U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Tajikistan

    The Government of Supreme Soviet Chairman and Head of State Emomili Rahmonov, composed of a coalition dominated by Tajiks from the Kulyab region who were victorious in the 1992 civil war, continued in power. Fraud and intimidation marred the presidential election on November 6; the Government declared Rahmonov the winner with 58 percent of the vote. Also on November 6, a new Constitution, a significant improvement over the Soviet-era document, was overwhelmingly approved in a popular referendum. The opposition coalition of nationalists and Islamic groups defeated in the 1992 civil war boycotted the election and continued to wage a bloody insurgency along the Tajikistan- Afghanistan border and in the southeastern district of Tavildara. Under United Nations auspices, the Government and the opposition engaged in several rounds of talks which led to a prisoner exchange, a provisional cease-fire, and establishment of joint commissions to monitor refugee issues and the cease-fire and a United Nations Mission of Observers to Tajikistan (UNMOT). The cease-fire began on October 20 and remained in effect through the end of the year, although several alleged violations were reported by both sides. Internal security is the responsibility of the Ministries of the Interior, Security, and Defense. The Russian Army's 201st Motorized Rifle Division, part of a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping force established in 1993, remained in the country. This unit and the Border Guards, composed of forces from Tajikistan and several CIS members but dominated by Russian border forces, were responsible for guarding Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan. Significant regions of the country, however, remained effectively outside the Government's control in 1994. Opposition military units, supported by an increasing number of Afghan and Arab Islamic mercenaries, used parts of the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region for training and as a base for launching their September offensive against the Tavildara district. The September fighting was the fiercest since the formal end of the civil war in 1992 and produced a large number of refugees. The economy, which is centrally planned and highly dependent on cotton, virtually collapsed, with up to 70 percent of industry standing idle by year's end. Despite a series of loans from Russia, the Government fell months 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 for nonpayment of bills. Shortages of wheat and flour led to social unrest in Dushanbe, the capital, and other cities in October and November. Both Government and government-related forces committed widespread human rights abuses, including scores of brutal political assassinations and the torture and beating of detainees and prisoners. Progovernment forces allegedly killed several mullahs with ties to the Islamic Revival Party (IRP). There were credible reports that progovernment militia forces, notably the loosely controlled "Faisali Brigade," terrorized noncombatants in Tavildara district, beating, raping, and killing civilians and looting their homes. The Government prosecuted no one for political or extrajudicial killings in 1994, and the Procurator General's office closed all cases in which alleged murderers were from the same region as the ruling Kulyabis. Opposition forces reportedly murdered several Russian army officers and attacked buses carrying dependents of Russian military personnel. Both sides executed prisoners. The Government severely restricts freedom of speech and press freedom and completely controls the electronic media. No genuine opposition media appeared during the year. Three new political parties were allowed to register in 1994; four opposition parties affiliated with the armed opposition remained suspended. The Government allowed Human Rights Watch/Helsinki and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) to open offices in Dushanbe.


Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Extrajudicial Killing

There were a substantial number of extrajudicial killings, but fewer than in 1993. Newspaper reports and international agencies put the number at between 80 and 100. The primary culprits are the paramilitary groups which were not disarmed or disbanded after the war. While the Government has attempted to incorporate these groups into the recently created Ministry of Defense, many groups operated well outside government control as informal militias and private armies. According to credible reports, these groups operated with the tacit approval of some high-ranking officials within the Government, including the Minister of the Interior and officials at the Ministries of Defense and Security. No government or security official, the majority of whom are ethnic Kulyabis, was prosecuted for an extrajudicial killing. If the alleged perpetrator of a crime was of Kulyabi origin, the procurator's office dropped all charges and closed the cases. The Faisali Brigade, a militia group consolidated within the Ministry of Defense after the war, killed civilians in the Tavildara district during the height of fighting between government and opposition forces. The death toll eventually reached several score. The Government withdrew the Brigade in September (see Section 1.g.). Conflict between political rivals and factions within the ruling coalition is believed responsible for numerous killings of prominent businessmen and political figures. In February a deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers, M. Nazershoev, a Pamiri, was murdered near his home ostensibly for supporting negotiations with the opposition. He was to have been a member of the delegation to the first round of talks. In April unknown assailants, possibly representing hardline government elements, riddled the home of the Foreign Minister with automatic weapons fire in an unsuccessful attempt on his life. In several instances, paramilitary leaders escaped even the nominal control of the Government and became warlords, maintaining private armies and battling over territory and economic riches. At the urging of the international community, the Government successfully disarmed one warlord in Hissar who had been terrorizing local residents, stealing, beating, and killing those who protested. In the two districts of Gorno Badakhshan controlled by the opposition, warlords also operated independently. One warlord hijacked convoys of humanitarian aid provided by international nongovernmental organizations, killing several drivers. Others fought among themselves or with Russian border guards in defiance of orders from the opposition's external political leadership. In late May and early June, a series of assassinations of ethnic Russian military officers in Dushanbe left six officers dead. Many within the Government claim that opposition forces, using terror tactics, were responsible for at least some deaths. In June opposition elements fired a rocket launcher at a bus carrying the wives and children of Russian border guards, killing one pedestrian. In October they launched a rocket- propelled grenade into a Russian military bus, killing one officer and wounding several others. Also in October, Deputy Prime Minister Munavvarsho Nazriyev was killed in his home district of Garm when his car ran over a land mine, probably placed by an opposition group. In September, according to some credible reports, members of the Faisali Brigade tortured and killed Mullah Eshon Said Ashraf Shah Abdullohadov in Kurgan Tyube prison. Mullah Ashraf, in prison for allegedly supporting those seeking to overthrow the Government, was on the opposition's list of 52 prisoners whom the Government had agreed to release under the September 17 prisoner exchange agreement. The Procurator General's office said that the sexagenarian Mullah Ashraf had died in prison on September 21 as a result of a heart attack. However, his body was never given to the family for burial, nor was an impartial autopsy allowed. Another prisoner on the opposition list scheduled for exchange, Mullah Ajik Aliev, was executed in prison, allegedly on September 15. There is strong suspicion, however, that he was killed after the September 17 signing of the cease-fire and prisoner exchange agreement. Aliev, former IRP chairman in the Khatlon district, had been sentenced to death on August 25, 1993, for terrorism, treason, and conspiring to overthrow the Government. Progovernment forces are credibly believed to be responsible for the murders in February of Mullah Imkomuddin and Mullah Abdul Rahim. Both were active in the IRP, and Imkomuddin, who had returned to Dushanbe after hiding in Komsomolobad, died of wounds sustained during a severe beating.

b. Disappearance

The disappearance of Garmi- and Pamiri-origin men continued, although at a lower rate than in 1993. The number of returned refugees who disappeared greatly decreased. In many cases, those thought to have disappeared had in fact been conscripted as part of a government policy actively pursued in August and September in response to increased fighting both on the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border and in the Tavildara district. Young men were rounded up on the streets and in night raids on their homes. Several Dushanbe newspapers estimated that at least 60 men and women had disappeared, aside from any conscripted, in the first half of 1994. The Government has been unwilling to investigate claims of disappearances seriously, asserting that the Procurator General's office does not have sufficient resources for the purpose. In December 1993, unknown assailants abducted Tagobek Shukurov, a sitting judge and Supreme Soviet member from Kolkhozobod, who had been a member of the People's Front during the war and had supported the return of Tajik refugees from Afghanistan. He remained missing throughout the year and is now presumed dead. The 1993 disappearance of Dr. Ayniddin Sadykov, a noted surgeon and chairman of the Dushanbe branch of the Democratic Party, remained unsolved throughout 1994.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Security officials, particularly those in the Ministry of the 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. Human rights groups reported that, in some cases, mistreatment increased if victims made formal allegations of abuse. Female detainees were frequently subject to rape or the threat of rape. For example, one woman, detained for the alleged distribution of antigovernment leaflets, was beaten while in custody and eventually forced to confess on threat of being raped in front of her young daughter. Credible sources reported that the members of the Faisali Brigade raped women in villages under its control during the Tavildara campaign, in one instance beating, raping, and then burning one woman to death. Prison conditions in Tajikistan declined markedly, primarily due to a shortage of government resources. Food, never plentiful, became even more scarce, leading to an increase in malnutrition and disease among prisoners. Visitors to one prison found officials well-intentioned but hopelessly ill-equipped to care for the prisoners. A followup visit to the same prison found conditions improved, due to an amnesty which relieved overcrowding and medicines donated by international relief groups.

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. 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 and is widely 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. 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. Allegations abounded of illegal government detention, well beyond the maximum allowed by law. In one well-known example, security forces arrested four journalists in January 1993-- Mirbobo Mirakhimov, Khurshed Nazarov, Khayriddin Kasymov, and Akhmadsho Komilov--and held them for 18 months before their trial began in May 1994. The trial was never completed as the four were among those released in the November 12 prisoner exchange; the charges against them were presumably dropped. 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. For example, the ongoing case of Oynihol Bobonazarova, placed under house arrest in 1993 pending resolution of the continuing investigation of alleged antigovernment activities during 1992, has not yet been concluded. The Government routinely uses arbitrary detention against those expressing views contrary to official policy. Security forces routinely rounded up members of opposition political parties for questioning. In most cases, they do not obtain arrest warrants and do not bring charges. In August security forces, allegedly looking for opposition sympathizers, cordoned off streets and conducted house-to-house searches in the Yuzhni and Avoul districts of Dushanbe, detaining eight young men (see also Section 1.f.). One remains in government custody, charged with possession of two hand grenades allegedly found during a warrantless search; six were released; and the last, Dashtov Ismanbek, died in detention. Security forces alleged that he died while trying to escape by jumping out of a third-story window. Those released claimed they were mistreated and beaten during their detention. In August security forces detained two journalists, Makhsoud Huseinov and Muhammad Rahim Saidar, for allegedly distributing the pro-opposition newspaper Charoghi Ruz. Huseinov and Saidar were informed that distribution of Charoghi Ruz was illegal, although the Government had never officially banned it. While in detention, Huseinov was reportedly beaten. Neither man was ever charged with a crime, and both were released after several days (see Section 2.a.). Opposition sources maintain that security forces detained hundreds of persons unlawfully without charge. As Tajikistan law precludes visits to persons in pretrial detention, it is virtually impossible for any independent organization to estimate the number of persons detained. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has not been allowed access to all prisoners falling within its mandate according to its standard criteria since the authorities claimed, on legal grounds, that they could not guarantee access to all nonconvicted prisoners. Nevertheless, the ICRC was able, in a specific context, to register and hold private talks with 23 detainees held by the Government and 27 detainees held by the opposition who were about to be liberated simultaneously in the framework of an agreement achieved under the auspices of the United Nations. The Government proclaimed two amnesties which generally had a limited scope and did not affect those detained for political crimes. Article 19 of the new 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. Forced exile is not known to be used.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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. Local, regional, and republic-level judges are, for the most part, poorly trained and lack an understanding of independent judicial function. Judicial officials at all levels of the court system are under constant heavy influence from both the political leadership and, in many instances, armed paramilitary groups. The new Constitution establishes additional courts, including a Constitutional Court, and states that judges are independent and subordinate only to the Constitution and the law; it prohibits interference in their activities. Provisions of the new Constitution concerning the judicial system had not yet been implemented at the end of 1994. 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 procurator'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. The pressure exerted on the judicial system by armed paramilitary groups and vigilantes who operate outside of government control often leads to the dismissal of charges and the dropping of cases. A judge in Kurgan Tyube, Pamiri by origin, was forced to flee with his family for attempting to try the case of an armed band accused of beatings, murder, and robbery. The Procurator General's order closed the case. The Deputy Procurator General closed another case when it turned out that the defendant, a member of a group accused of robbery and the murders of 18 people, had fought for the Government during the civil war. While crimes allegedly committed by progovernment groups go uninvestigated or unprosecuted, even minor infractions by those whom the Government views as in opposition are vigorously prosecuted. Estimates of the number of political prisoners vary widely. The armed opposition submitted a list of 29 political prisoners at the Tehran round of the U.N.-sponsored inter-Tajik peace talks in June. It later expanded its list to 52 at a September session of talks in which both sides agreed to an exchange of prisoners for prisoners of war (POW's). In accord with a later agreement reached on November 1, the Government exchanged 27 political prisoners for 27 POW's captured by the armed opposition. According to an international human rights organization, scores of political prisoners remain in government custody.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

Articles 22 and 23 of the new Constitution and the Criminal Code 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. In September the penalties for the violation of the privacy of correspondence were increased to several years in prison. Also in September, the Supreme Soviet raised the maximum sentence for invasion of privacy of the home from between 2 and 5 years to between 5 and 8 years in prison. Numerous examples of arbitrary illegal search and seizure by government forces included the August raid by Interior Ministry forces against a predominantly Garmi and Pamiri neighborhood in the Yuzhni district of Dushanbe. Security forces presented no warrants as they rounded up young men, apparently at random, and took them away.

g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts

The lower level of conflict in Tajikistan during 1994 provided a commensurate lowering of the level of allegations of excessive force. However, the August-September campaign in Tavildara saw many excesses committed by both sides in the abuse of civilian populations and the confiscation of humanitarian aid. Neither government forces nor the opposition have complete control over all elements ostensibly loyal to them. Government forces, most notably the Faisali Brigade, swept the countryside in Vanch and upper Garm, according to one witness, "like an army of occupation," looting, confiscating crops, and beating and killing inhabitants allegedly sympathetic to the opposition forces then active in the area. On the other hand, government forces (other than the Faisali Brigade) who operated further to the west maintained good discipline, leaving the homes and property of evacuees largely untouched. Casualties among civilians were lower in 1994 as the Government made efforts to evacuate civilians in areas of its operations. Hostilities in the Garm/Tavildara districts closed the only road through the area several times, blocking convoys of humanitarian aid and the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. Forces loyal to the opposition continued indiscriminate raids on convoys of humanitarian aid destined for refugees and internally displaced persons in Gorno Badakhshan. A notorious opposition leader named Jumah raided convoys of food and medicine belonging to the Aga Khan Foundation, World Food Program, Medicins sans Frontieres, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in September and October.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Despite Article 30 of the new 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 cannot speak freely or critically. The Government exercises complete control over the media both overtly through legislation and less obviously through the dismissal of journalists and broadcasters for their political or ethical convictions and the closing of independent journals. The Government also controls the printing presses and the supply of newsprint and broadcasting facilities, and subsidizes virtually all publications and productions. Editors fearful of reprisals by armed elements loyal to the Government exercise careful self-censorship. Journalists remained prime targets for violence by both the Government and opposition. Progovernment forces are believed to be responsible for the death of Haydarsho Khushvakt, the strongly progovernment editor at the newspaper Jumhuriyat. Although strongly progovernment himself, Khushvakt had written, but not yet published, a series of articles on the political-criminal mafia in Dushanbe which upset other progovernment elements. Opposition forces were probably responsible for the murder in August of Davlatali Rakhmonov, director of programming at the State Television and Radio Committee and a strongly partisan Kulyabi. In November the editor in chief of the Uzbek-language weekly Haq Suz was murdered at the entrance to his apartment building, probably in connection with an internal Uzbek community dispute. In yet another instance, a grenade was thrown into the home of the editor in chief of the Uzbek-language Communist Party paper, wounding several members of his family. The Government informed the Committee for the Protection of Journalists in September that investigations had been opened into all of the deaths of journalists during 1992-94. The Ministry of Security detained two journalists, Makhsoud Huseinov of Sadoi Mardum and Muhammad Rahim Saidar, accusing them of distributing the pro-opposition newspaper Charoghi Ruz in August. It also questioned several other alleged distributors in connection with their activities relating to Charoghi Ruz, which the Government has never officially banned. Huseinov and Saidar, against whom formal charges were never brought, claimed that they were beaten while in custody in an effort to extract information from them. In September the regional executive committee in the northern city of Leninabad closed the independent newspaper Ittihod for allegedly printing several articles critical of the Government. The Government did not issue a formal ban but simply cut off all supplies of newsprint. Many journalists who displeased the Government were fired. Lack of pay forced those who could to find work elsewhere. The economic situation allowed the Government to hold the newspapers hostage. The Government used the press freely as a vehicle to propagandize on its own behalf and discredit its opponents. For example, a two-page article lambasting former Prime Minister Abdulmalik Abdullajanov for alleged corruption was printed at the behest of anti-Leninabad elements within the Government. In direct contradiction to the 1991 law, the Supreme Soviet passed a decree in February suspending the activity of all independent electronic media until it adopted a new law on the media. The ban was ostensibly due to the unregulated amounts of violence and pornography being shown on independent television, but the effect was to muzzle the independent media during a time of political change in the country. All but 2 of the 10 to 15 independent television stations, most of which are sponsored either by large enterprises or local executive committees, adhered to the ban and remained off the air for most of 1994. This precluded virtually any independent television coverage of the inter-Tajik negotiations, the military situation, or the election campaign. Academic expression is limited to a certain extent by fear of violent reprisals, but much more so by the complete reliance of scientific institutes upon government funding. Three professors from Tajik State University remain either in hiding or under arrest, although one, Oynihol Bobonazarova, former dean of the law faculty, has been allowed to teach classes.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Article 29 of the new Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly. However, the Government suspended that right by the imposition of a state of emergency in all districts of Tajikistan except for Leninabad province. Thus, all public demonstrations and gatherings were banned until the state of emergency lapsed in August 1994. Freedom of association is further circumscribed by the requirement, in the law on nongovernmental associations, that all organizations must first register with the Ministry of Justice. This process is often slowed by the cumbersome necessity 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. 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. Once registered, an organization must apply for a permit from the local executive committee in order legally to organize any public assembly or demonstration. No permits were issued in 1994. In the spring, two work actions, not sanctioned by either the trade union or the local executive committee, occurred to protest the Government's failure to pay salaries and poor work conditions. The Government's response to these actions was for the most part conciliatory, and the workers soon returned to their jobs. The four political parties suspended in 1993--the IRP, the Rastokhez National Movement, the Lali Badakhshan Movement for the Autonomy of the Pamirs, and the Democratic Party--remained suspended. Senior government officials stated that new political parties, including ones with the same names as those which were suspended, could be formed provided their charters do not conflict with the Constitution and laws of Tajikistan. Opposition members were not inclined to form new political parties, lest this be interpreted as an admission of guilt or wrongdoing by their suspended parties. Three new political parties were registered in 1994, one of which is associated with defeated presidential candidate Abdullajanov. According to the law, a political party must have at least 500 members to register.

c. Freedom of Religion

Church and state are separate in Tajikistan, and neither the law nor the Government place restrictions on religious worship. However, according to the law on freedom of faith, the Committee on Religions 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 Government has stipulated that Tajikistan citizens and foreigners alike are prohibited from traveling within a 25-kilometer zone along the Republic's borders with both 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 longer than 3 days no longer need to receive a permit, although they must still register with central authorities. Due to the state of emergency which was in place until August, all citizens were obliged to carry their identification cards at all times. There are no legal restrictions on changing residence or workplace. Current regulations require registration at the local Interior Ministry office upon arrival and departure. Tajikistan nationals 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 migrate within the former Soviet Union notify the Ministry of the 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 their international passport. Persons who settle abroad are required to inform the 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 interests section of the nearest Russian embassy or consulate. The Government adjudicates requests on a case-by-case basis. There is no indication that persons, other than those who fled Tajikistan for political reasons after the civil war, are not freely permitted to return. A refugee law passed in June guarantees a person granted refugee status the right to work and move freely throughout the country. Following implementation of the law, the Government created a central department for refugees, under the Ministry of Labor, which worked actively with the UNHCR. One unresolved issue pertains to the right of returnees who married in Afghanistan to bring their spouses with them to Tajikistan. Credible reports claimed that the Government maintained an unofficial policy of denying residence permits to Afghan spouses of returnees, thereby allowing the Government to deny any official status to these persons or their children. Due to better cooperation with the Government and an increased level of security, the UNHCR increased the rate of return among Tajik refugees in Afghanistan in 1994, leaving only approximately 22,000 refugees there and another estimated 16,000 internally displaced persons in Gorno Badakhshan. Representatives of the armed opposition in Afghanistan continued their efforts to dissuade Tajiks from returning, using threats and disinformation in the refugee camps. One of the significant impediments to refugee repatriation remained the occupation of returnees' homes by those loyal to the victorious special battalions, special battalion members, and ethnic Kulyabis. The Government is working slowly to evict occupiers. Several factors limited progress on this issue, including lack of will among local officials, fear of revenge by those who protest, and lack of power among officials to act against often armed or well-connected occupiers. There is no legal basis for forcible repatriation, nor is there any evidence to suggest that it was practiced in 1994.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

The Government severely limits the right of citizens to change their government peacefully and freely. The Government is dominated by a coalition composed of Kulyabi regional political interests. The four main opposition parties remained suspended, and the majority of their leaders and party activists remained either jailed or in exile abroad, although a few Democratic Party leaders have returned to Tajikistan. Two candidates were nominated in the presidential election scheduled for September: parliamentary Chairman Emomili Rahmonov and former Prime Minister Abdulmalik Abdullajanov. Both waged strong campaigns throughout Tajikistan. Most observers viewed the speed with which the Government called for elections in July as a transparent ploy to exclude the opposition from nominating candidates. Under a combination of Russian and Uzbek pressure, widely supported by the international community, the Government postponed the election from September 25 to November 6 ostensibly to allow greater time both for the Government to organize fairer procedures and for the opposition to nominate candidates. The opposition, however, refused to take part in any elections, claiming that free and fair elections were impossible under the Rahmonov Government. Although the Government invited international observers to monitor the polls and lifted the state of emergency, people remained fearful of free expression. The ban on the independent electronic media remained in force prior to and during the election. The Government controlled all aspects of the planning for the election and openly favored the incumbent. Voter registration lists did not fully take into account the massive dislocation caused by the civil war. Refugees outside Tajikistan were unable or afraid to register, thereby effectively excluding a large number of persons who might have opposed the government candidate at the polls. The election was marked by open intimidation by government security forces who, in some locations, threatened to kill anyone voting for Abdullajanov. The stuffing of ballot boxes and the substitution of entire boxes was reported at a number of polling stations. Vote-count rigging was also strongly suspected. No parliamentary elections have been held since independence. The Government has scheduled elections for February 1995 when the term of the present Parliament expires. The Supreme Soviet adopted a new parliamentary election law in December, incorporating some suggestions by the CSCE. While the new law was somewhat better than the presidential election law, many outside observers believe the law still allows undue government influence in the electoral process. 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 eight female deputies in the Supreme Soviet, a female deputy prime minister, and seven women serving in positions with the rank of minister or 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 ranged from poor to mixed. Fear of persecution by government or extragovernmental elements has all but precluded efforts by Tajikistan citizens to form their own human rights organizations. Nonetheless, one indigenous group has begun to work its way through the labyrinthine process of government registration. One official organization, formed at the end of 1993 by the head of the Writer's Union, works with the Government's blessing and serves primarily as a rubber stamp for government actions. The Government worked closely with the UNHCR on behalf of refugees and internally displaced persons and with the UNMOT and the U.N. Secretary General's special representative in the course of the inter-Tajik talks. The UNHCR reported that, while there had been no convictions of individuals accused of crimes against refugees, the Government's responsiveness was greater than in 1993. Those cases which the UNHCR brought to the attention of local authorities were investigated, albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm (see Section 5). In February the CSCE opened an office in Dushanbe, and in April a permanent representative of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki arrived. These organizations and the ICRC reported a mixed level of cooperation from the Government. The ICRC has not yet obtained access to all prisoners but has found the military responsive to its program of education on the tenets of the Geneva Convention. The CSCE believed that the Government ignored many of its suggestions for the new Constitution and the electoral law. Although it obtained access to the Justice and Interior Ministries and the procurator's office, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki reported that access did not always lead to government responsiveness.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status


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. Conservative Muslim traditions, especially in rural areas, resulted in an unknown number of cases of wife beating going uninvestigated. There is no evidence that police officials and government organs do not responsibly prosecute those complaints that are filed. No official data are available on the prevalence of spousal abuse, nor are there nongovernmental organizations that monitor this problem. The threat of rape is widespread, and rape or the threat of rape is sometimes used as a means of coercion of women detainees. Women rarely go out alone and almost never at night. In the countryside, particularly in Khatlon, women seldom leave the security of their cooperative farm to venture out unaccompanied.


The extensive government social security network for child welfare continued to deteriorate. Women are provided 3 years of maternity leave and monthly subsidies for each child. 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.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

After the civil war, over 90,000 people of primarily Garmi and Pamiri origin fled to Afghanistan to avoid reprisals by progovernment forces. The repatriation of Tajiks continued during 1994, and the Government encouraged their return. 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 returnees was adequate, and the UNHCR, with which the Government cooperated, accelerated the rate of repatriation. In southern Tajikistan and in Dushanbe, Kulyabi-origin Tajiks continued to displace other ethnic groups in local government positions and, most notably, in the security forces. Local procurators who attempt to investigate militia members suspected of the harassment or murder of refugees do not have sufficient qualified staff, resources, or political support. In many cases, fear of reprisals and threats result in the withdrawal of information and allegations. The UNHCR reported, however, that local officials actively investigated a number of cases which the UNHCR brought to their attention and made several arrests. 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. In practice, Russian is still widely used in government, although it is not an official language. Uzbek speakers represent approximately 26 percent of the population, and Russian speakers an estimated 2 percent. The nonofficial status of the Russian language contributed to the steady exodus of Russian speakers from Tajikistan. Those remaining see little future for themselves. 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. Russian-language schools claimed that they were routinely shortchanged in the apportionment of government funds. During May, June, and July, the Government initiated a campaign to disarm the local militias operating outside its control in southern Tajikistan. Kulyabi security forces, who were conducting the campaign, engaged in numerous beatings and illegal searches aimed mainly at the Uzbek minority. Human rights groups protested, charging that the security forces were employing inhumane tactics in searching for weapons and that in reality Kulyabi forces were using the campaign to disarm their ethnic rivals, the Uzbeks. Another disarmament campaign was launched in December after the presidential election, but it did not target Uzbeks in particular and relied on voluntary surrendering of weapons. The Rahmonov Government, like governments before it, discriminated against Afghan nationals by not giving Afghans who are the victims of criminal elements even minimal police protection. Although the Government signed the 1951 Convention on Refugees and passed a national law on refugees in 1994, international groups, in particular the UNHCR, charged with the protection of Afghan refugees in Tajikistan, lodged frequent protests with the Government over its treatment of Afghan refugees. The UNHCR registered some 600 Afghans as refugees in Tajikistan during 1994. 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.).

People with Disabilities

The Law on Social Protection of Invalids adopted in 1992 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 or the financial means to implement the technology available to assist the disabled results, in practice, in high unemployment and widespread discrimination. There is no law on accessibility for the disabled.

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 Confederation 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 Confederation consists of 20 professional trade unions and currently claims 1,500,000 members--virtually all nonagricultural workers. The separate Trade Union of Private Enterprise Workers has registered 3,241 small and medium-sized enterprises, totaling 60,000 members, some of whom have dual membership in the Confederation. 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. The state of emergency, in place in all regions of Tajikistan except Leninabad until August, restricted the right of workers to strike. While there were no official, union-sanctioned strikes, several wildcat strikes occurred. A combination of government capitulation and intimidation quickly settled two walkouts in April. Newspaper workers and journalists and, separately, the teachers in one secondary school refused to enter their workplaces to protest the lack of materials and salary payments. The Government met quickly with the newspaper workers, reaching a compromise in which the workers were back at their jobs the next day. Several teachers reported that Interior Ministry officials had ordered them back to work under threat of reprisal, although the Ministry also made conciliatory efforts with the teachers, who soon returned to work. Since the expiration of the state of emergency, teachers again walked off the job in September, this time in much larger numbers. Teachers in the Frunze district of Dushanbe refused to continue classes in protest over salaries that had not been paid in more than 6 months. The teachers formed a strike committee independent of the union, and the Government negotiated with it about a return to work. Also in September, some local residents in the southern town of Nizhni Pyanj refused to pick cotton until the local bakery provided them with bread. None of the strikes have had the sanction of the labor unions and were, hence, illegal. Despite the unsanctioned nature of the September strike, the union intervened with the Government on behalf of the teachers to prevent any from being fired. 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, nor may a worker 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 compels an employer found guilty of firing an employee based on union activity to reinstate the employee. There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Neither the Law on Labor Protection nor the Law on Employment 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 were again sent to the fields to pick cotton, as they were in 1993. In parts of Khatlon province, press gangs randomly dragooned people on the streets and sent them to the cotton fields. There were also credible reports that young men of families who had returned to Khatlon were forced to work on the private farm plots of ethnic Kulyabis.

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 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, which in 1994 was approximately $3.20 (8,000 rubles) at the rate of exchange in late 1994. This wage falls far short of providing a decent standard of living for a worker and family. In January, in response to the continuing economic crisis and the shortage of banknotes, the Government introduced a maximum monthly salary of $25.60 which could be paid in cash. The remainder of all workers' salaries are paid on account, meaning a credit that the worker could then theoretically use to purchase goods at any state-run shop. Tajikistan's economy virtually collapsed in 1994, with 60 to 70 percent of its industry standing idle by the end of the year. As factories and enterprises shut down, workers were laid off or put on compulsory vacation for weeks and months on end. 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 those products in local private markets. 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. While new statistics were not available, it is virtually certain, given the continuing economic decline, that 1993 statistics, which reported that over one-fifth of the population worked in substandard conditions, greatly underreport the number working in substandard conditions in 1994. Workers can leave their jobs with 2 months' notice but, given the bleak employment situation, few choose to do so. Corrected 1/31/95

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