Today, the ICJ called on the authorities in Tajikistan to immediately release a prominent lawyer who is currently serving a sentence of imprisonment of 28 years on dubious charges.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) published a decision in Mr Yorov’s case on (date), finding that “the trials of Mr. Yorov were carried out in total disregard for the guarantees encapsulated in article 14 of the Covenant, being of such gravity as to give the deprivation of liberty of Mr Yorov an arbitrary character […].”
The Working Group recommended that the government remedy the situation of Yorov without delay and to this end “release Mr. Yorov immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law”.
The ICJ has previously expressed concern that Buzurgmehr Yorov’s conviction may constitute a reprisal for his defense work in high-profile political trials in connection with his representation of thirteen leaders of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT).
The ICJ earlier expressed concerns at the conviction of the lawyer to a 28 year sentence in prison, which is based on clearly improper charges related to the defense of his clients.
The ICJ welcomes the decision of the WGAD and calls on the Tajikistan authorities to fully implement the decision and to take all necessary measures to protect lawyer Yorov, his family and his lawyers against any threats to their security, or any intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference with their performance of their professional functions as lawyers.
In this regard, the ICJ notes recent protests by dozens of individuals who took part in a rally against Yorov in front of the representative offices of the United Nations and the European Union in Tajikistan, soon after the decision of the WGAD.
Posters of the demonstrators called on the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights to “take her hands off Tajikistan” and named organisations that had defended Mr Yorov or brought the petition on behalf of Yorov to the UN WGAD.
In this context, it is imperative that the Tajikistan government immediately publicly affirm the legitimacy of the decision of the WGAD and make clear its commitment to complying with it, the ICJ underlined.
Buzurgmekhr Yorov was arrested two years ago on 28 September 2015, on charges of “fraud” and “forgery of documents.” Later, he was accused of violating three more articles of the Criminal Code, including in relation to alleged “public calls for extremist activity.”
On 6 October 2016, The Dushanbe City Court sentenced Yorov to 23 years imprisonment in a strict regime prison.
In March 2017, Yorov was sentenced to an additional two years’ deprivation of liberty for “contempt of court and insulting the representative of power.” In August 2017, he received a further three years sentence on charges of “insulting the president.”
The ICJ has, on a number of occasions, expressed its serious concerns over the arrest and conviction of Buzurgmehr Yorov and other lawyers in Tajikistan.
On 24 May 2019, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a group of independent experts established in 1991 whose members are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, published an Opinion finding a number of violations of human rights of Yorov protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and recommended as a remedy his immediate release, payment of compensation or other reparation and conducting an investigation into the violation of Yorov’s rights.
The UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers require that the Governments ensure that lawyers “are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference ”. Under these Principles “where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.” The right to “offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms” is guaranteed by the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Article 9.3(c)).