Helsinki

Posted: July 29, 2012 in Tajikistan

Human Rights Developments

Following the government’s victory in the civil war against an alliance consisting of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan (DPT) and the Islamic Revival Party (IRP), Tajikistan became a human rights disaster area. From early December 1992 through February1993 the Tajikistan government, led by Emomali Rakhmonov, presided over an extraordinarily ruthless campaign of revenge against individuals believed to have supported or sympathized with the DPT-IRP coalition, which had governed Tajikistan for six months in 1992. In later months the government began arresting and convicting persons for their conduct during the DPT-IRP coalition period, continued a crackdown on the press, and banned the country’s four main opposition political organizations.

The war brought disaster to Tajikistan, killing an estimated between 20,000 and 50,000 people and wrecking the country’s cotton-dependent economy. More than 500,000 residents of Tajikistan fled the civil war, seeking refuge either in other parts of Tajikistan or in Afghanistan. In the spring and summer refugees and the displaced began to return to their homes and suffered harassment, beatings, and killings, partly due to inadequate protection measures on the part of local governments.

Pro-government paramilitary groups entered Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, on December 10, 1992. Led by the Popular Front of Tajikistan, the main pro-government army in the civil war, they conducted a campaign of summary executions and “disappearances” of people of Pamiri and Garmi (regions of Tajikistan that had supported the DPT-IRP coalition) origins, killing more than 300 and “disappearing” hundreds of others. According to eyewitnesses interviewed by the Moscow-based human rights group Memorial and Helsinki Watch, Popular Front soldiers and other pro-government forces stopped buses and trolley buses, stopped people on streets, and deployed forces at the Dushanbe airport in order to check individuals’ documents. In many instances, those whose passports indicated that they were born in Pamir or Garm were killed or simply taken away and not heard from again. Graves containing as many as twenty or thirty corpses were exhumed in several places in and around Dushanbe.

The Popular Front committed summary executions in villages on the outskirts of Dushanbe after DPT-IRP rebels had already retreated, and, in at least one instance, the village of Subulak, in places that had never been a base for rebels. In another village called Kyrgyzon in January, the Popular Front, apportioning to itself law enforcement responsibilities, arrested and executed a thirty-one-year-old man (of Garmi origins) whom a neighbor had accused of murder. The summary execution was preceded by a two-minute “people’s trial” in front of villagers.

The current government made no attempt to investigate the summary executions in Subulak and Kyrgyzon, and did not acknowledge that a campaign against Garmis and Pamiris took place from December 1992 through February 1992, attributing the large number of murders to the high rate of crime and banditry that characterized the government’s first few months in power.

It is not known how many people disappeared in 1993. The disappeared were principally individuals who supported the DPT-IRP coalition or who were of Pamiri or Garmi origins. Their captors were paramilitary bands and warlords, mainly from Kuliab, one of the regions of Tajikistan that supports the current government. In some cases law enforcement officials mayhave been involved in the disappearances. A highly-placed Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) official, in an informal conversation with Memorial, alleged that MVD staff members sometimes collaborated in kidnapping. In addition, he stated that the MVD was most likely aware of the general pattern of disappearances and the reported existence of so-called “informal prisons.” In the second half of 1993, disappearances became more professional and, in at least two cases, took place in the full view of local government or law enforcement officials.

Some of the disappeared were believed to have been brought to informal prisons, or buildings appropriated by warlords and used as detention centers for their captives. Helsinki Watch had good reason to believe that the Tajikistan government was aware of the existence of at least two informal prisons.

Instead of leading an effort to punish all parties guilty of crimes during and after the civil war, the government imprisoned during the year at least nineteen people who supported the DPT-IRP coalition. These included four television journalists, some of whom were beaten in detention, accused of “agitation and spreading propaganda for the violent overthrow of the government”; at least three members of the Islamic Renaissance Party, two of whom were charged with publicly calling for the overthrow of the government; one of the most well-known poets in Tajikistan, who was charged with inciting ethnic hatred with his poetry and was accused of having made a speech at the spring 1992 mass demonstrations that criticized members of parliament, and which the current government considers was a signal for the crowd to seize as hostages a group of parliamentarians; and the former dean of the law faculty of Dushanbe, a co-chairwoman of the DPT. In northern Tajikistan, which was left untouched by 1992’s civil unrest and civil war, six members of the DPT, IRP and the popular movement Rastokhez were arrested in January. Five of these were charged with possession of bullets and pistols, but of the three who had been convicted as of November, including the chairman of the Leninabad region DPT, fingerprint tests were never ordered on the arms found.

via Helsinki.

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