Exactly three years ago, to be exact, on July 15, 2004, the President of Tajikistan signed the Law “On Suspending the Use of the Death Penalty”, according to which a moratorium on the use of the death penalty is introduced in the territory of Tajikistan. As an alternative to this type of punishment was life imprisonment. The international community regarded this action of the country's leadership as the desire of the Republic of Tajikistan to build a democratic and legal state, for which human rights are the highest value.
Mahira Usmanova, chairperson of the Sogd Oblast Bar Association, noted that the statistics from countries that had refused the death penalty constantly demonstrate the absence of any relationship between the death penalty and the crime rate. Reducing the number of crimes is more likely to be promoted by moderate rather than strict measures.
“Public security can be protected instead of the death penalty by life imprisonment. On March 1, 2005, Article 58 of the Criminal Code was supplemented with Art. 581 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan: “Life imprisonment”. Life imprisonment is appointed only as an alternative to the death penalty, for committing serious crimes under this Code. Life imprisonment is not assigned to women, as well as to persons who have committed a crime under the age of 18 years and to men who have reached the age of 63 by the time of sentencing, ”lawyer Usmanova informed.
At present, Tajik human rights defenders are seeking for Tajikistan to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which will abolish the death penalty as a form of punishment. But, despite such positive steps taken by the government and Tajik human rights defenders in this area, norms that violate the rights of those executed and their relatives continue to operate in Tajikistan. This is the practice of secret burial of those executed.
According to clause 3 of Article 221 of the Code of Execution of Criminal Sentences, after the execution of a death sentence, the body of the convicted person is not issued to relatives and the burial place is not reported. It turns out that even after death, a person continues to incur punishment, which also applies to his relatives. Relatives have no opportunity after the death of a loved one to visit at least his grave and honor his memory.
Tajikistan inherited the practice of secret burial from the times of the USSR, and now, in some countries of the former Soviet Union, this practice has been canceled. For example, in 1998, Kazakhstan’s human rights defenders achieved changes in the procedure for the enforcement of the death penalty in terms of the reburial of convicts. Lawmakers of Kazakhstan did not accept such a “radical” measure as to allow relatives to bury a convict immediately after his death. Reburial is allowed only after two years.
According to the lawyer of the Republican Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, Sergei Romanov, relatives of convicts who were executed before the death penalty moratorium was introduced in 2004, have not received the right to find out where the body of a loved one is buried. "The UN Human Rights Committee has called on the authorities to" take urgent measures to notify relatives of the burial sites. " The committee also issued judgments in cases of three executed suicide bombers. In all three cases, the Human Rights Committee found a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and called on Tajikistan to provide appropriate compensation. Thus, the Committee concluded that in the case of Valikhon Khalilov, executed on July 2, 2001, “the right to a fair trial was violated”. The Human Rights Committee decided that Tajikistan is obliged to appropriately compensate the damage to Khalilov’s mother, including by informing her of the burial place of his body, ”Romanov said.
“My husband was executed in April 2001,” says a resident of Khujand, Barno Saidova. - “I was informed about this by a letter of notification, in which it was reported only that the sentence was carried out. There was no other information in this letter. There was no information about where my husband was buried. It is said that this information is a state secret, but what should be done to close relatives of the executed in such a case? ”
Barno Saidova said that she sent a message to the UN Human Rights Committee, which said that her husband was a victim of a violation by Tajikistan of a number of paragraphs of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The report was registered by the Committee on January 11, 2001. “At the time of the submission, my husband was detained on death row pending the execution of the death sentence handed down by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of Tajikistan on December 24, 1999,” she said.
On January 12, 2001, the UN Human Rights Committee requested Tajikistan not to carry out the death sentence against Saidov until the Committee’s consideration of his case was completed. Tajikistan did not provide any response to this request. From further reports by the author, it turned out that on April 4, 2001, Saidov was executed.
“The Human Rights Committee has considered this communication. He notes that, despite reminders sent to the State party, it did not provide answers, both on the admissibility and the merits of the communication. The Committee notes that, in accordance with article 4, paragraph 2, of the Optional Protocol, the State party is obliged to cooperate with it by submitting written explanations or statements clarifying the matter and any measures, if any, that could be taken to remedy the situation. Since the State party did not show cooperation in this regard, the Committee had no choice but to pay the most serious attention to the author’s allegations to the extent that they were confirmed, ”the UN Human Rights Committee said.
Human rights activists also note that in relation to the relatives of the convict to death, such a serious offense was allowed as an untimely notice of the execution of the death penalty. Very often the relatives of the convict for a long time remained in obscurity. They were not notified on time, and sometimes they were not even informed about the execution of the sentence. According to Article 221 of the Code of Enforcement of Criminal Penalties of the Republic of Tajikistan, the head of the institution that carried out the sentence was obliged to immediately inform the Information Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which should notify the court that passed the sentence, about its execution, within three days. The court, having received such a notice, should have sent a notice to the registry office for the last place of residence for registering the death of the convicted person. In theory, the whole procedure should have taken no more than 10 days, in fact, it took months, and sometimes the notice did not reach the relatives at all.
This is noted in the concluding observations of the UN Human Rights Committee. At its 88th session, the Committee noted that it was concerned about the information at its disposal that, in cases where the death sentence imposed on a prisoner is being carried out, the authorities do not systematically inform relatives of the date of execution and the place of burial of those executed. individuals. “This practice is a violation of article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in relation to the families and relatives of those executed (Article 7) and recommended that the State party should take immediate measures to inform families about the burial places of people who were executed before the announcement of the moratorium, ”said Sergey Romanov.
Executed persons were buried in nameless cemeteries, relatives were deprived of the opportunity to bury their bodies in compliance with religious traditions and customs. And this is despite the fact that 98% of the population of Tajikistan profess Islam, and many families strictly observe all religious rites, according to which every Muslim should be buried according to the canons of the Islamic religion, that is, the suras from the Koran should be washed.
Barno Saidova is convinced that the practice of secret burial is an anti-human act. “My husband was executed, but why should he be punished after his death. Me and my four children were deprived not only of the breadwinner, but we were deprived of the opportunity to honor his memory. My sons were deprived of the opportunity to adequately bury their father, observing all the requirements of Islam, which is the duty of every Muslim, ”said the widow.
At the same time, Barno Saidova admitted that she still does not fully believe that her husband is no longer alive. She still hopes that he is alive and some kind of mistake has occurred, and that he will someday return home. “This feeling does not leave me, probably, for the reason that I did not see the body of my husband and his funeral did not take place. After the sentence was carried out, I visited the prison where my husband was kept during the last months of his life. I asked that I be given at least something of his clothes in order to preserve this thing as a memory of him, but I was denied this request ... ”
According to most human rights activists, now is the time when you can allow a convict’s family to rebuild his body, which would be another proof that for Tajikistan human rights are in the first place, and human rights themselves are the highest value.