The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Tajikistan is a State Party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 governs the right of peaceful assembly, providing that:
The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Tajikistan is also a party to the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which allows individuals to petition the Human Rights Committee if they believe the State has violated their human rights as protected under the Covenant.
There is no regional human rights treaty for Central Asia to which Tajikistan could adhere.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Article 29 of the 1994 Constitution of Tajikistan (as amended) governs the right of peaceful assembly:
Each citizen has the right to participate in lawfully established meetings, protests, demonstrations, and peaceful marches. No one may be forced to participate in these activities.
The primary legislation governing assemblies in Tajikistan is the Law No. 1169 of 31 December 2014 "On Assemblies, Meetings, Demonstrations and Street Rallies". According to Article 8 of the law in force, 15 days notification is required in advance of an assembly and there are many sites where assemblies are not permitted. The law does not provide for spontaneous assemblies. Foreigners are not allowed to participate in assemblies.
Organisers or participants of an assembly who violate the terms of the order permitting the demonstration may be subject to a fine. In addition, under Article 19 of the Law, law enforcement officials may suspend or disperse a demonstration upon commission of an illegal act by the participants or upon violation of the order permitting the demonstration.
The Criminal Code makes the organisation of an unlawful assembly a criminal offence, punishable with imprisonment. In its national report for the 2016 Universal Periodic Review, Tajikistan stated that:
A legislative analysis has been undertaken to determine whether the 2011 amendments to the Criminal Code comply with the international obligations of Tajikistan in the areas of freedom of assembly and freedom of conscience. Article 160 of the Code provides for criminal liability for violations of the procedures for organizing and/or conducting assemblies, rallies, demonstrations, pickets or street processions by the organizer or by an active participant in such an event if the violation occurs within one year of the imposition of an administrative penalty
The Legal Framework on Use of Force During Assemblies
The Use of Force
International Legal Rules
Under international law, the duty on the State and its law enforcement agencies is to facilitate the enjoyment of the right of peaceful assembly. According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials:
In the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary.
All force used by police and other law enforcement agencies must be necessary for a legitimate law enforcement purpose and proportionate to that purpose.
Article 4 of the draft Law on Police prohibits the use by police officers of "torture, violence and other ill treatment or degrading the honor and dignity of the individual". Police officers "shall not perform any act inflicting deliberate physical and mental harm to a citizen." Under Article 14(5):
In all cases where it is impossible to avoid the use of physical force, special means and firearms, a police officer shall strive, if possible, to cause the least moral material and physical harm.
The Use of Firearms
International Legal Rules
According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles, in the dispersal of violent assemblies, a law enforcement official may only use a firearm against a specific individual where this is necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life.
There is not believed to be national legislation in place in Tajikistan specifically governing police use of firearms during assemblies. Article 16 of the Draft Law governs the use of firearms. According to paragraph 1, the police "as a last resort" have the right to use firearms inter alia against individuals who seek to attack citizens or the police ensuring public order, as well as important and protected infrastructure, buildings of government and public bodies, enterprises, institutions and organisations, regardless of ownership. This is more permissive than international law allows.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2019 Concluding Observations on Tajikistan, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern
about undue restrictions on the exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly, including those set out in the Meetings, Rallies, Demonstrations and Processions Act (2014), such as the requirement of prior authorization for holding assemblies (15 days’ advance notice), the limitation of assemblies to certain areas and hours of the day, the ban on night protests, the ban on persons with a record of certain administrative offences from organizing assemblies, and restrictions on the participation of foreign nationals in assemblies (art. 21).
It called on Tajikistan to
revise its laws, regulations and practices, including the 2014 Meetings, Rallies, Demonstrations and Processions Act, with a view to guaranteeing the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of assembly, both in law and in practice, and to ensuring that any restrictions on the freedom of assembly comply with the strict requirements of article 21 of the Covenant.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2019 report on Tajikistan:
The government strictly limits freedom of assembly. Local government approval is required to hold demonstrations, and officials often refuse to grant permission. Protests in the Gorno-Badakhshan region in November 2018 reportedly triggered localized internet blackouts. Authorities there had warned the previous month that participation in unauthorized gatherings would result in criminal charges.