Mary Lawlor, UN Criticises Tajikistan Dissolution of 700 NGOs

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Brussels (12/03 – 55.56)

Mary LawlorUN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said that the dissolution of human rights NGOs signals a deteriorating environment for civil society and human rights defence in Tajikistan. She reiterated that Tajikistan must reconsider its attitudes towards civil society and view human rights defenders as allies instead of enemies.

Earlier in November 2023, Tajikistan Minister of Justice announced that 700 NGOs in the country had been liquidated over an 18-month period.

UN Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor said, “Human rights defenders in Tajikistan working on so-called ‘sensitive’ issues have been reportedly subjected to threats and intimidation.”

“Human rights defenders working on so-called sensitive issues, including freedom from torture, the right to housing and compensation for requisitioned land, minority rights, freedom of belief and good governance, political rights, and particularly the right to free and fair elections have been reportedly subjected to threats and intimidation,” the Special Rapporteur said.

“Some of those NGOs had been in operation for over 20 years,” the UN expert continued. “This decision also affects those working on early intervention on disability issues, expanding access to education, supporting victims of domestic violence, protecting the environment and promoting public access to land.”

Some organisations were forced to close following unrest in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) in 2022. Official statistics show that after these events, the courts ordered many public organisations to shut down while several other organisations self-dissolved. It is reported that in GBAO, of 300 registered organisations in early 2022, only around 10% can continue operating.

Several NGOs decided to self-dissolve after their directors were repeatedly summoned to the Department of Justice or local executive authorities. They were then reportedly placed under pressure or coerced into shutting down their organisations ‘voluntarily.’

“Interfering with the activities of NGOs and forcing civil society organisations to cease activities will have a serious knock-on impact on a whole range of human rights in Tajikistan,” Lawlor said. “I call on the government to reverse these closures.”

Source : OHCHR