A group of seven international rights organizations have called on Dushanbe to immediately and unconditionally release lawyer Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov, who is serving 16 years in prison related to his human rights activities in Tajikistan.
“Manuchehr is a prominent human rights lawyer, a fighter against injustice and exceptional advocate for victims of human rights abuses — his conviction is shameful and every day that he spends behind bars reflects even more badly on the human rights record of Tajikistan,” Brigitte Dufour, director of the International Partnership for Human Rights, said as part of the joint statement issued on April 3.
Kholiqnazarov is the director of the Lawyers Association of Pamir, one of the few civil society organizations active in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan region.
After mass protests erupted in the region in November 2021 following the extrajudicial killing of Khorugh district resident Gulbiddin Ziyobekov, Kholiqnazarov joined the Commission 44 organization — in which members of law enforcement agencies and local civil society representatives joined to investigate the reasons behind the unrest.
But in May 2022, the Tajik authorities renewed their crackdown on protests in the region, leading to the arrest of Kholiqnazarov and a dozen other members of Commission 44.
In December 2002, Tajikistan’s Supreme Court found Kholiqnazarov guilty of participation in a criminal organization and of participating in the activities of a banned organization engaged in extremist activities.
Kholiqnazarov pleaded not guilty to the charges.
World Organization Against Torture Secretary-General Gerald Staberock said in the joint statement issued on April 3 that Kholiqnazarov was a peaceful promoter of human rights and the rule of law in the region.
“His detention is arbitrary and he must be released immediately and unconditionally,” Staberock said.
The joint statement was also signed by Human Rights Watch, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Frontline Defenders, the International Federation for Human Rights, and Freedom Now.