28 May 2019
Mr. Donald Tusk
President of the European Council
Rue de la Loi 175
Dear Mr. Tusk,
In advance of your upcoming trip to Tajikistan, we request you express concern to President Emomali
Rahmon about the politically motivated imprisonment of opposition political leaders and the
deteriorating prison conditions that put the lives of these leaders in imminent danger.
Since 2014, the Tajik government has overseen a widespread crackdown on peaceful political
opposition. Among those most targeted are members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan
(IRPT), the country’s leading opposition party. The government arrested IRPT’s leadership in
September 2015 after accusing them of participating in a failed coup. A dozen IRPT members are
serving sentences ranging from 14 years to life in prison.
The plight of the IRPT has become significantly more alarming after imprisoned members were attacked
and killed at the maximum security Kirpichniy Prison on May 19. According to the Ministry of Justice,
three prison guards and 29 prisoners were killed in what was officially described as a riot. Reportedly,
the riot began when members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) killed three guards and then
specifically sought out other prisoners for execution. Among the victims were three IRPT members –
Sattor Karimov, Saeed Qiyomiddin Ghozi, and Jomahmad Boev. Several other IRPT members were
injured during the riot. Zayd Saidov, an opposition politician unaffiliated with the IRPT, was also
targeted by ISIS members, but was protected from harm by fellow prisoners. According to sources, both
Mr. Karimov and Mr. Saidov were targeted because they had previously engaged in theological debates
with ISIS members.
While it is reported that ISIS members were the perpetrators of this violence, there remain concerns
about the extent to which the government could have prevented the attack. A former prisoner at
Kirpichniy stated that prison guards encouraged division of religious groups within the facility and
exacerbated tensions. Regardless of whether divisions were promoted, it is clear ISIS members targeted
The European Union has made significant investments in Tajikistan. Between 2014 and 2020 it will
provide €251 million in development aid for projects related to education, health, and rural
development. As Tajikistan’s third largest trade partner, economic support of the European Union is
crucial. This relationship will deepen if Tajikistan is added to the Generalized Scheme of Preferences
Plus (GSP+). In considering whether to grant GSP+ status to Tajikistan, the European Union is in the
unique position of ensuring that Dushanbe commits to, and implements, basic human rights standards.
Dushanbe must understand that the European Union will not grant GSP+ status to Tajikistan unless and
until it addresses the human rights violations inflicted upon those prisoners unjustifiably behind bars.
We are aware that the European Union is closely monitoring the situation and has raised a number of
human rights concerns with the Tajik government. However, the Tajik government continues to
imprison IRPT leaders who find themselves the targets of deadly attacks.
We urge you to raise the issue of deteriorating prison conditions in your meeting with President Rahmon
and request the Tajik government immediately release all IRPT members from detention or at the very
least transfer them to home detention where their safety can be guaranteed. You should also seek
commitments that Tajikistan uphold its international obligations to respect freedom of association,
assembly, and expression.
Your visit to Tajikistan is an opportunity to convey the European Union’s concern at the highest level
about the imminent dangers the IRPT members face in detention. We are confident your leadership and
commitment to human rights will motivate the government to take positive steps in improving the