As the eighth anniversary of the unjust detention of Tajikistan human rights lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov approaches, global civil society alliance CIVICUS and the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) call on the country’s authorities to immediately release him and unconditionally drop all charges. Buzurgmehr has sat in prison since 28 September 2015 and faces decades more behind bars following unjust convictions on false charges.
“The arbitrary detention of Buzurgmehr has nothing to do with any criminal offence but is clearly a reprisal for his defence of members of Tajikistan’s political opposition,” said IPHR Director Brigitte Dufour. “UN principles stipulate that defence lawyers should not be identified with their clients’ causes. It is time for the international community to take notice and call on Tajikistan to set him free immediately and drop all charges against him.”
Prior to his 2015 arrest, Buzurgmehr represented members of the since-banned IRPT opposition party. In 2016, authorities sentenced Buzurgmehr to 28 years after a spurious conviction on various baseless accusations including insulting government representatives, disrespecting the court and offending the President of Tajikistan. They later reduced that sentence, but in July this year, sentenced him to ten more years for bogus charges of fraud following another trial that failed to meet international standards.
“Eight years behind bars are eight years too many, and the many more years Buzurgmehr faces in jail are unconscionable,” said David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS. “His convictions are travesties of justice that should be reversed immediately.”
Buzurgmehr, who turned 52 in July, has been intimidated, ill-treated and denied access to legal representatives in prison. In 2019, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention demanded his release and declared his detention arbitrary after finding his trial contradicted international law. CIVICUS and IPHR include Buzurgmehr in the Stand As My Witness campaign, which advocates for the release of jailed activists and human rights defenders worldwide.
Buzurgmehr’s imprisonment is part of a pattern of repression in Tajikistan. Authorities have violently curtailed peaceful protests, forcefully disappeared political opposition members, shut down websites of media outlets and targeted human rights defenders, lawyers, bloggers and journalists. CIVICUS Monitor, which assesses civic space conditions worldwide, rates Tajikistan as closed, its worst rating.
“Tajikistan continues to restrict human rights and target anyone with views contrary to those of the state with utmost impunity,” said Kode. “This blatant disregard for the rule of law and the abuse of lawyers doing their job requires the urgent attention of the international community.”