Tajikistan: Disappearance of Tajikistan lawyer | Letter

To: President of Tajikistan

From: Amy E. Reier B.A., M.A., L.L.B

Re: Mr. Salim Shansiddinov – disappearance of Tajikistan lawyer 

Date: April 17, 2013

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), a committee of Canadian lawyers, provides support internationally to lawyers in danger and promotes the enforcement of international human rights standards protecting the duty and right of lawyers to uphold the rule of law.

LRWC is concerned about recent reports of the disappearance on March 15, 2013 of Salim Shansiddinov, an outspoken Uzbeck community leader, local lawyer, and active supporter of the Political Opposition. His disappearance occurs only months before the next Presidential election. We understand that the State of Tajikistan is denying any wrongdoing or responsibility for his disappearance.

LRWC is concerned with the recent reports of abuse by members of the Tajikistan authorities earlier in May against Mr. Shansiddinov and that his recent disappearance may be a politically motivated abduction. Such actions constitute a threat to other political and legal activists seeking to express their own political and democratic freedoms.

LRWC urges you to do everything possible to ensure the safe return of Mr. Shansiddinov. We encourage you to commence an immediate public investigation into his disappearance. If Mr. Shansiddinov is being held within State custody, we request that disclosure be made to the public of his whereabouts and that contact with his family and legal counsel of his choice be provided immediately, along with any required medical assistance.

LRWC reminds the State of Tajikistan of its international legal obligations to investigate such enforced disappearances under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (UDHR). Article 9 of the ICCPR guarantees the right to liberty and security of the person, which protects against arbitrary arrest and detention by the state. Articles 19, 21, and 22 establish the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, respectively, all of which protect the political activities of Mr. Shansiddinov. Article 2 of the ICCPR requires your government to ensure “that any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy”. The UN Human Rights Committee has confirmed that Article 2 of the ICCPR imposes a positive obligation on states to investigate violations of rights protected by the ICCPR, and therefore a state’s failure to investigate may in itself constitute a violation of the ICCPR.

“There may be circumstances in which a failure to ensure Covenant rights as required by Article 2 would give rise to violations by States Parties of those rights, as a result of States Parties’ permitting or failing to take appropriate measures or to exercise due diligence to prevent, punish, investigate or redress the harm caused by such acts by private persons or entities.”

The UDHR states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”. The Declaration requires that Tajikistan and other states,

…shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.

LRWC calls on your government to adhere to its international law obligations by taking all necessary steps to investigate his disappearance, ensure his protection, and allow political activists to campaign without fear of reprisal or harm to themselves or their families.

LRWC requests a response from your office concerning the results of your investigations. Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.