On 11 November 2020, the European Union (EU) and the Tajik Republic held the 12th round of their annual Human Rights Dialogue via video conference.
An open and constructive discussion covered the latest developments in a broad range of human-rights related issues, such as political participation, freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief, as well as the prevention and eradication of torture and ill-treatment, and women’s rights. The participants also discussed bilateral cooperation projects and cooperation in multilateral fora in particular within the UN system.
The discussion was framed by the unprecedented challenges that the coronavirus pandemic and the related restrictive and mitigating measures have placed on societies and governance systems, and their impact on human rights and fundamental freedoms. The EU appreciated the strong engagement of civil society in Tajikistan in addressing the coronavirus pandemic, and called on the Tajik authorities to strengthen their engagement with independent civil society actors and human rights defenders.
The EU welcomed the positive discussions taking place between Tajikistan, international Non-Governmental Organisastions and the EU on the penitentiary reform. The participants considered the first Prison Forum held in Dushanbe end of last year as an important step towards a comprehensive reform of the prison system in Tajikistan. Concerns were expressed, however, about the persistence of torture in detention facilities and the need to prosecute perpetrators and rehabilitate victims was stressed. The EU called on Tajikistan to implement United Nations (UN) decisions on individual cases of the Human Rights Committee and of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, in particular regarding the jailed lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov.
Notwithstanding some positive developments, the EU expressed concerns about the shrinking civic space in Tajikistan, in particular regarding freedom of expression, freedom of association. The EU called Tajikistan to guarantee an open environment and safety for independent journalists, while stopping the practice of blocking websites of independent news outlet.
Extensive attention was devoted to the protection of rights and the empowerment of women and girls, as well as increased risks of gender-based violence. The EU called on the authorities to take further steps to criminalise domestic violence. The upcoming EU-UN Global Spotlight Initiative will provide support to the Government of Tajikistan in eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.
The EU delegation was led by Mr Boris Iarochevitch, Head of the Central Asia Division in the European External Action Service. The Tajikistan delegation was led by Mr Abdujabbor Sattorzoda, Head of the Human Rights Department of the Executive Office of the President of Tajikistan. The next round of the EU-Tajikistan Human Rights Dialogue will be held in 2021.