The European Union and the Republic of Tajikistan held the 11th Human Rights Dialogue in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. This meeting provides a platform for an open and frank exchange of views on the developments in Tajikistan and in the EU on the broad range of human-rights related areas, such as non-discrimination, freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief, as well as torture prevention. The participants also discussed bilateral cooperation projects and cooperation in multilateral fora.
There have been some positive developments in Tajikistan since the last dialogue in October 2018, such as progress in the area of prevention of torture and ill treatment in detention. Amendments to the Criminal Code have increased the punishment for the use of torture, replacing the previously applicable fine with a real jail term ranging from ten to fifteen years. It is important that the Tajik government ensures an effective implementation of these legal provisions thorough and timely investigation of torture cases, followed by adequate compensation for victims of torture.
The EU welcomed that the First Prison Forum, at initiative of the Tajik Government and under the Memorandum on Cooperation with the Penal Reform International (PRI) will be held on 20 November 2019, as a platform for discussion about penitentiary reform in Tajikistan. Through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, the EU provides significant financial support to this Forum and PRI, as well as other areas such as the fight against torture and the freedom of the media.
The recent accreditation of 7 journalists of the Radio Ozodi is a positive development and the EU stressed the importance of the authorities issuing all pending accreditations to enable the independent media to operate freely in Tajikistan.
The Tajik Government should facilitate the access to information for all journalists, and ensure free access to the Internet, news websites and social media for all citizens, both as a right and as a cornerstone of economic development.
Notwithstanding some positive developments, there is a shrinking space for human rights in Tajikistan, whereby political opponents are imprisoned, and members of their families and their lawyers harassed. The EU also highlighted the important role of human rights defenders as vital pillars of any democracy and expressed support to their work in Tajikistan.
The parties discussed cooperation with civil society organisations and the EU emphasised that civil society should be accorded a greater involvement in the law-making process. In this context, the EU stressed the need for the Tajik Government to consult with civil society on the draft law on non-commercial organisations, which could fundamentally affect their work.
Positive steps have been taken recently to advance gender equality in Tajikistan. Further efforts in this area to address key challenges should be pursued, specifically the criminalisation of domestic violence through the introduction of a separate criminal offence to the Criminal Code. The EU offered technical support to that effect. The EU granted €7 million to help fight violence against women in Tajikistan. Concrete actions will take place within the joint EU-UN Spotlight Initiative.
The EU delegation was led by Boris Iarochevitch, Head of the Central Asia Division of the European External Action Service. The Tajikistan delegation was headed by Abdujabbor Sattorzoda, Head of Human Rights Guarantees Department of the Executive Office of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan.