Ukraine rejects extradiction to Tajikistan
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee was relieved to learn of the decision by Ukrainian authorities to respect international human rights obligations and to reject an extradition request for the former Prime Minister of Tajikistan to his home country.
Abdumalik Abullozhonov was detained at Borispol International Airport in Kiev on 5 February 2013, upon arriving to the Ukrainian capital on personal business. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee was among a number of international human rights organizations to immediately call for a halt to the extradition procedure to Tajikistan. Mr. Abdullozhonov was finally released on 4 April 2013.
Abdullodzhonov, who has been residing in the USA for the past 14 years, was orginally detained due to his having been included on the Interpol wanted list by Tajik authorities. If extradited, Abdullodzhonov would have been 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.
The Forum of Human Rights Organizations of Central Asia encouraged 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, the participants of the Forum argued, no Tajik court would be 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 urged 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.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee welcomes this decision by Ukrainian authorities, and wishes Ukraine the best in their continued work during the 2013 OSCE Chairmanship.