Republic of Tajikistan

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 6.2 million (2.8 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 6,000 (estimate)
Compulsory recruitment age: 18
Voluntary recruitment age: 18
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: acceded 5 August 2002
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 138

Forcible recruitment into the armed forces reportedly occurred, possibly including under-18s. A defence ministry military school admitted students from the ages of 13 or 14 for "military-patriotic" training.


In 2001, following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the USA, Tajikistan offered the USA and its allies the use of its airspace and military bases for military attacks in Afghanistan. Members of the opposition Islamic Rebirth Party of Tajikistan faced harassment and in some cases charges, alleged to have been politically motivated, of serious criminal offences. From 2001 to 2003 over 150 people were sentenced to death and 30 were confirmed to have been executed, in some cases despite representations by the UN Human Rights Committee. The scope of the death penalty was reduced in August 2003 by legislation which, among other things, abolished it for all women and for men below the age of 18. In June 2003 the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) expressed concern at the results of a referendum which, reportedly with the support of 93 per cent of voters, approved constitutional amendments including a proposal to allow the president to serve two seven-year terms.1


National recruitment legislation and practice

Conscription is provided for in the constitution which states that "Defence of the homeland, protection of the interests of the state, and strengthening the state's independence, security, and defence forces are the sacred duty of the citizen" (Article 43).2 The Law on Universal Military Responsibility and Military Service provides for the conscription of males between the ages of 18 and 27, for 24 months, or 18 months for those with higher education. Exemptions are allowed on specific grounds, including where the conscript is an only child or in poor health. Although an alternative service law has been drafted, it had not been submitted to parliament by early 2004.3 In early 2003 the Defence Minister ruled out the possibility of shortening the period of conscription for the "foreseeable future", given current security concerns.4 Men may be voluntarily recruited at the age of 18, women at 20. However, the armed forces remain largely conscripted. They are bolstered significantly by the provision of border guards by the Russian Federation.

Violations of recruitment law reportedly persisted.5 Recruitment officers apparently perpetuated the practice from the 1990s of forcing under-18s into the armed forces to meet conscript quotas. Many eligible conscripts sought higher paid seasonal work in the Russian Federation or bribed officials in order to avoid military service. The resulting shortage of conscripts led to young men being abducted on the streets and forcibly conscripted.6 In November 2002, nine journalists from the SM1 television station and the TRK-Asia network were arrested after a broadcast of a documentary about army squads that tracked down young people, used violence to conscript them and ignored requests for exemption. Subsequently three of the journalists were themselves forcibly conscripted and the head of the television station received death threats from the military.7 The Ministry of Defence later placed "black boxes" in all military units in which conscripts could bring complaints directly to the attention of the Ministry.8

Military training and military schools

One Ministry of Defence military school admitted students from the ages of about 13 or 14 for three years, primarily in physical and "military-patriotic" training for cadets, and also studies in social sciences and military theory. The governmental Organization for Defence Assistance ran "sports-military competitions" and provided courses in driving military vehicles and military mountain skills for under-18s. In ordinary schools, students could take a "primary military training" course in the final two years of secondary school that included training in first aid and the basics of civil defence.9


Tajikistan acceded to the Optional Protocol on 5 August 2002, affirming in its accompanying declaration that the voluntary recruitment of under-18s was prohibited.10

1 Amnesty International Reports 2002, 2003 and 2004,

2 Constitution, at UN Online Network in Public Administration and Finance (UNPAN),

3 Law on Universal Military Responsibility and Military Service, undated but probably of 1997, supplied by UN Tajikistan Office of Peace Building (UNTOP) in correspondence, 17 March 2004.

4 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), "National armies of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan changing with the times", 22 February 2003,

5 UNTOP, in correspondence, 17 March 2004.

6 International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Armed Conflict Database (subscribers only); RFE/RL, op. cit.

7 Reporters Without Borders, Three journalists drafted into army by force; editor gets death threat, 7 November 2002,

8 UNTOP, op. cit.

9 UNTOP, op. cit.

10 Declarations and reservations to the Optional Protocol,


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