one. Defendants are permitted to choose their own attorneys but are not necessarily permitted to choose among court-appointed attorneys. Former opposition political leaders, including Mirbobo Mirakhimov (see Section 1.d.), charge they were denied access to an attorney. Officials dispute this, stating that the prisoners had rejected the court-appointed attorneys. Mirakhimov has since acquired counsel, although the courts sentenced to death opposition commander Mullah Ajik without the benefit of counsel after he refused the court-appointed female attorney. The procurator's office remains responsible for conducting all investigations of allegations of criminal conduct. In theory, the 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 given equal weight, regardless of ethnicity or gender. Ministry of Justice and procuracy officials contend that defendants benefit from the presumption of innocence despite the unmodified Soviet legal statute which presumes the guilt of someone who has been brought to trial. In practice, the judiciary is subject to interference from armed vigilantes and members of paramilitary groups whom the Government is not able to control. Officials candidly admit that many verdicts are decided "at the point of a Kalashnikov." In southern Tajikistan, three chiefs of police were murdered, and in the relatively stable region of Tursunzade one judge was killed, presumably for their refusal to bow to the demands of armed progovernment militias. In the GBAO, armed opposition elements regularly intimidate local authorities who lack the strength to defend themselves. Throughout Tajikistan, the fact and fear of armed intimidation affects the outcome of legal proceedings. Opposition members and international human rights monitors, including Helsinki Watch, charged the Government with abusing the judicial system. For example, while gross abuses by members of the progovernment militias have gone uninvestigated and unpunished, two opposition political party officials in the northern region of Leninabad were arrested and sentenced to 4 and 7 years, respectively, for the possession of bullets. Opposition supporters further charged that police planted the evidence implicating the arrestees. In January 1994, an appeals court overturned the guilty verdict of one defendant. Estimates of the number of political prisoners range from a high of 200 to a low of 15. However, many persons currently in self-imposed exile in the CIS are wanted by the Government on charges that are political in nature
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Criminal Code provides for the inviolability of the home and prohibits interference with correspondence. Police may enter and search a private home with the approval of the procurator. In some cases, police may enter and search without permission, but they must 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 with or without a warrant. The procurator's office ordered thousands of random nighttime raids on homes in Dushanbe, using as justification the continued instability within Tajikistan. The raids were ordered without prior evidence of wrongdoing. On many occasions, officers conducting the raids reportedly extorted money or goods from innocent people. Official sources stated that government monitoring of correspondence also increased. At the end of the war, members of the local population with ties to the victorious special battalions, special battalion members, and ethnic Kulyabis occupied thousands of homes belonging to displaced persons and refugees. The Government is working slowly to evict occupants and return homes to their rightful owners. Nevertheless, at the district level, local warlords have thwarted procurators' efforts and have even offered armed protection to unlawful inhabitants. International workers estimate that hundreds of homes remain illegally occupied in the south and in the capital.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts
During the final phase of the civil war, both the Government and opposition were responsible for extensive violations of human rights, including summary executions of captives, disregard for civilian and noncombatant status, hostage-taking, torture, rape, looting, and forced labor and conscription. The Government entered the capital in December 1992, but fighting between government and opposition forces continued until March 1993 when government forces ousted the opposition from the Garm Valley. In the battle to retake the Garm, government forces indiscriminately bombed and shelled city centers and villages, killing and injuring civilian noncombatants. For its part, the opposition brutally exploited the local civilian population. In the Garm village of Nowabad, opposition leader Redzuan and Afghan mujahedin forcibly conscripted young males and stripped food and medicines from a local mental institution, resulting in the death of 50 of its 300 patients. The March truce with GBAO authorities, whereby government forces were to remain outside the autonomous province in exchange for provincial government assurances that opposition forces would not be permitted to cross from Afghanistan or conduct operations in the province, broke down in August. Reacting to the opposition's buildup of Tajik opposition and mercenary fighters (including volunteers from Afghanistan and other states), the opposition's blockade of humanitarian convoys from the capital to the GBAO, and the continued military raids of opposition and Afghan mujahedin in the Darwaz valley, the Government launched a 2-week offensive, with Russian assistance, against opposition forces in the Darwaz. According to credible reports, government forces, angered that opposition forces would benefit from international assistance, also turned back at least one humanitarian aid convoy. In areas under its control, the Government moved quickly to permit international aid agencies, including the UNHCR, the ICRC, Doctors Without Borders, the Aga Khan Foundation, and the World Food Program, access to the displaced and refugee populations. Opposition forces closed the primary supply road to the GBAO for several months. Once that route had been opened, the Government resumed supply convoys into the province. Opposition forces in the province continued to fire on these relief convoys.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
In theory, a 1991 law protects freedom of speech and press, including the right to establish independent newspapers, magazines, and radio and television centers. In practice, freedom of expression is severely restricted. Journalists, broadcasters, and individual citizens who disagree with government policies cannot speak freely or critically. Government control was exerted over the media through: the dismissal of journalists and broadcasters even tangentially associated with banned political parties; the criminal prosecution of independent journals; self-censorship by editors fearful of armed elements loyal to the Government; government control of printing presses, the supply of newsprint, and broadcasting facilities; and government subsidies for virtually all publications. In 1993 the number of daily and weekly publications was dramatically reduced. Most of those still being published are government publications. While deteriorating economic conditions may have played a role in the closing of publications, the fact that most publications no longer circulating favored the opposition indicates that political motives were a major factor in the closings. Since the formation of the Rahmonov Government in December 1992, at least 30 journalists and broadcasters have fled Tajikistan due to well-grounded fears of political persecution or physical threats by armed members of militia forces. Since January at least 7 journalists disappeared and are presumed dead. None of the deaths can be linked directly to government forces, but the journalists' political orientation clearly suggests the involvement of government supporters. The Ministry of Interior has not successfully investigated any of these deaths. The local procurator's office initiated formal investigations but did not bring charges in any of the cases. The criminal investigation of the independent journals Charogi Ruz, Adolat, Najot, Oriyon, Bomdod, Bokhtar, and Oinai Sikandart followed the June decision of the Ministry of Press and Information to suspend their publishing permits. In addition, the Procurator General's office undertook a review of all newspapers and journals to assess culpability in the September 1992 overthrow of the previous government. Due to a well-founded belief that criminal charges would be brought against his paper, the certainty of his arrest, and threats against his life, Charogi Ruz editor Dodojon Atuollo decided to publish his journal from exile in Moscow. Faidmurodi Yoriyon, a journalist for the opposition-oriented publication Farhang, was arrested in January, and no information has been made available on his legal status. Journalists for publications believed to be sympathetic to the opposition who remain in Tajikistan have regularly been called in for interrogation at the procurator's office. Generally, Soviet-era restrictions on criticism of government figures apply: central newspapers may upbraid regional officials; and the mass media may criticize those government officials whom the Head of State, the Prime Minister, or their deputies criticize. When a major daily, Evening Dushanbe, attempted to print an article detailing the Procurator General's charges of corruption against Prime Minister Abdullajanov, however, armed senior supporters of the Prime Minister destroyed the newspaper's linotype and all copies of the article. Since that incident, armed men threatened the family of editor Javohir Kobilov during nighttime visits. The Procurator General agreed to investigate the case but forbade the newspaper to use the charges. There are no independent broadcast media in Tajikistan. The State Committee on Television and Radio oversees the Republic's television and radio channels and is subordinate to the Ministry of Press and Information. The Dushanbe city television network is subordinate to the city executive committee, and regional television services fall under the control of regional executive committees. Strict self-censorship is practiced, and no news or programs critical of the Government are broadcast. Current political divisions and fear of retribution by the Government's armed supporters limit academic expression. The Government dismantled the Academy of Science's Institute of Oriental Studies which was suspected of fomenting Islamic "fundamentalism." However, Institute employees were not prevented from finding employment with other Academy of Science institutes and departments. In October arrest warrants reportedly were issued for four leading opposition political party figures who had retained senior positions at Tajik State University despite strong pressure from the Attorney General and the university rector to resign. Two of the professors, deputy chairman of the Rastokhez movement Abdukokir Kholiqzoda and deputy chairman of the Democrat Party Abdunabi Sattorov, fled to Moscow. A third, Oinihol Bobonazarova, was later arrested but then released and placed under house arrest instead after the personal intervention of Rahmonov.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly. However, following imposition of a city curfew in January, only the city commandant, who was originally the Minister of Interior but is now a Ministry officer within the city executive committee, has the power to grant permission for public demonstrations. Freedom of association is circumscribed by a requirement that all organizations must register with the Ministry of Justice. In practice, strict control is exercised over organizations and activities of a political nature, while free assembly and association are permitted for nonpolitical associations, including trade unions. No permits were issued for antigovernment demonstrations in Dushanbe. A spontaneous antigovernment demonstration took place in the city of Kulyab following price increases in basic commodities, and similar smaller demonstrations took place in the mountainous districts of Leninabad. There was no government response to these demonstrations. Since the formation of the Government in December 1992, the only political organization to operate freely is the Communist Party. On June 21, the Supreme Court formally banned the political parties that supported the former regime, including the Democrat Party, the Islamic Revival Party (IRP), the Rastokhez National Movement, and the Lali Badakhshan Movement for the Autonomy of the Pamirs. Members of banned political parties are carefully watched and periodically called in for questioning.
c. Freedom of Religion
Church and state are separate in Tajikistan, and the Government places no restrictions on religious worship. According to the law on freedom of faith, the Committee on Religion under the Council of Ministers registers religious communities. Among those active in Tajikistan are the Islamic, Russian Orthodox, Jewish, German Roman Catholic, Seventh-Day Adventist, Baptist, and Baha'i. Islam is freely practiced by more than 90 percent of Tajikistan's residents. All religious communities are permitted to provide religious education, publish religious materials of a nonpolitical nature, and maintain international contacts and travel. Conversion is permitted and missionaries are free to operate. Religious faith confers no particular advantages in civil, political, economic, or military structures. However, Muslims identified as adherents of the IRP or more broadly supportive of political Islam have been purged from government and military employment. There are no official restrictions against any religious group. The Qaziate (the Islamic Center and seat of the chief Islamic judge and senior cleric in Tajikistan) was closed from October 1992 to February 1993, at which time it was elevated to the rank of Muftiate. The closure of the Qaziate was related to the involvement of its former leaders in the overthrow of the Nabiyev government and its overt support for the opposition during the civil war. Akbar Turajonzoda, the former "Qazi Kalon" (chief judge), was a leader of the opposition. His position was abolished, and he was replaced as the senior Islamic figure in Tajikistan by the new mufti. The largest religious school (madrasah), reopened in the fall of 1993, and other such schools operate around the country. However, several schools accused of open support of the IRP in the civil war were closed. Qaziate and IRP newspapers were banned, and their editors are in exile. Mullahs openly sympathetic to the IRP either fled the country following the civil war, assumed a very low profile, or were arrested by the Government. The Government announced the trial and death sentence of mullah Ajik for his alleged torture and murder of civilians and combatants during the civil war. It permitted one mullah, who openly supported the opposition but did not serve as a commander, to return from Afghanistan with his extended family.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Government has stipulated two restrictions on travel within Tajikistan. Tajiks and foreigners alike are prohibited from travel within a 25-kilometer zone along the Republic's borders with China and Afghanistan. In practice, international aid workers and diplomats have traveled freely in these regions without the Government's prior authorization. On October 1, the Government announced that all residents of Dushanbe and any travelers planning to stay longer than 3 days in the capital would have to register with central authorities and receive a permit. The move serves to prevent the migration of refugees and internally displaced persons to the capital from their homes in areas disrupted by civil war. Opposition supporters accused the Government of attempting to discriminate selectively in the issuance of Dushanbe residence permits against suspected opponents of the Government. With the exception of residence in Dushanbe, 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. Tajik nationals who wish to travel abroad must obtain an exit visa. There is no evidence these are withheld for political reasons. Tajikistan has no law on emigration. For the time being, persons who wish to migrate within the former Soviet Union must simply alert the Ministry of Internal Affairs to their departure. Persons wishing to migrate beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union must receive the approval of the relevant country's embassy prior to the issuance of an international passport. Persons settled abroad who do not intend to return are required to inform the Tajikistan interests section of the nearest Russian embassy or consulate. Persons who have emigrated to countries within the former Soviet Union may return freely to Tajikistan. Those who wish to return to Tajikistan after residing elsewhere must submit their request to the Tajikistan interests section. The Government adjudicates each request on a case-by-case basis. Reports indicate that persons, other than those who fled Tajikistan for political reasons at the end of the civil war, are freely permitted to return. Some 80 percent of Tajikistan's 15,000-strong Jewish community has emigrated to Israel through a travel program coordinated between the Governments of Israel and Tajikistan. Several hundred Jews who were disappointed with living conditions and the cultural climate in Israel have returned to Tajikistan, primarily to the Leninabad region. Tajik citizenship is not known to have been revoked for political reasons. Approximately 90,000 Pamiri and Garm-origin nationals fled to Afghanistan during the fall and winter of 1992, fearing persecution by victorious progovernment militia forces. Repatriation of the refugees commenced in the late spring, following government amnesty decrees absolving all but the opposition's political leadership from responsibility for acts committed during the war. Approximately 40,000 refugees remain in Afghanistan. Repatriation proceeded slowly due to continued incidents of harassment, murder, and discrimination against those returning to the southern Khatlon district and to the capital. In addition, armed opposition elements in Afghanistan sought to prevent refugees from returning, even threatening death to those wishing to return. Approximately 30,000 internally displaced Pamiris and Garmis remain in the Gorno-Badakhshan region. Many of these are fearful of retribution by vigilante groups and paramilitary forces. In the southern region of Khatlon, particularly in the districts of Kabodian and Shaar Tuz, confrontations erupted between the local population and the displaced people, resulting in widespread harassment, beatings, and tens of deaths during the March-April period. As a result of conflict and instability, as many as 90,000 Russian-speaking citizens left Tajikistan in 1993, and tens of thousands of ethnic Tajiks moved to the northern region of Leninabad. In September the Government permitted the UNHCR to issue refugee documents for Afghan nationals residing in Tajikistan. The Government does not force refugees to return to countries where they fear persecution. However, in March it unexpectedly forced the return of approximately 50,000 internally displaced persons from Dushanbe to their home regions in the south. Progovernment paramilitary groups, including the special battalions, and groups of local men who objected to this decision for ethnic or economic reasons resisted the Government's efforts to return these displaced persons to their home areas. In addition to harassment, beatings, and rape, several returnees were abducted and later found murdered. The paramilitary groups are believed responsible for most of the abductions.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Citizens do not have the right to change their government peacefully. Opposition political parties were banned, and opposition political leaders were arrested and jailed or driven into exile (see Section 1.d.). No parliamentary elections have been held since independence, and only progovernment supporters ran in the elections held in June 1993 to fill the seats of parliamentarians who had been killed or were in exile, although all but one of the seats was contested. The Government, installed in December 1992 when the Parliament voted to eliminate the presidential system, is composed principally of Kulyab, Leninabad, and Hissar regional political interests but has representation from all regions. Abdul Malik Abdullajanov, who became Prime Minister in the Iskandarov regime in the fall of 1992, retained his position, as did several officials who served in both the Nabiyev and Iskandarov administrations. Under the Rahmonov Government, the Cabinet of Ministers and Presidium of the Supreme Soviet quickly polarized into opposing bodies representing Leninabad and Kulyab regional interests, resulting in a paralysis of the central Government. In December Prime Minister Abdullajanov was forced to resign; however, his replacement by fellow Leninabad native Deputy Prime Minister Abdujalil Samadov ensures that the rivalry between the two branches of government will continue. The Parliament was last elected in February 1990 under Soviet election laws and prior to the emergence of opposition political parties. It reflects the Communist-era, old guard power structure to a significant degree. The Parliament met only twice after the December 1992 election of the Rahmonov Government, in June and December 1993. At the June session, senior government officials criticized the Nabiyev and Iskandarov regimes' economic reform efforts and the work of certain ministries. Former opposition leader Sohibnazarov, in turn, criticized senior government leaders and was then denounced by other deputies. Opposition deputies still resident in Tajikistan were in attendance at the Parliament session, including former acting president Iskandarov, and the Government promised to ensure their security. However, deputy S. Shoyev, a resident of Garm, was abducted along with his brother from Dushanbe at the conclusion of the session. Their bodies have not been found, but they are presumed dead (see Section 1.b.). In June the Supreme Court banned four opposition parties and movements (see Section 2.b.) on the grounds that they had formed armed units and conspired to overthrow the Nabiyev government. The political parties were not represented by lawyers, and only one opposition political member was permitted to testify. The banning of the parties appears to have been motivated by a desire to supress and harass political dissent. There are no legal barriers to female participation in the electoral process, although the elimination of Soviet-era quotas has resulted in proportionate declines in women's representation.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Fear of armed, vigilante elements suppressed nascent human rights organizations. Local citizens who served as de facto human rights monitors in the past, including the former director of the Women and Children's Hospital Sofia Hakimova, received anonymous threats. The only local organizations that are able to monitor human rights in Tajikistan are ethnic-based groups which focus on freedom of emigration of minority populations. These organizations enjoyed good working relations with the Rahmonov and previous governments. The Rahmonov Government discussed human rights and humanitarian issues with representatives of international organizations, including the United Nations Mission of Observers to Tajikistan (UNMOT), the ICRC, and the UNHCR, all of which have offices in Dushanbe. In addition, the Government held discussions with Helsinki Watch and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. In May senior government officials participated in an UNMOT-sponsored human rights seminar which attracted more than 100 participants. In June a full-page attack on Amnesty International (AI) by the Ministry of Interior was published in the Tajik and Russian- language dailies. The Government was harshly critical of AI's report on Tajikistan, charging that the organization was guilty of biased reporting for not indicting the record of the opposition government in 1992. The Ministry of Interior accused AI of conspiring with opposition forces to overthrow the Nabiyev government and of collaborating with opposition figures in exile.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
One legacy of the Soviet era is the widespread participation of women in the work force and in institutes of higher education. 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. In rural areas, women marry young, rarely receive university education, and are less likely due to the large family size to work outside the home. Conservative Muslim traditions and ignorance in some villages result in an unknown number of cases of wife beating going uninvestigated; however, women's groups maintain that police officials and government organs responsibly prosecute those complaints that are filed. No official information is available on the prevalence of spousal abuse, or prosecution of offenders, nor do nongovernmental organizations exist which monitor this problem.
The Government has an extensive, if crumbling, security net for children. Women are provided with 3 years' maternity leave and monthly subsidies for each child. Health care is free. In the aftermath of the civil war, children returning from Afghanistan suffered from malnutrition and experienced high mortality rates in settlement camps. The Government has facilitated the work of international relief organizations in areas affected by the civil war, and public health officials reaffirm that maternal and children's health remains a top government priority. According to official figures, approximately 28 percent of the budget is devoted to social welfare expenditures.
In southern Tajikistan, Kulyabi-origin Tajiks dominate local administrative and security offices, having displaced local Tajiks and ethnic Uzbeks. Pervasive discrimination against refugees returning from Afghanistan is perpetrated by some local officials, collective farm directors, and the local warlords technically subordinate to the Ministries of Defense and Interior and the Committee on National Security. The overwhelming majority have not been given their jobs back, despite assurances from the Government of both employment and back pay. Local government officials in the south have informed international aid representatives that political tensions preclude the return of the refugees to white-collar or factory jobs. In practice, most refugees remain without a source of income and subsist on international aid deliveries. The Government's intervention has been insufficient and inadequate to the task of reintegrating the returning refugees. Government pledges to provide reconstruction supplies and ensure physical security have not been fulfilled. Returnees seeking to use the legal system to evict squatters from their homes are shunted from office to office and lack the material and financial resources to overcome bureaucratic inertia. Local prosecutors willing to investigate militia members suspected of the harassment or murder of refugees are not provided with qualified staff, resources, or political support. The murders of seven returnees in the Kabodian and Shaar Tuz districts during the June-August period were investigated only after international attention was brought to bear, and even so no suspects have been arrested. The language law promoting Tajik, the civil war, and the unresolved border conflict with Afghanistan resulted in the continued outflow of the Russian-speaking population which now numbers approximately 250,000, down from 600,000 at the beginning of 1992. In contrast to the attitude of the prior opposition regime, however, government officials have encouraged the Russian-speaking community to remain. The school system has retained its trilingual (Tajik, Russian, Uzbek) structure. The Rahmonov Government, like governments which preceded it, has discriminated against Afghan nationals by not affording even minimal police protection to Afghans who are the victims of criminal elements. In August the security guard at the Afghan Consulate was murdered while on duty. Despite frequent official protests, security organs did not seriously investigate crimes against the Afghan community. In one case, police ruled as suicide the case of an Afghan found hanging in his apartment, despite the fact his arms were bound together.
People with Disabilities
The Law on Social Protection of Invalids adopted on January 1, 1992, stipulates the rights of the disabled to employment and adequate medical care. However, employers are not required to provide physical access to the disabled. High unemployment and the absence of even basic technology to assist the disabled results, in practice, in widespread discrimination.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
According to the Law on Social Organization and the Law on Trade Union Rights and Guarantees, all citizens are guaranteed the right of association. Included in this guarantee is 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. Although there in no longer any requirement for a single labor union structure, the Communist-era Confederation of Trade Unions remains the dominant labor organization. It has, however, shed its subordination to the Communist Party. Virtually all nonagricultural workers are members. The Confederation consists of 20 professional trade unions and claims 1,689,000 members. The separate Labor Union of Private Enterprise Workers has registered 3,000 small and medium enterprises, totaling 40,000 members, some of whom have dual membership in the Confederation. Both labor unions are formally consulted by the Cabinet of Ministers 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 strike can legally be called. 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. Both labor unions publicly disavowed the utility of strikes in a period of deepening economic crisis and high unemployment and espoused compromise between management and workers. According to the Confederation, there were no strikes in 1993.
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 trade union's steering committee for that particular sector. Antiunion discrimination or the use of sanctions to dissuade union membership is prohibited. Any complaints of discrimination against a labor union or labor union activist are immediately raised to the level of the Supreme Court and investigated by the Ministry of Justice. Any employer found guilty of firing an employee based on his union activity is compelled to reinstate the employee. There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
There is no explicit injunction in the Law on Labor Protection or the Law on Employment prohibiting forced or compulsory labor. However, these laws provide that a person has the right to find work of his own choosing. Labor inspectors within the local trade union structure enforce this principle. The Soviet practice of compelling students to harvest cotton was outlawed in 1989; in January-March 1993, however, students and other state workers were used to pick cotton not harvested during the civil war. The UNHCR received credible reports that local officials and collective farm directors were responsible for instituting forced labor of returnees and other presumed supporters of the former government in the district of Bokhtar.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
According to labor laws, the minimum age for the employment of children is 16. With the concurrence of the local trade union, employment may begin at the age of 15. While official data are lacking, children from the age of 7 routinely perform agricultural work, which is classified as "family assistance." Trade unions report any violation in the hiring of minors for work in enterprises.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
In consultation with trade union representatives, the Government raised the minimum wage three times in 1993. The minimum wage, however, does not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. By December 1993, the minimum wage was valued at only $1.25 (8,000 rubles) per month at the official exchange rate; on the black market, the dollar value would be about $0.82. The legal workweek is 40 hours. The Government's established occupational health and safety standards fall below international standards and are not actively enforced. Work standards are enforced by the state technical supervision committee under the Cabinet of Ministers. According to official data, more than a fifth of industrial workers worked in substandard conditions.