26.02.2021
Human Rights Without Frontiers
Muslims (victims)
Christian marginal groups (victims)

Jehovah’s Witness Shamil Khakimov (70) adopted as a prisoner of conscience by USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel

Human Rights Without Frontiers calls upon the Tajik authorities to release the two Jehovah’ Witnesses and the 15 Sunni Muslims that are behind bars because of their peaceful religious activities. See HRWF Database of Prisoners: https://hrwf.eu/prisoners-database/

On 24 February, USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel adopted 70-year-old Shamil Khakimov, who has been in prison in Tajikistan for nearly two years (link to news release). Shamil is is serving a 7.5-year-prison term for simply practicing his Christian beliefs as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A detailed history of Shamil’s case can be found in the 2019 OSCE HDIM report, here.

Jarrod Lopes, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, says:

“USCIRF has consistently condemned Tajikistan for its discriminatory assault on Jehovah’s Witnesses. Commissioner Turkel’s statement today, along with his announcement of adopting Shamil, is the latest by a number of international actors who have likewise denounced Tajikistan. We hope soon Tajikistani authorities will halt the persecution and honor its international obligation to provide true freedom of religion as a State party to the ICCPR. Jehovah’s Witnesses want nothing more than to peacefully worship in Tajikistan as they do in over 200 other lands.”

Tajikistan Ignores UN Human Rights Committee (CCPR) Decisions

On August 22, 2019, the CCPR released its Concluding Observations on Tajikistan (CCPR/C/TJK/CO/3), stating in part:

“The Committee remains concerned (see CCPR/C/TJK/CO/2, para. 20) that the interference by the State in religious affairs, worship and freedom of religion and the ensuing restrictions, as those set out below, are incompatible with the Covenant . . . (g) restrictions imposed on Christian religious minorities, including Jehovah’s Witnesses (art. 18).”—para. 43.

“The State party should guarantee the effective exercise of freedom of religion and belief and freedom to manifest a religion or belief in law and practice. It should revise all relevant laws and practices with a view to removing all restrictions that go beyond the narrowly construed restrictions permitted under article 18 of the Covenant.”—para. 44.

The government has not yet taken steps to implement the CCPR decisions.

Over 13 years ago, on October 11, 2007, Tajikistan’s Ministry of Culture cancelled the Witnesses’ registration and effectively banned their religious activity.

Among other things, Jehovah’s Witnesses are imprisoned for conscientious objection (CO) to military service. Rustamjon Norov is serving a 3.5-year prison sentence for CO. He requested alternative civilian service so he can continue to contribute to society, but ACS is not an option in Tajikistan.

Source: Communications Officer and Spokesman, Office of Public Information, World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses

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