Ukraine must not extradite Tajikistan Ex-PM
Oslo/Almaty: On 5 February 2013, the former Prime Minister of Tajikistan, Abdulmalik Abdullodzhonov, was arrested at Borispol International Airport in Kiev, Ukraine. Abdullodzhonov, who has been residing in the USA for the past 14 years, had arrived to Ukraine on private business and was detained due to his having been included on the Interpol wanted list by Tajik authorities. If extradited, Abdullodzhonov is at great risk of being subjected to ill-treatment and torture.
The arrest of Abdullodzhonov coincided with the Forum of Human Rights Organizations of Central Asia in Kiev. During this forum, leading human rights defenders from Central Asia as well as representatives of international human rights organizations such as the Norwegian and Netherlands Helsinki Committees, Human Rights Watch, International Partnership for Human Rights and Frontline Defenders discussed the prospects of promoting human rights in Central Asia during the 2013 Ukrainian Chairmanship of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Among the topics discussed were current challenges to the respect for human rights in Tajikistan.
Abdullodzhonov served as Prime Minister of Tajikistan in 1992-93, during the Tajik civil war. During the political turmoil of the 1994 presidential elections he ran against Emomali Rakhmon, the current president of Tajikistan. Having been on an international wanted list since 1997, Abdullodzhonov moved to the US in 1998 and has been residing there since. It is likely that domestic political disputes lie behind the inclusion of him on the Interpol wanted list. At the moment, Ukrainian authorities are considering a request of extradition of Abdullodzhonov to his home country. According to his lawyer, Abdullodzhonov has status of political refugee in USA, and is protected against return to Tajikistan by the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. This fact is yet to be confirmed.
Considering the current human rights situation in Tajikistan, the Forum of Human Rights Organizations of Central Asia encourages Ukrainian authorities to refrain from extraditing Abdullodzhonov to Tajikistan, where he would be of great risk of being subjected to ill-treatment and torture. Given the highly politicized nature of the case, no Tajik court is likely to grant Abdullodzhonov a fair trial. The charges against him include serious crimes that would involve a lengthy prison sentence under severe conditions.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee also urges Ukraine to make use of the Chairmanship period to raise pressing human rights issues in the Central Asian region. These include but are not limited to violations of practically all international human rights obligations by Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the ongoing crackdowns on mass media and political groups in Kazakhstan, freedom of expression and assembly in Tajikistan and the tense situation in the south of Kyrgyzstan in the wake of the tragic June 2010 events.
Extradition of Abdullodzhonov to Tajikistan would not be worthy of Ukraine’s respect for human rights principles and inconsistent with the desire to serve as a bridge between East and West in the period of its 2013 OSCE Chairmanship.