Tajikistan: US Issues Tepid Condemnation of IRPT Trial
Condemnations have been rolling in over the past few days for the trial in Tajikistan that culminated last week with lengthy jail sentences for numerous opposition politicians.
With palpable reluctance, the US Embassy joined in with the chorus on June 9 with a remarkably feeble statement on the proceedings at the widely condemned trial of the Islamic Renaissance Party’s leadership. The statement reiterated that the embassy had earlier urged Tajikistan to conduct a fair and transparent trial, but signally avoided observing whether the court had in fact lived up to those standards. Such criticism as was formulated was tepid in the extreme.
“The U.S. Embassy has also raised with the government its concerns that the public was not allowed to attend and observe the proceedings,” the statement said.
The Supreme Court in Dushanbe on June 2 sentenced Mahmadali Hayit and Saidumar Khusaini, deputy leaders of the now-banned IRPT, to life in prison on flimsy charges of involvement in a purported attempted coup in September. Another 12 leading party figures were handed sentences of between two and 28 years in jail at the end of the closed-doors trial.
Not only were the public, journalists and diplomats prevented from attending the trial, but independent media have been informally warned against reporting any statements from the IRPT in future on pain of having their licenses revoked.
The US Embassy statement was decidedly understated about what the IRPT trial has put at stake.
“These and other recent actions silence opposition voices and discourage free and open participation in Tajikistan’s democratic development,” the statement said. “The long-term security, stability, and prosperity that Tajikistan desires can only come through a strong commitment to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.”
What is obvious from the statement is that the United States will most definitely not be following recommendation from groups like Human Rights Watch, which have urged Washington and others to “respond to the sentences with targeted punitive measures against Tajik officials.
“If allowed to stand, these draconian sentences will not only strike a blow to Tajikistan’s peaceful opposition but to every Tajik citizen,” said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “These sentences show that anyone in Tajikistan any time can be labeled a criminal and punished simply for disagreeing with the government.”
Rights activists have also been more candid in describing the trial of the IRPT leaders as politically motivated.
“The only purpose of this trial was to dress up political repression in the trappings of legal proceedings,” Nadejda Atayeva, president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, was cited as saying in HRW’s statement. “The defendants’ crimes appear to be fabricated, yet their fate was pre-determined. This is a travesty of justice.”
Not that it should need stating, but the point of an open and fair trial is to ensure the general public has an opportunity to determine to the fullest extent possible the accuracy of official accounts about events occurring inside the country. As it is, no independent information is readily available about what precisely occurred in September, when the government claims a disaffected deputy defense minister suddenly decided to mount a coup d’etat.
The US State Department, however, suffers from no particular problems in accepting Tajik government accounts at face value and happily reproduces official versions on the alleged coup in its reports, such as this one on global terrorism.