On June 12, 2017, Freedom Now’s Executive Director Maran Turner participated in the 35th UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. She delivered remarks to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers on the imprisonment of lawyers in Tajikistan. A video of her comments and a transcript is below.
Thank you. I’d like to thank the Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers for his remarks. As an organization that provides legal services to individual prisoners of conscience, my organization, Freedom Now is keenly aware of the consequences of an authoritarian government’s interference and misuse of its judicial system.
A deeply concerning example of a member state’s actions in silencing independent lawyers is the case of Shukrat Kudratov. One of Tajikistan’s most prominent lawyers, Mr. Kudratov has represented numerous victims of the government’s crackdown on civil society, including opposition activists, victims of police torture, and individuals accused of religious extremism.
The Tajik government arrested Mr. Kudratov in July 2014 and sentenced him to 14 years in prison, later reduced to three years and eight months, for his work. At the time, Mr. Kudratov was representing Zayd Saidov, a businessman and opposition political figure who was facing politically motivated charges. Mr. Kudratov’s arrest came the day after he sent a letter to NGOs, the news media, and various diplomatic missions highlighting grave procedural violations in Mr. Saidov’s prosecution. The letter detailed the ongoing attacks on Mr. Kudratov and other members of Mr. Saidov’s legal team, including threats of imprisonment and death.
Sadly, Mr. Kudratov’s case is not an isolated incident. The Tajik government has systematically targeted independent lawyers with imprisonment and intimidation since 2014. A few more examples include,
– The two sons of lawyer Iskhok Tabarov, who are currently in prison serving terms up to 13.5 years.
– Buzurgmehr Yorov, a lawyer representing members of the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan is serving 26 years in prison, recently extended because he criticized the government in court.
– Nuriddin Makhkamov, Mr. Yorov’s colleague, is also serving 23 years.
As a former judge with the Inter-American Court, we know you understand how detrimental these actions are to the legal profession and to ensuring that Tajik citizens have proper legal representation. We appreciate your predecessor’s actions on these cases, but we urge you to take additional steps to ensure that Tajikistan ends its harassment, intimidation, and imprisonment of lawyers.