Home » Rights Watchdogs Concerned Over Missing Tajik Opposition Leader
Asia Central Asia Featured Global News Human Rights News Tajikistan

Rights Watchdogs Concerned Over Missing Tajik Opposition Leader

Three international human rights organizations have expressed concern over the fate of Suhrob Zafar, the leader of the outlawed opposition Group 24 movement whose whereabouts have been unknown since early March.

Human Rights Watch, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and the International Partnership for Human Rights on May 3 called on Tajik authorities in a joint statement to “immediately confirm the detention and whereabouts of and release” Zafar, who was “forcibly disappeared” while in Turkey despite holding official UNHCR asylum seeker status there.

The statement cited unnamed sources as saying the Tajik State Committee for National Security is holding Zafar in its detention center in Dushanbe, “periodically torturing him, and [denying] him medical assistance.”

The Tajik government has not confirmed whether he is in state custody or if it knows of his whereabouts.

“There are devastating reports that Suhrob Zafar may already have lost his ability to walk as a result of torture, so prompt action could be a matter of life and death,” said Syinat Sultanalieva, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Tajik authorities should immediately verify Zafar’s detention status and whereabouts and urgently investigate allegations that he has been tortured.”

Authorities should also ensure and confirm that Zafar’s legal rights are respected, the rights groups said, including contact with his family, access to a lawyer of his own choosing, and necessary medical treatment.

Another member of the Group 24, Nasimjon Sharifov, went missing in late February while residing in Turkey.

Dozens of Tajik activists have been imprisoned for being members of the Group 24 movement in recent years.

Group 24 was labeled as terrorist and extremist and banned in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic in 2014. In March 2015, the movement’s founder, businessman Umarali Quvatov, was assassinated in Istanbul.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, who has run the Central Asian nation for almost 30 years, has been criticized by international human rights groups over his administration’s alleged disregard for independent media, religious freedoms, civil society, and political pluralism.

Source: RFERL